NHSTA to Set Minimum Sound Levels for EVs, Hybrids

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said the proposed rule gives manufacturers flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed minimum noise requirements for hybrid and electric vehicles to make pedestrians more aware of them as they're approaching at low speeds. This measure is required by the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010.

The proposed standard, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, would give manufacturers flexibility to design different sounds for various vehicles. It will required that the be detectable despite a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when a vehicle is traveling less than 18 miles per hour, becuase at 18 mph and faster, vehicles make enough noise for pedestrians and bicyclists to detect them without added sound. Each vehicle of the same make and model will have to emit the same sound or set of sounds.

The congressional mandate in the act said pedestrians must be able to detect the presence, direction, and location of the vehicles at low speeds.

"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 NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

NHTSA estimates the proposal would prevent 2,800 pedestrian and bicyclist injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks, and vans and low-speed vehicles. The proposal went to the Federal Register on Jan. 7, and once it is published, the public will have 60 days to submit comments.

"Safety is our highest priority, and this proposal will help keep everyone using our nation's streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists, or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

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