Do electric vehicles need to make noise? Feds say 'yes'

Do electric vehicles need to make noise? Feds say 'yes'

Summary: Pedestrians are used to listening for vehicles at intersections, which poses an interesting dilemma when it comes to quiet electric engines.

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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How's this for a new profession: designer of the appropriate engine sounds for electric vehicles.

Citing safety concerns, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing that makers of electric and hybrid vehicles meet minimum noise requirements so that pedestrians can hear them when they are coming.

The sounds would need to be distinguishable over street noise and other ambient background sounds when they are running at speeds of less than 18 miles per hour. Apparently, they make enough noise when going faster than that.

"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," said David Strickland, NHTSA administrator.

Although car makers would be able to pick their own distinct sounds, they would have to fall into a certain genre. So, for example, the sound of an accelerating vehicle might be different than one that is slowing down or idling. That would probably have to approximate the sounds that we're used to hearing today.

I had a debate over this very topic during the holidays, when I was discussing electric vehicles with one of my husband's friends who is a sportscar enthusiast. He is very particular about the sounds his cars makes, so he has been reluctant to consider electric. Who knows, maybe there's a sounded-up Tesla in his future after all.

Topic: Emerging Tech

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30 comments
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  • Ice-cream truck sound

    or rather not.
    WebSiteManager
  • The Dilemma

    Sounds like the movie "The Dilemma" where Kevin James was an engineer tasked with trying to make an electric car with the build and SOUND of a muscle car.
    thekman58
  • Do electric vehicles need to make noise? Feds say 'yes'

    Back in my day we used to look for vehicles. At a crosswalk you looked right, then left, then right again. Walking down the road every few minutes you'd look back.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • Yes however

      You forget the blind people - no, not the smartphone zombies but the people who are visually impaired.
      athynz
      • Good point

        They would need to hear the vehicle.
        Loverock-Davidson
      • A better solution would be for blind people to figure out a way

        to adapt rather than force everyone else to adapt to them. Look, I have sympathy for the disabled, but this demand that everyone bend over backward to accommodate them is really starting to wear thin.
        baggins_z
        • I'm just guna go ahead and say what everyone else is thinking...

          Dick move scott, Dick move.
          Master_T[RG]
      • The 2 blind people I know don't go randomly ...

        Crossing the street. The blind argument is a straw man in this case.
        Bruizer
      • In reality..

        Yes, I too was taught that. But people are also used to hearing noise, so until then maybe a subtle noice can be made like in the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report.
        Johnpford
    • To quote my Harley Brothers..

      Loud pipes save lives. :-)
      Johnpford
  • T'is a problem

    The most important noisemaker any automobile has, however, is a horn.
    John L. Ries
    • A horn

      A horn is dependent on the driver and is useful only if the driver is alert, not speeding, not drunk and the driver's own vision is not impaired by darkness, poorly placed shrubs at cross-walks, fog, etc.

      Am not saying that horns are useless. They may just not matter in some circumstances.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • True

        One can hear the tires, but that's probably not enough. It seems gimmicky to me to add noise so it sounds like a gas-powered auto, but it probably will be necessary.

        I'm guessing my dog will have a much harder time determining who is and is not a stranger from the sound of the auto pulling up.
        John L. Ries
  • Yes, Pedestrians MUST Be Protected!!!

    Much like the "Locomotive Acts" in the United Kingdom

    The Locomotive Act 1865 (Red Flag Act): Stipulated that self-propelled vehicles should be accompanied by a crew of three: the driver, a stoker and a man with a red flag walking 60 yards (55 m) ahead of each vehicle. The man with a red flag or lantern enforced a walking pace, and warned horse riders and horse drawn traffic of the approach of a self propelled machine.

    Apparently the Brits had second thoughts about the procedures.

    The highways and Locomotives (Amendment) Act 1878:
    1) Made the red flag optional under local regulation.
    2) The distance ahead of the still necessary pedestrian crew member was reduced to 20 yards (18 m).
    3) Vehicles were required to stop on the sight of a horse.
    4) Vehicles were forbidden from emitting smoke or steam to prevent horses being alarmed.
    sismoc
    • Hardly the same thing

      It's quite trivial to add a noise machine to a vehicle.
      Michael Kelly
  • I love all the comments

    "Well I sees just fine and I have the lack of tire tread on my body to prove it!" From out 20/20 vision crowd who probably lack any awareness of how many times their hearing has alerted them to the presence of a running and/or moving automobile in their immediate environment. Yes, I too have been fortunate enough to spot these silent cars moving before they had a chance to run me over but that doesn't mean I am not concerned about just how very close they were able to get to me before I had any awareness of them. See one of these come bolting out of parking space towards you when you had no idea they were even running will give you a new-found appreciation for how dangerous they can be.
    oncall
    • What if...?

      What if you, like many people often do, had been wearing headphones? Would it have made a difference?
      jetsethi
      • Not sure

        I NEVER wear headphone while walking in public places.

        But hey, we don't have to speculate, I found this: h_t_t_p://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811526.pdf quote from within:
        "The largest difference between the incidence rates of HE versus ICE vehicles in this study occurred in low-speed passenger vehicle maneuvers: those in which a vehicle is turning, slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space. Similar to the results presented in NHTSA’s previous study (Hanna, 2009), the odds of an HE vehicle being involved in a pedestrian crash was 1.66 times the odds of an ICE vehicle being involved in a similar crash."
        oncall
  • Its Simple

    Pay the copyright to Quincy Jones' "The Streetbeater" so every EV tools around blasting the theme to Sanford and Son through the horn speaker.
    Non-Euclidean
  • Stupid in the extreme

    Guess what, my Buick can't be heard running either. Do I now have to remove the muffer?
    NoAxToGrind