NHTSA thinks quiet hybrids and electric cars are a bad thing

The administration announced a sound requirement for silent vehicles.

  • Image Credit: Drew Phillips
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced plans to add a sound requirement to hybrids and electric vehicles that would make the cars easier to perceive. The requirement mandates that hybrids and electric cars with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less must emit an audible sound when traveling at speeds of approximately 19 miles per hour. The vehicles will also need to make a sound when in reverse. These cars will not be required to make a sound at higher speeds, as the NHTSA believes that tire and wind noise are enough of an audible warning.

Automakers have until September 1, 2019 to equip vehicles with a device that makes some kind of noise to help pedestrians detect oncoming vehicles that operate quietly. According to the NHTSA, this simple device will help prevent as many as 2,400 pedestrian injuries annually once hybrids and EVs are equipped with noise-emitting gizmos. Requiring cars that run quietly to make a sound could be a large help to pedestrians that are blind or have trouble seeing. "This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians - especially folks who are blind or have low vision - make their way safely," stated NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind.

Having a quiet car, though, is one of the perks to owning an electric vehicle. And while it looks like automakers will be able to choose what type of sound a vehicle emits, driving along at 20 miles per hour with a high-pitched tone doesn't sound comfortable. It'll be interesting to see how automakers comply with the rules while keeping the now-required sound to a minimum inside hybrids and electric vehicles.

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