OEMs Delay Vehicle Alert Sounds For Pedestrians On EVs, Hybrids

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

As quiet as electric vehicles and hybrids are, plans to make them noisy for the benefit of pedestrians et al have been delayed until 2018.

Edmunds reports accidents involving pedestrians climbed 6 percent in 2012 over the previous year, totaling 76,000 injuries and 4,743 deaths. Though EVs and hybrids only account for less than 2 percent of all vehicles traversing the United States, were they equipped with engine sound technology — and were the percentage to increase to a projected 4 percent in 2016 — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 2,790 fewer accidents with pedestrians would result.

To help introduce the technology in all EVs and hybrids, Congress enacted the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act in January 2011, which mandates the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop standards for automakers to use in implementing “recognizable” sounds meant to alert pedestrians that a vehicle is approaching when the vehicle is moving down the road at 18 mph or less. The full power of the act would have come into play three years after the final rule is passed down, but delays in getting to that point — the result of comments by automakers and industry groups — have pushed the mandate to September 2018.

Meanwhile, a handful of automakers have moved ahead with implementing their versions of the safety system. Nissan has the Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians on its Leaf, while Chevrolet has a driver-operated noise onboard the Volt. However, the sounds don’t always resemble that of the ICE; Fisker’s Karma, for example, pulls its alert from Tron light-cycles and Motorola Droids, while the Kia Soul EV is waving its light saber in front of a field of crickets. Most manufacturers, though, are sitting out the PSEA until they know what the final rule will say on the matter.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • ZoomZoom ZoomZoom on Feb 02, 2015

    When will we put audibles on pedestrians and bicycle riders? When that happens, then you can do it to my Prius.

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    • Mcs Mcs on Feb 03, 2015

      Many pedestrians are equipped with audibles these days. They turn up their headphones to a level loud enough to be heard from several yards away. As for my bike, like David Holzman, I have a bell for pedestrians on rail trails etc. For cars I have a 115 db air horn that's very, very effective when I want to let cars know I'm there.

  • DenverMike DenverMike on Feb 03, 2015

    Normal Dino Juice engines are virtually inaudible, unless 3/4 to full throttle. But half throttle to coasting? Not so much. I'm constantly pulling on to blind curves from dirt roads and easements, so I'll wait til I can no longer hear traffic approaching. Windows down, everything off, dead quiet and I'll go for it. Same with 2-way-stop intersections in near zero visibility, dense fog. But I'm not so much listening for engine sounds. But I can hear a Corolla's tires from up to a mile away. Sit a block away from a freeway and tires humming are the constant (freeway "breathing"), with an occasional WOT, modded exhaust, Harleys, compression brakes, etc.

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  • Michael Gallagher I agree to a certain extent but I go back to the car SUV transition. People began to buy SUVs because they were supposedly safer because of their larger size when pitted against a regular car. As more SUVs crowded the road that safety advantage began to dwindle as it became more likely to hit an equally sized SUV. Now there is no safety advantage at all.
  • Probert The new EV9 is even bigger - a true monument of a personal transportation device. Not my thing, but credit where credit is due - impressive. The interior is bigger than my house and much nicer with 2 rows of lounge seats and 3rd for the plebes. 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, around 300miles of range, and an e-mpg of 80 (90 for the 2wd). What a world.
  • Ajla "Like showroom" is a lame description but he seems negotiable on the price and at least from what the two pictures show I've dealt with worse. But, I'm not interested in something with the Devil's configuration.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I really like the C-Class, it reminds me of some trips to Russia to visit Dear Friend VladdyPoo.