It’s been a long time coming – remember the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010? – but the proposed rules for the noises that electric or hybrid vehicles have to make at low speeds have been released (get them here in PDF). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the proposed rules today in response to some requests for the noises to be generated to alert vision-impaired pedestrians.
Most current plug-in vehicles have a sound that can be triggered by the driver to alert people, but the rules would require vehicles that don’t have their liquid-burning engine running to emit a sound that will “enable pedestrians to discern vehicle presence, direction, location and operation” when traveling at speeds under 18 miles per hour. NHTSA estimates that 2,800 pedestrian injuries will be avoided because of the rule, which represents “35 equivalent lives saved.”
The proposed rules affect hybrid and electric vehicles, but the agency thinks that only hybrid vehicles will really be affected with actual cost and technology, since manufacturers are already putting sounds into EVs (and upcoming hydrogen fuel cell vehicles). NHTSA thus figures that, “the incremental number of light vehicles that have to add an alert sound system for costing purposes for MY 2016 is … 671,300.” The average cost per vehicle, NHTSA says, would be around $30.
Each manufacturer will be able to choose the sounds its cars make, as long as it follows the rules. That means it needs to change based on vehicle speed and the vehicle needs to make noise when idling, too. You can hear sample sounds from NHTSA here and read the official announcement below. A 60-day comment period starts today, and if everything goes smoothly, a three-year phase-in period might start in September 2015.