By on August 29, 2018

Car noise hearing

One of the benefits touted by early electric car advocates was a reduction in noise pollution stemming from automobiles. Electric motors have the potential to run far quieter than their internal combustion rivals, which could result in softer-sounding roadways.

The U.S. Department of Transportation started seriously worrying about the safety implications of silent-running vehicles back in 2010. Still, it wasn’t until this year that it legally imposed artificial noises on EVs as a way to warn inattentive or impaired pedestrians. Starting in 2020, vehicles with a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds must emit a pedestrian-warning noise at speeds below 18.6 miles per hour.

However, despite a lengthy dialogue between government and industry, Ford was apparently seeking an exception for the federally mandated noise maker

According to The Verge, Ford issued a comment on the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) final ruling on the matter from February. Apparently, the automaker expressed its intent to comply with the ruling but wanted to know if it would be feasible to suspend the sound for certain applications.

That comment has since been redacted, but the government said it would respond to a comment submitted by Ford “regarding the legality of equipping certain vehicles used for security purposes with a means of turning off the required pedestrian alert sound.”

Why would any automaker want such a thing? The most likely application would be law enforcement. One of Ford’s biggest selling points for its Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is that it’s useful for quiet patrolling. The company also offers a user-configurable “Silent Mode” on law enforcement models that disables interior lamps and daytime running lights. That feature would only be sweetened by a vehicle that could also crawl into position without the clattering of an internal combustion engine or some artificially manufactured hum.

A representative for the NHTSA told The Verge that Ford’s comments were made after the public comment period ended in October 2015, adding that publicly accessible references to the automaker’s request had been “inadvertently left in.” Ultimately, the agency decided that that “addressing the late comment would delay issuing the notice” on the EV noise ruling.

As the inclusion of noise below 19 mph exists specifically to improve public safety, automakers may have a hard time getting an exception for certain vehicles. However, the NHTSA is still considering Ford’s claim.

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30 Comments on “Silent Running: Ford Sought Exception on Federal Noise Requirements for Hybrid Cars, EVs...”

  • avatar

    This is not as strange as it may sound, my neighbor has a Tesla and he has startled me on more then one occasion by pulling up slowly behind me while I was out working in my yard. The only sound it makes is from the tires, at low speeds they don’t make any sound either

    Maybe the car could whistle Dixie or something

  • avatar

    I’m of two minds on this. Bicycles need some kind of noise maker, since they frequently blow past me –and scare the living poop out of me– on my walk to/from work.

    OTOH… almost every Sunday a group of Harley owners (don’t want to say ‘gang’, that’s stereotyping) love to show off just how f’ing obnoxious the sounds of their exhaust is.

    • 0 avatar

      don`t forget those pesky joggers and wheelchairs…

      • 0 avatar


        No, I didn’t forget them because there aren’t any on my walking commute. You, however, should *almost* get hit by bikes coming in behind you. Then perhaps you would respond less sarcastically.

        • 0 avatar

          sorry, my bad…
          here in germany we usually have the sidewalk divided into a pedestrian `lane`and one for bicycles…
          hence no hassle- but of course there still are those bicycle-rambos, as we call them…gotta watch out for those…

    • 0 avatar
      Christopher Coulter

      I’m a cyclist, and I agree with you. That’s why I stick to the roads and avoid shared use paths as much as possible, AND use a bell, *AND* an announce my approach every time.

      OTOH, you aren’t likely to be killed if you’re hit by a bicycle…

    • 0 avatar

      What happened to playing cards in the spokes to make a PHHLLBBT noise?

      • 0 avatar

        The playing card thing still exists. 2.0. Including fart can for bicycles. Don’t watch the video while holding a full cup of coffee.

        • 0 avatar

          Balloons wrapped appropriately around the forks make a much better full-throated sound. Unfortunately for my 8-9 year old self they did not last very long as the “rubber” is not as thick as it needs to be to assure longevity.

    • 0 avatar

      Honda Goldwings can be quieter than bicycles and any EV.

      • 0 avatar

        There was a really quiet 2nd gen (first sliding door jumbo minivan) Honda Oddyssy with rear body damage with a smashed Nissan Sentra on a dolly hooked to it parked at a truck stop on my way to the latest job I was on. Didn’t move for 7 days in a row that we drove past it, I’m sure its still there (job wrapped up, and I won’t miss the 88 mile each-way commute, rest assured).

        In reference to the QOTD article, three assumptions could easily be made about that situation. One about the ethnicity of its surely-recently-aquired and sure-to-be-temporary owner, its intended destination (a country), and the last would be the cause of the reason it was abandoned there.

  • avatar

    I still believe they should be required to make the flying-car noise from “The Jetsons.”

  • avatar

    We return to the early days of the motorcar where an attendant was needed to precede the vehicle with a lighted lantern to warn oncoming people of the newfangled vehicle making its way down the road except, now, that attendant will need to carry a snare or bass drum for the alert…

  • avatar

    my grandfather had an LTD like that, ‘cept in metallic green.

  • avatar

    Dark Mode would be the option to have the car not turn on the dome lights.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I’ve never //heard// dome lights or DTRLs, don’t know why they’d need to be silenced.

      Silent Mode does sound like a good name for this option being discussed, if Ford is allowed to use it on police cars.

  • avatar

    I have a couple of issues with this.

    1. All those people with earbuds won’t hear the cars anyway.
    2. I live next to a freeway. Most of the noise is tires, not engines. When the freeway is backed up, I don’t need 100 cars making artificial noise.

  • avatar

    This is what happens when “feel good” legislation is passed. Now noise machines are foisted on emergency vehicles that don’t want them.

    The Nissan LEAF has had a noise generator since launch. It has a reversing noise everyone ignores in the parking lot, folks stand behind my vehicle despite the beeping. To get attention you have to pip your horn.

    The noise has little to no safety benefit.

  • avatar

    The Police Ford option should be named “Whisper Mode” as in “Blue Thunder”

  • avatar

    As long as it’s the sound of a bottom-dump, tandem trailer, sand hauling 18-wheeler rumbling through so that pedestrians, cyclist, kid, cats, Harley Davidson/Chopper riders scramble out of the way before looking to see what’s coming at them.

  • avatar

    Jetsons’ car sound or dead silence is the only way forward.

  • avatar

    We could go back to the ‘80s fake wire wheel covers, those things creaked like wicker chairs.

  • avatar

    believe it or not but there are sound engineers working on the perfect sound for an EV for couple of years (this is for europe/germany…until those idiots finally surpass Telas`s standards as to range/ charging) that is..

  • avatar

    I was surprised to hear a little song coming from my Accord hybrid while on battery power. I’m in the US and thought only the Canadian version did that. Anyhow I would prefer the sound of an 8v92.

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