By on November 25, 2015


Federal regulators have postponed rules to require hybrid and EV carmakers to add audible warnings to their cars to alert nearby pedestrians, bicyclists and visually impaired people, Reuters reported.

The audible warnings would be installed on cars made by Ford, Honda and Toyota and be activated when those cars are traveling slower than 18 mph. According to the report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says hybrid and EV cars are 19-percent more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash when compared to gasoline cars. The rule could prevent 2,800 crashes with pedestrians.

The proposed rule has been in the works since 2013, and the latest delay — from November to March — is because “additional coordination is necessary.” The proposed sounds are posted on NHTSA’s website, and automakers will have to choose between “pleasant sounding, brainwave, thought-stealing machine” sound or “piercing-wail-that-will-drive-your-dog-batshit-in-the-morning” sound.

Lawmakers in 2010 directed NHTSA to draft regulations for the new rule by January 2014. In July, NHTSA director said those regulations would be complete this month.

According to the report, the new rule could cost automakers up to $23 million to fit their cars with external speakers.

Like anything good, the best answer has obviously come from motorsports. Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima’s Pikes Peak EV was fitted this year with a clear, banshee wail that alerted El Paso County that he was hauling ass up a mountain. If automakers could build their EVs to run like hell up a mountain, I think I’d be willing to drive an electric car that you could hear in Manitou Springs, too.

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30 Comments on “Feds Postpone Hybrid and EV Warning Noises Until Next Year...”

  • avatar

    Nice video, that’s pretty awesome.

  • avatar

    So Tesla and GM are exempt and Honda is on the hook?


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I was told my 12 Leaf had some sort of noisemaker for low speeds, but I don’t believe it. I had to be very careful driving through parking lots and neighborhoods because pedestrians could never hear the car approaching.

    It was fitted with an annoying truck-like backup alarm, which could allegedly be disabled with some electro-mechanical & software hacking.

    • 0 avatar

      All LEAF’s have made a sound at low speeds.

      With the 2011 MY LEAF there is a switch inside the vehicle that disables the VSP. I believe the switch was removed in 2012 and later LEAF’s.

      The noise is definitely there and the car is noticeably quieter with it turned off.

      With the noise maker on Pedestrians routinely and consistently ignore it and are startled by the approach of my LEAF. Making an electronic noise/whine results in no increased level of awareness by pedestrians. The cars should be require to make a noise similar to an ICE car. If it doesn’t sound like an approaching vehicle, then an approaching vehicle won’t be noticed.

      Well meaning legislation that will be largely ineffective.

  • avatar

    I suppose they haven’t thought about electric motorcycles as well? I was standing at a corner a couple months ago when a guy dressed in black riding a black Zero went past at the curb lane, just a couple feet from me. It was like a ghost passed before my eyes.

  • avatar

    Just what we need, more noise pollution. Freakin’ backup alarms already make certain parts of the city uninhabitable at certain times of day.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t stand backup alarms. Terrible, ear-piercing racket, and absolutely pointless. Anybody hanging out right behind running heavy equipment should be run over anyway, to improve the overall condition of the herd.

      But this will be nothing like that, I presume. It should be similar in volume to an idling ICE engine. You’ll know it’s there when it’s close, but unlike the backup alarms it doesn’t require that anyone within a mile will be able to hear it.

  • avatar

    May I suggest the following sound to be used on electric vehicles…

  • avatar

    Toyota has had this for like a decade – it’s called the Vehicle Proximity Notification System.

  • avatar

    “Alternative 4” (the second) reminds me of the Top Gun game for Nintendo. An 8-bit version of an F-14 sitting on the deck waiting for clearance.

    The other one seems to have some annoying mid-range resonance. They should just go with the Jetsons sound.

  • avatar

    According to Subaru my Crosstrek Hybrid makes a pedestrian warning sound when running in EV mode. Can’t say that I’ve ever noticed it, though. Maybe it’s one of those sounds that 57-year-olds can’t hear.

  • avatar

    Could they get to work on mandating automatic headlight switches on cars with constantly illuminated instrument panels?
    I’m gonna get killed pulling out in front of someone who is driving at night with their head swiveling between their phone, 10″ center console screen, and lit dashboard , but no headlights on.

    • 0 avatar

      I honestly didn’t realize automatic headlights weren’t standard until the first night I drove my 16 4Runner.

      I was pissed to put it lightly, that’s the first new vehicle I’ve driven in 10 years without auto lights, GM has put it in the cheapest silverados they make since 03, and a 4Runner that starts over $32k doesn’t have it as an option? The hell?

  • avatar

    My car already has the Alternative 5 sound from the NHTSA site. The biggest problem is that in one of the garages I park in, it blends in with the ventilation fans and no one can hear it.

    As for the coolest EV sound, here’s the Rimac at speed:

  • avatar

    I live on a side street in a residential neighborhood, one where people who know the neighborhood cut down a street at the end of the block and then come down to the stop sign at our corner. And our bedroom is on the front side of the house.

    So now, thanks the nanny lobby, I will be able to hear cars slowing to a stop, then accelerating after their turn, all the time emitting a noise. One that will probably be the more annoying because it will probably be a monotone rather than the natural sound of a car, one that we are all accustomed to anyway.

    No doubt, they will want the EV’s to make a “wheee” sound, to celebrate the latest nanny lobby victory.

    (Meanwhile, in a decade, even though the second street is a walkway to a regional rail station a few blocks away, I have NEVER seen a visually impaired person walking. And for this, I have to endure a dozen or more annoying sounds lasting a half minute or so, just in case both the driver of the EV and the visually impaired person happen to be out to lunch at the same time? Why not just mandate that all EV drivers must come to a full stop, get out of their cars, look for any sensorily-impaired pedestrians, and require them by law to help them cross before they can continue. Just when I think the nanny lobby must be running out of ideas, they continue to amaze me. Just think if they could apply that creativity to solving REAL problems.)

  • avatar

    My 2015 Volt has a button on the end of the turn-signal stalk that fast-chirps the car horn (3 quick pulses for each press) as a “pedestrian friendly” warning. It’s still pretty loud, so I use it well before encountering “walkers”; otherwise, I’ll wait patiently until they see me or clear the way. But – I don’t drive in the city, or in a “blind pedestrian” area either.

    As to a music-based warning blaring from the front of my Volt, I’d pick this:

    (No, I wouldn’t) :-)

    • 0 avatar

      My ’14 Spark EV has this light-weight grinding sound to let folks know something’s there. I can’t help but wish instead for a recording of the burble from a new Camaro SS V-8. False advertising? Perhaps. But it does have 400 ft-lbs of torque (130 hp) and will beat just about anything from 0 to 15 mph.

  • avatar

    At least you won’t be able to pull into the garage at night when the rest of the family is asleep without beeping them awake. Your wife will enjoy that.

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