By on February 2, 2015


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.

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39 Comments on “OEMs Delay Vehicle Alert Sounds For Pedestrians On EVs, Hybrids...”

  • avatar

    The biggest offender for not putting pedestrian alerts on their vehciles?

    Toyota and its Prius.

    Nissan built it in with the very first LEAF off the assembly line. Shame that some OEM’s like Toyota ignore this common sense feature and therefore invite legislation.

    The last thing we need is legislation. But here it comes.

    • 0 avatar

      Prius has an alert that is present at speeds less than 18mph.

      At least my 2012 model does and my Mom’s 2014.

      I find it to be easy to hear, my wife says she has never heard it.

      It’s sort of a loud hum, I find it distinctive. The owners manual references the sound so it’s not just a byproduct of the HSD.

      I have no idea which model year this was started.

    • 0 avatar

      JPWhite / February 2nd, 2015 at 9:16 am

      “The last thing we need is legislation.”

      seems to me that, here in ‘merica, often the first thing we could really use is reasonable, rational legislation. problem is, far too many would rather do ‘whatever they wanna do – whatever they feel like doing,’ rather than what is obviously in their own, or even their collective, best interests.

      so sad…

    • 0 avatar

      Its already been standard on toyota and lexus models since 2012. My 2012 lexus has it. The legislation was approved back in 2010.

      But then again prius so must hate and make up stuff I guess.

  • avatar

    Just what we need, more noise pollution.

    • 0 avatar

      We probably need a man carrying a red flag to walk in front of all EV’s as well. Just to be sure no one gets hurt, some of the pedestrians maybe listening to their iPod’s and not hear the EV coming.

      • 0 avatar

        If you are too dumb to look before stepping into traffic, then you deserve to be hit. Preferably before you reproduce.

        That said, make mine sound like a V12 Ferrari please.

        • 0 avatar

          Blind people are idiots.

          • 0 avatar

            My guess is that Blind people will be just fine, they have well attuned hearing. It’s more likely that a sighted person will step out without looking and claim the ‘silent car’ was at fault.

          • 0 avatar

            Contrary to what some may believe, the blind do not possess magical hearing skills.

            The blind rely upon their hearing because they don’t have a choice. Their hearing is no better than that of anyone else.

            Advocates for the blind want these noise generators for that reason. If you disagree, then go take up your argument with the National Federation of the Blind, because the group is arguing for the EV requirements.

          • 0 avatar

            You’re missing the point. Adding sound is a common sense feature. Pinning the need on the blind is unfair to them. The problem is some OEMs have not implemented sounds and will therefore invite legislation which will give the OEMs little to flexibility to improve the effectiveness of pedestrian collision avoidance.

        • 0 avatar

          +1 on Ferrari V12 sounds.

    • 0 avatar


      “Using statistics from 12 states, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) were twice as likely as internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to collide with pedestrians. The relevant excess crashes all occurred at low speed, such as while exiting driveways, or starting up in traffic. “The incidence rates provided in this study should be interpreted with caution due to the small sample size,” according to the report (Research on Quieter Cars and the Safety of Blind Pedestrians: A Report To Congress, Oct. 2009).

      “The National Federation for the Blind also asked Lawrence Rosenblum, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, to perform some audibility experiments on hybrid cars. “When hybrids are moving slowly, 5 mph, they are substantially less audible, and depending on background context, we feel dangerously so,” says Rosenblum. Nonetheless, he says that additional noise is needed only in limited venues–parking lots, pulling out of driveways, and the like–and is not needed at all beyond about 20 mph, when tire and wind noise become dominant. Further, “Our research shows that the [added] noise needs to be absolutely minimal. You need very little sound to engage the brain,” he says, adding that the noise add-ons could be effective at lower decibel levels than current ICE cars. (Robart, R.L. & Rosenblum, L.D. (2009). Are hybrid cars too quiet? Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125 (4), 2774.)

      “Rosenblum also asserts that the add-ons should sound like cars. “You don’t want something that will distract pedestrians from another car that’s approaching; you want something that fits the soundscape.” He thus strongly opposes using sounds to brand cars. (Robart, R.L. & Rosenblum, L.D. (2009). Are hybrid cars too quiet? Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125 (4), 2774.)

      From Vehicle Motion Alarms: Necessity, Noise Pollution, or Both?

  • avatar

    I find this news disquieting.

  • avatar

    Watch these become similar to ringtones next (as in obnoxious and customizable).

  • avatar

    To me this just seems silly, especially when you look at the actual numbers. However, being a cyclist (road bike), I can see some application. Usually when I’m on an actual road I’m moving around 17-19 mph (avg) anyway, so it’s probably not even applicable.

    • 0 avatar

      I always hear tire noise from EV’s (and ICEs) when I’m on my bike at lower speeds. However, at higher 20 to 45 mph speeds all I hear is wind noise. I have to rely on sight at that point.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Nissan may have put a noisemaker into the Leaf, but I can’t tell. I have to be very careful driving it in parking lots; it’s obvious people can’t hear me approaching.

    As the salesman brought the car up for me to test drive, I browsed the car lot. He stopped the Leaf 6 ft behind me, and I never even heard it.

    Having said that, the Leaf is fitted with a truck-like backup alarm that is most annoying, especially when backing up in my quiet neighborhood at night.

    • 0 avatar

      “He stopped the Leaf 6 ft behind me, and I never even heard it.”

      u sound old 4 sure.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      I watched a leaf drive into a spot beside a suv with doors open and a mother putting her child in the rear car seat. When she took a single step back she was hit by a hipster in his leaf. She obviously didn’t hear him pull in behind her. He should have waited for her to close the door before pulling in but the leaf is small and could fit in the spot even though the suv door was open wide. He said she should pay attention. I walked over and told him his car doesn’t make any noise so people can’t hear him in parking lots. He shrugged it off. I wanted to knock his thick rimmed glasses off.

      Also when I worked at a dealership I was almost run over multiple times by a parts delivery Prius. When I would be walking the lot, closing a trunk or when you step out from between a row of trucks or SUVs the near silent parts delivery Prius would be coming at delivery driver speed and it would sneak up on you. I was 26yrs old at the time so I don’t think age is the primary factor

    • 0 avatar

      “Having said that, the Leaf is fitted with a truck-like backup alarm that is most annoying, especially when backing up in my quiet neighborhood at night.”

      That can’t be hard to disable.

      • 0 avatar

        The 2011 LEAF does have a button to disable VSP, which includes the back-up alert.

        From 2012 onwards Nissan chose to remove that button in US models of the LEAF. I believe it is still present in Euro versions of the LEAF.

        Other than taking a pair of dikes to the speaker wires, not easy to disable.

  • avatar

    1. The root cause is not the silence of the vehicle, but rather that vehicles and pedestrians occupy the same space. If pedestrians do not walk into traffic (and cars don’t drive on pedestrian walk ways), then there are no car-pedestrian accidents. It is fundamentally unsafe for pedestrians to step into the road (even if in crosswalks), regardless of their ability to see. Therefore, the best solution is an infrastructure solution, not noisemakers. Where that is not possible, it makes more sense to equip those who cannot see the car with the ability to be alerted, i.e., provide them a wearable sensor that tells them where cars are rather than indiscriminately putting noisemakers into cars.

    2. “Chevrolet has a driver-operated noise onboard the Volt.”
    – I believe that accurately describes what is known as a “horn.”

    • 0 avatar

      Separating cars from pedestrians encourages drivers to go faster, which increases the risk to pedestrians.

      The Dutch are figuring out that the way to reduce pedestrian risk is to use road design to slow drivers down. The concept is called Shared Space, and so far, it is working.

    • 0 avatar

      What do you propose for parking lots then, or driveways crossing sidewalks?

  • avatar

    “sounds meant to alert pedestrians that a vehicle is approaching when the vehicle is moving down the road at 18 mph or less.”

    Ah yes, I can see it now. Silently pulling my Tesla S up to the elegant restaurant or luxe five star hotel, approaching the valet stand.


    They will add these sounds, and then at the same speed, a V8 S-Class will indeed be more quiet.

    So I bet it needs a beeper too.

  • avatar

    I almost took out a pedestrian in a parking garage. She came bombing out of an elevator with her eyes glued to her cell phone. The noisemaker was in operation, but I think it’s sound blended in with the ventilation equipment in the garage. I could see what was about to happen, so I stopped. She stepped in front of me and suddenly froze realizing there was a car inches away. Probably cured her of texting and walking at the same time. She did apologize.

    When I’m on my bicycle, at higher speeds it isn’t EVs that sneak up on me – I can hear the tire noise. It’s Honda Gold Wings. You don’t hear the vehicle and there’s almost no tire noise.

  • avatar

    So hybrids are overrepresented in slow speed pedestrian collisions. Could this perhaps also be caused by hybrids being overrepresented in places where they make the most sense, that is, cities?

    Hybrids are only silent at extremely slow speed where the tires don’t make much noise. Some luxury cars are even quieter.

    The sample size is very small – it even says so in the research. How about doing proper research instead of “Bell the hybrids” and wait several years to see that this was not the solution?

  • avatar

    … I kinda want them to just say “I’m an electric car!!” on repeat.

  • avatar

    I’d buy a EV if the sound it made was

    “Look out, stupid, I’m saving the planet!”

  • avatar

    If noise makers are legislated for low speeds then it must cover all cars. Otherwise there will be 10,000 pages trying to define exactly which cars are affected. The lawyers will get rich as usual. If you are driving your Electrovette at 10 mph in a shared zone, how about just not running over people?
    P.S. Reversing cameras are not as effective as a beeper or parking sensors.

  • avatar

    When will we put audibles on pedestrians and bicycle riders?

    When that happens, then you can do it to my Prius.

    • 0 avatar

      I use my bell liberally when I’m on my bicycle around pedestrians. In fact, I try to ring it around 4-5 seconds before I’m going to pass them so that if they startle, I don’t risk their jumping in front of me.

      But I’m not going to ask you to bell your Prius.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar

    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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