Hybrids, Electric Cars Are Too Quiet, says DOT

The US Department of Transportation is proposing a rule that would require manufacturers of hybrids and electric cars to emit detectable sounds when they’re driven at slow speeds.

One of the advantages of these cars is their quiet ride, cutting down noise on streets, but the DOT says because pedestrians and bicyclists can’t hear a car when it’s near, it’s leading to accidents.

These cars are quiet when they start up, slow down or drive in and out of parking spaces.

The "quiet car rule" would be in effect at speeds less than than 18 miles per hour, and would prevent 2,800 injuries a year, says DOT. Above that speed, those cars do make sounds. Adding a sound would cost manufacturers only about $35 a car, which amounts to about $25 million a year.

"Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street," Administrator David Strickland says.

Although it might be fun to hear a range of sounds (or jingles!),
the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers plans to come up with standard sounds.

Congress passed The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 that requires DOT to act on this. Also included in the bill is a much more expensive requirement that cars have back-up cameras, which hasn’t been acted on.

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