Just to be clear, we certainly sympathize with the concerns of the visually impaired when it comes to silent and near-silent electrified vehicles and their interaction with pedestrians. What we're not sure about is the extent of the problem and what the appropriate solution is. Most of the studies done to date are flawed and, at best, inconclusive. While there are indications the number of pedestrian crashes involving hybrids is higher than those involving conventional vehicles, the numbers of pedestrian fatalities has gone down over the past 15 years and so the studies are based on small and incomplete sample sizes.
Studies such as the one done by Utah State University professor Mark Larson looked only at fatalities and not injuries or even the severity of injuries. Since most pedestrian collisions are at lower speeds, data on injuries may be more important fatalities in this discussion. There is legislation being proposed that would require audible feedback from electric vehicles, but it is flawed because it doesn't define what the desired results would be, only a technology.
Perhaps rather than requiring electric vehicles to make sounds at all times, we should be looking at pedestrian detection and protection systems. Volvo has already introduced such a system in the new S60 and other automakers are developing systems. By integrating such systems and using them in conjunction with warning sounds, we won't be overwhelmed with a cacophony of new sounds in our cities while cutting both injuries and fatalities even more. Watch a video of the Volt pedestrian warning after the jump.
[Source: Green Car Reports]