The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing new minimum sound standards for hybrid and electric vehicles in an attempt to improve pedestrian safety.

The proposed new hybrid and EV sound standard is intended to meet with the US Congress’ mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act in regards to minimum vehicle sound requirements, to make pedestrians more aware of approaching vehicles and detect the presence, direction and location of vehicles when being operated at lower speeds.

US Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said the proposal would help keep everyone using US streets and roadways safe. “Safety is our highest priority … whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired,” LaHood said.

Renault Twizy in New York

NHTSA administrator David Strickland said that under the proposal manufacturers would be allowed the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models, provided they still gave pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired the opportunity to detect and recognise an approaching vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross a street.

The NHTSA says the generated sounds would need to be detectable under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 29km/h, as above this speed, vehicle noise is sufficient to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to detect them without added sound.

The safety administration notes that while each car maker would have a significant range of choices about the specific sounds it chooses to use for its vehicles, the characteristics of those sounds would need to meet certain minimum requirements themselves and each vehicle of the same make and model would need to emit the same sound or set of sounds.

The NHTSA estimates that if the proposal were implemented, 2800 fewer pedestrian and pedalcyclist injuries would occur over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks, vans and low speed vehicles, compared with vehicles that are without sound.

  • Peanut

    These vehicles should play the Mr Whippy music as they drive around.

    • TG

      What, you want these cars to attract children? :)

      • Modern Man

        no he saw the pic of the twizzy.
        either coincidence or subconcious visual typing. who says advertising doesnt work

  • John

    Given that we’ll be seeing more EVs on the roads it would perhaps be good if all EVs could develop a standard sound – some sort of low-level hum that increases in pitch with speed.

  • Zaccy16

    if i had to suffer and have to drive around a horrible electric car i would like mine to make a amg v8 reving or a lambo v10 reving!

  • Zdfg

    I don’t know what these people are on about. When I’m walking beside the road, the only noise I usually hear from the cars going by is the sound of tyres on the road and wind resistance. Only the odd noisy car (usually a modified exhaust) or a driver gunning it makes the engine audible over the other noises.

    • Sydlocal

       I agree that holds true on the street. However at places like shopping centre car parks and having experiened both hybrids in electric only mode and a conventional car they do have a point. There is no real tyre noise and you can still hear the conventional cars engine (especially now there are a lot of diesels starting to get around!), unlike the hybrid in electric mode unless they are turning in some car parks and the tyres are making a noise on the painted concrete. Then again so many people drive around these car parks like they are on a race track anyway so you can still hear the hybrid coming in that case!!!!! 😉

  • Sturmgewehr

    what absolute knob heads. yeah ok, ill buy a leaf, install a 3000wt alpine system and loop ‘Drowning Pool – Let the bodies hit the floor’ at 130 decibels

  • You gotta love regulations

    What ever happened to the old rule for pedestrians when crossing a road: “Look right, look left, look right again and if clear then cross if safe”. You can make a car make as much noise as you want, but if you have a hearing problem you will still be run over.

    • mo

      Although I agree, they specifically mentioned the visually impaired. We do a surprising amount with our hearing.

  • You gotta love regulations

    I agree with the visually impaired part mo, but generally, visually impaired people do not rush around the place as do the average pedestrian and those on bicycles. People today rush out in front of vehicles without looking, which is the biggest cause of accidents with pedestrians, and this is with “normal” vehicles, so having an electric or quiet vehicle make noise does not educate people to look out for vehicles.