Auto Manifesto

April 9, 2008

Hybrid & Electric Cars Too Quiet?

Automotive News (subscription required) reports that the US House of Representatives is likely to introduce a bill today to direct the Secretary of Transportation to initiate a study to decide if there should be minimum vehicle noise levels to protect pedestrians. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2008 would be targeted at identifying if vehicles that are too quiet would be detrimental to pedestrian safety, and if so how much noise they should make at a minimum.

At first blush it seems that this would only benefit the blind population. But they're not the only ones that would benefit. Anyone with hearing would. Just because someone is not blind doesn't mean they'll see these vehicles coming. It would also help distracted or unaware pedestrians with normal eyesight, much like back up alarms on trucks and heavy equipment.

I only hope that if it is determined there should be a minimum vehicle noise level, that the mandate noises aren't considered a public nuisance. It would be ironic to make all this progress only to end up with hopelessly annoying vehicles.

Just thinking aloud (no pun intended) perhaps there should be low speed indicators. But once above a certain speed the noise maker would be disabled because tire/wind noise would be prevalent enough that the vehicles are audible. If it turns out this is a problem, I would imagine it'd only be a problem in densely populated areas (urban/suburban) and that there's no need for vehicles to make noise all the time.

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