By on January 18, 2013

Much as Tesla head Elon Musk likes to distance his company from how the Detroit automakers operate, the fact is that the EV startup is inextricably tied to the Motor City. The Tesla display at the 2013 NAIAS is the only appearance Tesla’s cars will make at any North American auto shows this year.

Many of Tesla’s key personnel, including head designer Franz von Holzhausen, formerly worked for the Big 3. In addition, Musk was in Detroit for the NAIAS media preview. As a matter of fact, one of the times that I visited the Tesla stand during the preview he was giving a delegation of about a half dozen suits from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation a cook’s tour of the falcon-winged Model X crossover prototype. Now I’m not naive and it’s not been unusual these last few years to see employees of executive branch agencies at the Detroit show, but for the life of me I can’t see any governmental reason why those federal employees need to be in attendance at what is billed as a media event. Does anyone really think they were doing anything other than taking a junket to see the nice cars and the beautiful women, getting V.I.P. treatment while they were at it?

While the suits from the DOT may not have had a governmental justification to be taking in the media shindig, Mr. Musk is trying to run a business and a good businessperson will seize any opportunity to benefit his business. In October, Tesla renegotiated the terms of a $465 million Department of Energy loan. The feds eased the loan’s terms to make sure that Tesla didn’t violate key financial benchmarks. Tesla subsequently raised $193 million in a secondary stock offering, which eased cash flow concerns for the startup. In that context one can well understand Musk being solicitous of his visitors from Washington D.C. He also took advantage of the situation to lobby them against recent proposals to require EVs, which are whisper quiet, to be equipped with some kind of audible alert to warn pedestrians. The DOT guys were a bit jocular, but Musk was serious. He doesn’t want Teslas to make noise. Frankly I was surprised how passionate he was about the topic and why he chose that issue, of all things, to raise.

Musk’s complaints were taken in good humor. In general there was a spirit of bonhomie between the bureaucrats and the businessman. Having expended political and real capital to support Tesla, I’m sure that the administration, including the gentleman from the DOT visiting the NAIAS, want the company to succeed, though they will, in all likelihood, force Musk to make his cars noisier.

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76 Comments on “Elon Musk Lobbies Dept. of Transportation on Noisy EV Pedestrian Alerts...”


  • avatar
    Syke

    In the case of the DoT officials, besides being a paid vacation, chance to ogle product specialists, and eat & drink on somebody else’s tab; it’s a nice, quiet way to remind the automakers of who’s really running the show.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Having once been a state employee, I have to point out that government agencies have fairly tight rules covering the acceptance of gifts and travel from work-associates.

      The rule is typically that gifts over a certain value (usually well under $100) must be passed on to either your employer or a charity, or bought from your employer. Travel often requires a justification and/or reporting.

      Salespeople who work with these kind of organization (and presumably lobbyists) know what the rules and most work within the rules, because not making their contact uncomfortable or fireable makes it easier to sell stuff.

      The last time I checked, the federal rules were fairly similar to the state rules that I operated under. That’s life in academia and government — because the public is quite concerned about corruption. And the employees put up with it because a) they believe they’re making the world a better place b) they want to prove they’re ethical and c) state/federal employees are part of the public and so are concerned about corruption. I’ll tell you what I really think over a beer, but I’ll have to pay my part of the bill. :-)

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    Ugh. This post.

    Why would you give this post that title, and then not even get to the issue you’re supposed to be talking about until 3/4 of the way into the post…and then you give it just a cursory mention?

    Bait and switch. I regret reading this post.

    • 0 avatar

      I totally agree. Of course, the issue that has the title is the only interesting thing here. In that regard, I’m with Musk. The issue has been studied, and I wrote about that a couple of years ago in Environmental Health Perspectives. Here’s the gist of it:

      Lawrence Rosenblum, a psychology professor at the University of California,
      Riverside, performed audibility experiments on HEVs at the request
      of the National Federation for the Blind. “When hybrids are moving slowly, five miles per
      hour, they are substantially less audible, and depending on back-
      ground context, we feel dangerously so,” Rosenblum says.
      Nonetheless, Rosenblum says additional sound is needed only
      in limited venues—parking lots, driveways, and the like—and is
      not needed at all beyond about 20 mph, when tire and wind noise
      become unmistakeable. Further, “It’s likely that the added sound
      needs to be absolutely minimal. You need very little sound to
      engage the brain,” he says, adding that the add-on sounds could be
      effective at decibel levels lower than the engine purr of current gas-
      powered cars.

    • 0 avatar
      etrnlrvr

      Well put and I couldn’t agree more.

      I really wish Murilee would stop posting stuff so I could stop coming here altogether and avoid occasionally reading crap like this.

      If it’s not made up or baiting titles it’s raving libertarian nuttiness in the articles.

      Site continues to get more and more ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar

      Burying the lede is my style.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Also, despite Mr. Musk’s earnest entreaties, electric cars will make a noise. Of course they will, it’s the government bureaucrat’s way to put their stamp on the design process. And, trust me, there will be one nasty fight with the halls of Transportation when the time comes to decide what that noise will be. After all, it’ll be incredibly important in some functionaries mind that all electric cars end up using the noise that he wanted.

    No, I’m not joking. It’s a real power trip to those types of people to be listening to YOUR noise on all those cars for the rest of your life. Smugness unbounded.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      I think the artificial noise requirement is silly, but let’s not impugn the public servants with ulterior motives now.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Yes, artificial noise or not, earbud-sporting-idiots will still cross right in front of your car w/o looking, as whatever is on their smartphone is far more important than their own safety . . .

        Now if they REALLY wanted to do something useful, they should require a forward-aimed cell phone jammer in the front of each car, such that any phone within 10′ of the front of the vehicle stopped working – THAT would get people’s attention!

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    It’ll depend on how all the other lobbyists’ efforts pan out. The more choices presented, the greater the chance of no one sound winning out over the others.

    My guess is that the mandated rules will come down to requiring an unspecified sound of a certain Db rating within a certain band of frequencies best detected by the human ear. Then all the car companies could design their own signature sounds and slap trademarks on them.

    As much as I would prefer plain old silence, the consumer might end up getting a wide range of options to choose from. There might even be aftermarket sounds that, as long as they fit within the prescribed rules, people can upgrade to. How cool would that be?

  • avatar
    photog02

    “Does anyone really think they were doing anything other than taking a junket to see the nice cars and the beautiful women, getting V.I.P. treatment while they were at it?”

    Speaking as someone who deals with many DOT people, after the GSA fiasco that sort of behavior and treatment is exceedingly rare. They can barely accept a free pen anymore, let alone a press junket.

    • 0 avatar

      So perhaps you can explain just what governmental function the DOT employees are doing in the photo above?

      The fact that the taxpayers are paying for it doesn’t make it any less a junket.

      Perhaps things have changed in the past year, but last year when there were scores of Feds (EPA, DoT, Treasury and Commerce) at the press preview of the NAIAS (their agency heads were spending our money so they could get their pictures taken with Sergio Marchionne), many of them were walking around with bags o’ swag, government ethics rules or not.

      • 0 avatar
        photog02

        Looks like they are touring an auto show, as happens for DOT people on occasion. Yes, taxpayers are paying for the employees to be there. However, they are most likely not receiving wine, women, and songs from Tesla.

        Per your swag comment, current ethics rules allow accepting items with a value less than $15 if memory serves (any govies here to correct me?). So I won’t begrudge someone getting the same swag that everyone else there is grabbing at.

      • 0 avatar
        drtwofish

        Yes, government officials should most definitely not be going to trade shows, learning about the upcoming products, and talking with CEOs first-hand. I much prefer my government officials to be ignorant of what they’re supposed to be regulating on the off chance they get a free pen or keychain, thusly allowing me to continue ranting about ineffectual government bureaucrats.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Yes, government officials should most definitely not be going to trade shows, learning about the upcoming products, and talking with CEOs first-hand. I much prefer my government officials to be ignorant of what they’re supposed to be regulating on the off chance they get a free pen or keychain, thusly allowing me to continue ranting about ineffectual government bureaucrats.”

        Good comment. But next time, be sure to use the sarcasm font, as I’m sure that some people will miss the point.

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        “many of them were walking around with bags o’ swag”

        Just like everyone else going to car shows. What’s the problem?

      • 0 avatar

        drtwofish,

        It was a media event, not a trade show, though plenty of federal agencies do have unnecessary booths at trade shows like the SAE World Congress. It’s telling that the feds descend on the NAIAS media preview but are nowhere to be found during the industry preview, which is a little bit more like a trade show, at least in its purpose.

        Are you saying that officials from the DOT need to go to a media event to be able to talk to Tesla’s CEO?

        Again, please explain exactly what governmental function those DoT suits were doing in Detroit that could not just as easily be done on the phone or with a video conference? Do government bureaucrats really need to check out the Tesla’s 17″ touch screen?

        When some actual journalists have started questioning the need for the media shindigs at the major shows (seriously, how much “news” gets generated?), I don’t think think it’s unreasonable to ask what bureaucrats from Washington are doing there.

        Public employees expecting special treatment and perks. Nothing new here.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        As I said, some people would miss the point of drtwofish’s comment.

        (It’s actually a bit funny for anyone to believe that visiting Detroit is some sort of prize. Particularly in January.)

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        At pch101: Having just been to Detroit (other, non-auto, business) 10 days ago, I agree with your first comment. And, I also think it’s useful for those involved in regulating the auto industry to have some education, and going to a place where there are a lot of new and “future” automobiles assembled in one location for viewing is a good way to do it.

        Much as it pains me to say it (as a general non-fan of regulation), I have to say that the trend to having more and more of the vehicle’s control functions activated by a touch screen is a legitimate concern. “Old-fashioned” knobs, buttons, toggles, pull-on switches and the like have one significant advantage: once you learn where they are, you can operate them by touch, without looking. I don’t think you can do that with a touchscreen, and I think having to look down and re-focus your vision on something close up to operate the car while it’s moving strikes me as a not particularly safe action.

        And, no, I don’t use a mobile phone in my car unless I have to . . . and then with a Bluetooth earpiece that allows me to operate the phone with voice commands, e.g. “call home.”

        And, for some folks, just getting out of the office and away from the routine is a nice diversion.

      • 0 avatar

        “(It’s actually a bit funny for anyone to believe that visiting Detroit is some sort of prize. Particularly in January.)”

        Beats pretending to work in Washington. My guess is that they didn’t spend the night in the “pink palace” on I-94, but rather in more upscale digs.

        Though I’m not sure that Detroit’s hookers are up to the “Cartagena’s finest” standards of federal employees.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I realize that you enjoy being a resentnik, Mr. Schreiber, but you’re fairly clueless as to how things work in the real world between business and government.

        You seem to think that your experiences with the DMV (which are surely impacted for the worse by that enormous chip that you lug around on your shoulders) are a reflection of how government and business operate together. But they aren’t.

        The regulators and automakers cut deals with each other. It helps if they get along. And it really helps the businesspeople if the government guys understand how the business works, so that the government guys can maintain reasonable expectations and maintain a cooperative relationship.

        So yes, it is a good thing that these guys go to the auto show, so that they are familiar with new vehicles and can chat with some of those who are involved in making them. The fact that this very logical concept upsets you so only assures me that the idea is even better than I had thought.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        The clueless one is the one who suggests that our “key policy wonks” are there to garner information.

        The thought that trade shows are ‘valuable intel’ that helps our policy/rule makers formulate intelligent decisions is somewhere between gross naivte and blatant misinfo propaganda. The folks who cut deals, make policy, and have to get along meet in country clubs and over $300 per head lunches.

        The folks sent to these events have as much effect on rule making decisions as a fry cook at McDonalds does on corporate governance.

        It’s as real as ‘Undercover Boss’.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “The folks sent to these events have as much effect on rule making decisions as a fry cook at McDonalds does on corporate governance.”

        Er, Ray LaHood (the Secretary of Transportation), John Porcari (the Deputy Secretary of Transportation) and David Strickland (the head of NHTSA) were among this year’s attendees.

        Next time, try to learn about these things prior to commenting.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        Drawing a causal link between brief attendance (which I’m well aware of) and policy decisions is laughable at most generous. Are you really so naive you think this is how business/govt interaction works?

        Policy is made at the behest of K-Street lobbyists lubed by the future consultancy positions the industry generously provides.

        All that matters is the money, which is why we had ‘sealed beam’ headlights many decades after the rest of the planet went to composites.

        Thanks, I don’t have to research it. I know it offhand.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Thanks, I don’t have to research it.”

        So you’re brazenly ignorant, and you take some sort of perverse pride in being ignorant. Yet another reminder of why you and your opinions aren’t to be taken seriously.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    If you’re stupid enough to rely on sound alone to determine when it’s safe to enter a street, you deserve to get hit. Ever have one of those long, rear-engine city buses pull up to the curb in front of you? You can’t hear anything, yet the front end may be traveling fast enough to kill you. If you’re a pedestrian in the city, you have to keep your eyes open no matter what.

    • 0 avatar

      What about blind people, who can ONLY rely on sound to determine when it’s safe to enter a crosswalk? Or should they just not go outside and “deserve to get hit” if they’re “stupid enough” to try and live a normal life?

      I agree that those buses can be surprising in the city if you don’t see them coming, but I’m sure to somebody where the difference between life and death is hearing every approaching person and object around them they hear that bus coming a mile away. But a (comparatively) small and MUCH quieter car, I doubt even a blind person could discern from the rest of everyday noise.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        What about them? That argument is like the “Eat your vegetables because there are starving kids in Africa” line.

        It is unsafe for someone who cannot see–especially someone whose eyesight is too poor to even know that a car is approaching–to step into the road at any time. Period. End of discussion. Noisy cars don’t change that fact. This is not an ADA issue; it is a matter of physics.

        The only ‘safe’ course is to not have cars & pedestrians occupy the same space. Create pedestrian routs that do not require crossing traffic. Short of that, use systems that pair car/pedestrian cooperation so that both are aware of each other, such as traffic control devices, cross walks, etc. These can be made ‘smart’ to alert disabled pedestrians, and it is certainly not unreasonable to make devices for blind people to detect movement for them rather than make every car beep & whine regardless of the need. (Honestly, how many blind people are there on the streets?) Targeting the need rather than a half-hearted blanket solution is a far better option: instead of making 10+ million cars/yr compliant, you can make/sell the small number that are actually needed to people who actually need them, you know they will be used where needed (as opposed to in backed-up freeways), and they will be maintained by people with a vested interest in their operation.

        And besides, since the proposed fed regulation only applies at speeds under 18 mph, and little traffic moves that slowly, I doubt it would be that effective. (I’m sure the assumption is that tires make enough noise at speeds over 18 mph, but I suspect any increase in noise is negated by decreased reaction time.)

      • 0 avatar
        jjster6

        Can’t the blind just drive? They couldn’t do much worse than some of the sighted people who are allowed to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “It is unsafe for someone who cannot see–especially someone whose eyesight is too poor to even know that a car is approaching–to step into the road at any time.”

        Yes, blind people should never cross the street, ever. If they are so unintelligent that they can’t see, then they have no business trying to get across the road, either.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s absolutely nothing like “Eat your vegetables because there are starving kids in Africa”. 11.4 million adults (http://www.juniorblind.org/site/faqs-about-blindness) are vision impaired or blind. You propose that instead of being a member of society, and letting our visually impaired friends enjoy the same benefits as you right this second – such as WALKING SOMEWHERE – they shouldn’t go outside at all until we build an entirely new pedestrian transit system completely separated from our 4 million miles of driving roads.

        According to you it’s simpler to just build an entirely new pedestrian walking system for the whole country, invent devices (because they don’t exist yet) for blind people to “detect” oncoming objects, and say “Don’t go outside, jerk!” to them until all that is done. As opposed to just having an audible alert (which doesn’t have to be “beeping and whining”) emitted from completely silent cars which are traveling at pedestrian speeds near pedestrians. I’m sure it could be more pleasant than any sound emitted by 99% of the vehicles on the road. Hell, make it sound like a regular car!

        I’m no scientist, but I am an engineer, and I can say with confidence that your doubts about this proposed regulation are without merit. If it’s not unreasonable (aka easy) to invent devices for blind people to detect movement, then why don’t you do it? Go do the controlled testing on whether or not this works and then come back with your (no longer?) baseless argument. Until then, why not be a member of society and support a simple plan to try and prevent unnecessary pedestrian casualties?

      • 0 avatar
        E46M3_333

        The intersections where I live already emit beeps to assist the vision impaired with navigating crosswalks–a situation where cars are assured to be stopped. They don’t rely on hearing cars to determine it’s safe to cross, as that would be suicide.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “They don’t rely on hearing cars to determine it’s safe to cross, as that would be suicide.”

        It would seem to you have zero experience in dealing with blind people.

        Blind people rely heavily on their hearing, because they have no choice. And since their hearing is no better than anyone else’s, they have to work even harder to use their hearing as much as possible because of their dependency upon it.

        Nobody should be making policy decisions based upon your lack of empathy. You should count your blessings that you can see, because not everyone can.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        And as someone who actually does have experience with blind people, *they* can hear the friction whir from the tires rolling, even with the engine of the car shut off.

        I can too, and I’m not blind.

        Unless they are blind and deaf, it’s an invented issue.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        i teach blind people to cross streets. Yes, hearing cars is crucial–even if there is beeping from the traffic signals. Right on Red??? How would you tell if there is a left turn arrow or if it is green?

        Oh, yes, they are doing something unsafe by trying to cross intersections without vision. You could argue that sighted people trying to cross intersections is unsafe also – so no one should be doing this and we all should be entering our Safety Pods before the light of day hits our forehead because travel is just too risky? The fact that you can’t conceive what it is like to cross a street without vision does not mean that it isnt possible.

        Anytime you are doing anything there is a chance you will get hurt. Those afraid of this possibility can choose not to do whatever it is that scares you. Do not try to limit the options of others because you have this notion that it is dangerous–especially when you are completely clueless. If you learn how to cross a street without vision, I bet you will feel differently about how safe or unsafe it is. Further, when you factor in distraction and how people with all of their vision are prone to make stupid choices because they think what they do is safe because it hasn’t killed them yet —- we are not really talking about much difference in actual safety.

        Lets also remember a couple of FACTS:

        1 in 5 Americans is disabled (not counting things like ADHD and other “high incidence” emotional, social and behavioral irregularities)

        If you live long enough (i.e.: don’t get killed crossing a street), you will be disabled.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      I think you’re conditioned to judge a vehicle’s presence by sound more than you think. I ride a bike and count on it as one of the ways to know what’s going on around me. I’d suggest walking around with earplugs for a week and getting back to us.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The fatuousness of the “stupid enough to be blind” comment has been ably pointed out by any number of other posters.

      However, the situation this regulation would be intended to deal with is parking lots and other unregulated spaces where vehicles travel at slow speed and are randomly intermixed with pedestrians. Frankly, at parking lot speeds, even gasoline-powered vehicles (diesels are plenty noisy, although the CRDs less so) don’t make much noise. So, perhaps Mr. Musk’s best argument is to measure the noise level generated by a car traveling on level ground at a constant 5 mph and an EV under the same conditions. I would bet that the difference isn’t that much. Of course, we might end up with all automobiles carrying noise makers that operate at speeds below 10 mph — what a cacophony that would be — like a construction site with lots of trucks and earth moving equipment working, with all of the OSHA beepers beeping away.

      Probert’s point is also a good one. Having ridden a bicycle on open roads in the countryside as well as in the city for 40+ years, I never used a rear-view mirror because I depended upon my hearing, to hear vehicles approaching behind me.

    • 0 avatar
      baygus

      How in the hell would anybody paraphrase the claims in ‘http://www.juniorblind.org/site/faqs-about-blindness’ as “1.4 million adults are vision impaired or blind”?

      First, the article states that “Approximately 11.4 million Americans are blind or visually impaired, according to the World Health Organization.”.. a claim that one would imagine comes from a uh, generous definition of ‘visually impaired’.

      Next, it states that the ’1.4 million’ with actual problems that glasses can’t solve are simply ‘blind’ to a minimum standard of needing glasses to read a newspaper. We all know plenty of people like that, and they are mostly in housing appropriate to their age, and many of them are still compos mentos enough to realize that a moving blur to their left is a sign that they should not push their walkers out onto the street.

      To the man who said “I’m no scientist, but I am an engineer,”.. yes, I pay you as much respect as all the engineers who are convinced that they know what they’re talking about Because They Are Engineers.

      And to all those who claim that this is some kind of insolvable problem for the world.. it isn’t. There are too many blind people in this world, and outside the West most of those are the result of poor nutrition because the people that inhabit those countries are incapable of providing for themselves. Instead of worrying about what sort of buzzer should go on some piece of shit Prius, why not fund putting iodine in salt in these countries? Why not fund birth control to reduce their growing overpopulation problems, and genetic research to fix the broken people right here in the West?

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Sorry to harsh Musk’s futurebuzz, but pedestrians who possess poor eyesight or none at all aren’t going to stop existing.

    Therefore it’s essential that large, fast vehicles (especially those as large and fast as Teslas) make SOME kind of noise at low speed to warn them. Which noise remains to be determined. I’m thinking Canada Geese.

    It’s not the end of the world. But it will be for pedestrians who can’t see or hear Teslas coming and going.

    And while we’re not being naive here, let’s assume some if not many moneyed Tesla owners won’t exactly be feather-footed Portland types who always come to complete stops and let the other guy go.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “it’s essential that large, fast vehicles (especially those as large and fast as Teslas) make SOME kind of noise at low speed”

      So, are they “fast vehicles” or “low speed” vehicles?

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    They’re not alien stealth hovercraft. There’s still tire and wind noise. What era are we living in, that we still depend on hearing mechanical/exhaust noises to alert us to approaching cars? Electrics are probably no more or less silent than modern ICE luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Glad I’m not the only one that notices this. In addition, they (or at least a Prius) make a high-pitched whine coasting at slow speeds. I think they make plenty of noise as is.

      And plenty of ICE cars make it very difficult to hear the engine. The way this issue is portrayed, you would think all hybrids are “alien stealth hovercraft” and all ICE cars make the equivalent noise to a Corvette with straight pipes.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      at city speeds – with other distractions (wind, footsteps,hvac etc.) you can’t hear anything -it is a real concern.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      at speeds above somewhere around 20-30mph (cant remember exact number, but there is one), most of the noise a car makes is from its tires. Below that, it is the engine/exhaust/mechanical.

      The problem with low speed vehicles is that pedestrians are more likely to end up underneath a car — instead of getting bounced off the hood/bumper and tossed away from the moving vehicle, which is generally what happens at higher speeds.

  • avatar

    youtube.com/watch?v=SWHlEC-SjFM

    The Model S has so much ROAD NOISE on those crappy Goodyear tires, I’m sure blind people will hear em comin!

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    If you can’t hear a EV while standing on the curb, you also won’t hear most ANY current model compact car approaching. Shouldn’t fart cans be required for those?? And why do bicycles get a free pass? They can cause just as much injury to a pedestrian AND also injure the bicyclist.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      A bike cannot cause as much injury to pedestrian: p=mv

      in the case of a car the m is 4000pounds
      a bike: 27pounds

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Bicyclist often ride just as fast as cars in the city and often fly thru red lights and stopped traffic, especially if they’re making a right. Have you seen the results of a cyclist meeting a pedestrian at 35 mph??

        Cars are designed to scoop pedestrians and cushion their impact with a collapsing hood and a stretchy windshield sandwich. Both driver and pedestrian usually walk away.

      • 0 avatar
        baygus

        Yes, I deliberately walk in front of those toolbags often. It’s _hilarious_.

  • avatar
    Ron

    At the risk of ruining my bona fides, I own a Prius. More than once pedestrians haven’t been able to hear my car approach them slowly. Some sort of alert has to come from the car as long as pedestrians are used to listening for an internal combustion engine.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Clip a baseball card in your spokes.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      My Leaf allegedly already produces an artificial noise at low speed, just for this purpose. To me, it sounds just like a lower frequency version of the whine it makes at high speed.

      However, when I went for the test drive, the sales manager pulled the car around back to get a plate on it. Killing time, I looked at other Nissans in the lot. When I turned around, the car was already stopped behind me, no more than 6 feet away; I never heard it coming.

      I think the noise should resemble a Falcon 9 rocket (built by Musk’s Space X company).

  • avatar
    MrBostn

    It’s been years since I’ve seen a blind person crossing any street in downtown Boston. I’m sure they’re around but mostly I think the “target” is a person wearing headphones or yapping on their phone.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      We have a Winnar!

      Distracted people are way worse than blind or deaf people.

      Maybe mandate “cowcatchers for all vehicles”.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Don’t even need headphones or cell phones. I see people carelessly wandering into lanes in big parking lots all the time.

      I think the driving impetus behind noisemakers are the people who get startled in parking lots, and then blame the cars instead of their own inattentiveness.

      • 0 avatar
        LALoser

        In ’07 I was living in Seattle and working near the Microsoft campus when a MS employee was killed crossing the street. Seems he was totally involved in his phone/gizmo when a double trailor dump turned right at his corner in front of him. He waited for the truck and trailor #1, then stepped off the curb right into trailor #2.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    In an effort to stimulate all of the senses of tomorrow’s pedestrians, here’s hoping that our courageous federal bureaucrats will soon be at work developing an approved signature smell for these efficient yet deadly machines! All hail, our new transportation overlords: The Federal Department of Automotive Cachet.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      Where does this cynicism come from? For $5.00 a small noise generator can save lives – it’s not your $5.00 unless you buy the car. When you’re on a foggy road and you see reflective lane markers do you say thanks or curse bureaucrats. PArt of a government’s role is to enable citizens to go about daily life in a safe manner – this is a reasonable concern with a simple solution.

      If you get hit by a car a 10mph – it can shatter every bone in your body.

      • 0 avatar
        E46M3_333

        My cynicism comes from wondering how I’m going to pay my kid’s college tuition on a $200K annual income, when 60% of the last dollar I make goes to bureaucrats sweating over what friggin’ sound an EV should make at low speed. It’s this kind of incremental, nanny state BS that is slowly bankrupting the western world.

      • 0 avatar
        ultramatic

        “My cynicism comes from wondering how I’m going to pay my kid’s college tuition on a $200K annual income, when 60% of the last dollar I make goes to bureaucrats sweating over what friggin’ sound an EV should make at low speed.”

        Is there a Godwin’s Law corollary for people who offhandedly mention their income in a politically charged comment thread? Seriously, this response to the $5.00 small noise generator comment seems a tad breathless and solipsistic.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        E46- Classy! Also – as you make ONLY 200k, the burden of taxes falls so much more heavily upon you than anyone else. This is why I am teaching my own children to not even bother working – just suck off the government because the people who don’t pay into the tax system obviously have it so much better than those poor bastards making 200k

        You should ignore any of the comments that are likely coming your way – because I sure do look up to you and admire people with such boundless class and benevolence.

      • 0 avatar
        baygus

        steeringwithmyknees: Eat shit and die.

        Dirtbags like you don’t have their hard earned money thrown away on shit, because you don’t earn your money hard.

        Unless you kill government bureaucrats for a crust, you should shut the hell up.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Editors – doesn`t Baygus’s comment on 19 January at 6:46pm break the TTAC posting rules of abusing/threatening language? I know you went through a spate of banning last year because of such comments. This is the worst I have seen in the past few months.

        Baygus – by your own logic you should shut up unless you kill government employees. Do you? Also how do you know what steeringwithmyknees does for a living.

      • 0 avatar

        @Mike978: Baygus’s comment on 19 January at 6:46pm absolutely break the break the TTAC posting rules, in an egregious way that needs immediate action.

        Baygus: You are banned forever for violating TTAC’s commenting rules at http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/faqs/

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Whenever I see his name, I can’t help but think:

    Elon Musk for Men by Tesla

  • avatar
    areader

    @Ronnie Schreiber

    You obviously have a few issues. If you really knew much about how things work re. govt regulations, you’d know that the real deals are made by those in congress, and they sure as hell are not constrained by limits on swag. Campaign contributions that can easily be redirected to enrich family, friends and the members themselves, and sweetheart investment deals are the true paths to legal influence peddling. The so called regulators are left to tweak around the edges.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Ronnie,
    all those “suits” have a boss. They work in some division of the DOT. Someone had to approve and fund their trip. Follow the money and the justifications. Throw in some FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) requests. Actually contact the DOT. See where those roads take you.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      They’ll take you to “we need to appear as though we’re listening to the industry” and “if we don’t spend the whole budget, they’ll cut it”.

      The folks on these trips are being rewarded for their role in the government machine.

      Are the heads of agencies there? Nope. Are the rulemakers there? Nope. The flunkies at a tradeshow have less influence than the person who answers the phone at your credit card company.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    I’m fine with my tax dollars funding DOT employees going to the biggest and most future-oriented industry show in the country for cars. The media are one constituent that gets targeted, but so do financial and market analysts, so do the OEMs themselves (see the Denso and Aisin spending for example). I don’t think the US suffers from NHTSA and the EPA being too close to the manufacturers. Quite the opposite.

  • avatar
    etrnlrvr

    I think some people have not really considered the real practical experience of being around EV’s. I don’t mean for the blind or anything either I mean just everyday normal people.

    I had a job for 6 months driving and being around both full and part time EV’s for one of the big 3.

    Before this experience I thought the idea of a noise making requirement was silly. It seemed like common sense really would be enough. I’ve pretty much come full circle on the issue though.

    Even though I and the other 50-70 people I used to work with were used to being around these vehicles there was one inescapable truth to be had. People walk in front of you when you are driving them and if you are walking you will eventually walk out in front of one not realizing it was there. This was in a large parking lot at parking lot speeds but I had it happen out in the ‘civilian’ world too. It just doesn’t matter how careful or alert you think you are being. Our brain just assumes that cars make noise at a near brain stem level that is really hard to overcome.

    You would think this wouldn’t be the case but it is. When you glance behind you and no one is there and 5 seconds later you want to change direction and you don’t hear a single solitary thing you just do it not expecting anything to be there. That’s when the damn EV sneaks up on you. Or one moves out of a spot with no tell tale engine start or wafting exhaust vapor. I can’t tell you how many times I just heard the slight crunching of debris under a tire just before I was about to turn around or change direction in a parking lot and step into the path of one.

    This never got better in the 6 months I was there whether I was a pedestrian or a driver.

    The real danger in EV’s is in parking lots and strip malls and quiet residential streets where people just will not process the environment in a way that will let them notice these things when your brain is just assuming no vehicle is around from the lack of sound.

    Several people got knocked to the ground due to this and there were pretty much daily near misses.

    So as much as I generally hate legislation and the whole process of what sound and how they will implement it makes me nearly ill to think about I do think it’s necessary.

  • avatar
    Power6

    I miss my SRT-4 it used to send the pedestrians running for the curbs. They would literally run out of the way in a parking garage hahahaha.


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