Feds Want to Give EV Drivers a Choice in What They Hear

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
feds want to give ev drivers a choice in what they hear

What you hear, too. While most electric vehicles emit noises at low speeds to alert pedestrians of their presence, drivers don’t have a say in the sounds emanating from their vehicle. If it came from the factory sounding like a spaceship, that’s something you’ll just have to live with.

Next year is the deadline for full compliance with mandatory low-speed EV noise rules finalized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration early last year, but a proposed amendment shows the feds want drivers to dial up a tune.

No, you probably won’t be able to blast Ride of the Valkyries or the theme from Shaft as you creep through the farmer’s market parking lot, but automakers would be allowed to offer owners a selection of sounds.

The NHTSA’s proposed rule would amend 2016’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 141, Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, adding a key change. The modified rule would “allow manufacturers of hybrid and electric vehicles (HEVs) to install a number of driver-selectable pedestrian alert sounds in each HEV they manufacture.”

A petition preceded the amendment.

“NHTSA is proposing to remove the limit to the number of compliant sounds that a manufacturer may choose to install in a vehicle. Drivers would be able to select the sound they prefer from the set of sounds installed in the vehicle,” the NHTSA stated.

Before the amended rule becomes the law of the land, the agency first wants to hear from the industry and the public. It’s seeking feedback on the rule; specifically, whether it “should establish a limit to the number of compliant sounds” made available to the driver. November 1st marks the end of the comment period.

If comments push the agency in the direction of less regulation, automakers might just offer up a smorgasboard of low-speed noises.

[Images: © 2017 Matthew Guy/TTAC, General Motors]

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Sep 19, 2019

    I think we had a discussion about audible warnings for pedestrians and the blind awhile back. I'm going to stick with my original suggestion, a recording of Queen playing "Another One Bites The Dust".

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Sep 19, 2019

    While this all leads to a bit of amusment for some folks, I can imagine certain circumstances where having different sounds from different BEVs would be helpful. Standing at an intersection, a blind person crossing the street might hear a delivery truck on his right. That truck may be loud enough to mask the right hand turning, nearly silent BEV approaching from behind the pedestrian at least initially. As the BEV with the sound emitter approaches closer, the pedestrian realizes there's a vehicle behind him as he starts to cross. As they cross, they realize there's yet another vehicle (because of the different sound it emits) near the curb and they should take note of it, should it move. Also, if you've ever worked in an "open plan" office, you know how annoying it is to only have two or three ringtones on your desk phone. We have seven people in one area, they could not distinguish correctly whose phone was ringing; the company installed seven lights so they knew whose phone it was. A similar issue with many BEVs in traffic and approaching from different directions, it would help to know which way they were coming and approximate speed. But, the sound emitter does little to prevent the idiots who walk through the streets with earbuds or earphones in place. I ride as much as I can in the dry months, and frequently I encounter people on the bike paths or road that are wearing earbuds. They cannot hear my bell, nor can they hear me when I speak: Passing on the left. But, if I go past them quicker than they like, they're the ones to throw a fit and accuse me of intentionally trying to frighten them. My real favorites are the Darwin Award runners-up that ride bicycles in traffic with earbuds/earphones on. Idiots.

    • Retrocrank Retrocrank on Sep 20, 2019

      Agree. Remember, half of the population is below average.

  • Kat Laneaux What's the benefits of this as opposed to the Ford or Nissan. Will the mileage be better than the 19 city, 24 hwy? Will it cost less than the average of $60,000? Will it be a hybrid?
  • Johnster Minor quibble. The down-sized full-sized 1980-only Continental (which was available with Town Car and Town Coupe trims) gave up its name in 1981 and became the Town Car. The name "Town Coupe" was never used after the 1980 model year. The 1981 Lincoln Town Car was available with a 2-door body style, but the 2-door Lincoln Town Car was discontinued and not offered for the 1982 model year and never returned to the Lincoln lineup.
  • Zipper69 Some discreet dwebadging and this will pass for a $95k Lucid Air...
  • Zipper69 Does it REALLY have to be a four door?Surely a truly compact vehicle could stick with the half-door access with jump seats for short term passengers.
  • ToolGuy See kids, you can keep your old car in good condition.