In developing the petrol engine, manufacturers have always strived to make engines smoother and more importantly quiet. Electric powered vehicles have this perfected, making almost no audible sound at low speeds, though it is this fact that is now raising concerns for pedestrian safety.
A study by the US Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that hybrid vehicles (running on electric power) are twice as likely to be involved in traffic collisions involving a pedestrian, simply due to the silent approach of these vehicles.
US governments are taking this concern seriously with approving an Auto safety bill calling for all future electric and hybrid vehicles to be fitted with an audible alert system to make pedestrians aware of their presence. The bill is expected to reach the Full House where a decision will be made later this year.
In the build up to the launch of mass market electric cars, the US government has been very proactive in recognising this potential problem. The fear is that if pedestrians do not hear the approach of an electric vehicle they may accidently step into its path, causing injury.
Auto makers are not fond of the new bill, believing that it will hinder the driving experience of their vehicles if they are to emit an electronic alert sound. Nonetheless Japanese manufacturer Nissan is already experimenting with chimes and other electronic alerts on their upcoming Leaf model.
While the safety concern is quite valid, the question rises as to how these systems will work? Are we looking at a future where cities will be filled with the drone and ping of electric cars ‘warning pedestrians’? Even so, we look forward to seeing what system Nissan is developing for the new Leaf.