Feds to require sound alerts for electric cars, hybrids

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Federal regulators are moving to require electric and hybrid cars to make sounds that alert pedestrians who have trouble seeing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday it is moving to require all electric and hybrid vehicles to create noise at up to 19 miles per hour – whether in forward or reverse. Above that speed, cars make enough wind-speed noise and tire noise that they have no trouble being heard.

Automakers will have until Sept. 1, 2019, to meet the requirement, although the U.S. Department of Transportation said half of their electric and hybrid fleets must have audible alerts by September 2018.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the rule is necessary because electric and hybrid cars are much quieter than traditional vehicles.

“We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger,” Foxx said in a statement. “With more, quieter hybrid and electrical cars on the road, the ability for all pedestrians to hear as well as see the cars becomes an important factor of reducing the risk of possible crashes and improving safety.”

The transportation department said the new federal safety standard “will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision, and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.”

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said: “This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians – especially folks who are blind or have low vision – make their way safely. With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users.”

Advocates for pedestrians with vision impairments praised the government.

Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind, said, “This new safety standard moving forward will not just make our streets safer for blind and visually impaired Americans, but also serve as an additional safety cue for all pedestrians who share the streets with hybrid or electric vehicles.”

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing