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Automakers Agree with Minimum Standards for Electric Vehicle Noise

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On: Thu, May 20, 2010 at 3:47PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Automakers Agree with Minimum Standards for Electric Vehicle Noise

In recent car news, The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers met with the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council for the Blind which resulted in an agreement that electric vehicles should be mandated to a minimum noise standard for safety of pedestrians with visual impairment.

New vehicle sales is projected to be just over 11 million this year, and, although a recent McKinsey report predicts that electric vehicles will capture only a small percentage of total vehicle sales in the future (as little as 3–8%), the all-electric motors are virtually silent. Safety issues concerning the risk of blind pedestrians getting hit by electric vehicles has been a topic of concern within advocate groups for the blind for many years. A recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009 concluded that electric vehicles are prone to be at higher risk for accidents involving pedestrians than vehicles with regular engine noise, such as combustion engine automobiles.

Congress was presented with suggested language to set up guidelines related to engine noise in electric vehicles in the new Motor Safety Act of 2010, a new bill that is currently moving through congress that will mandate many different safety regulations for automobiles. Under the new proposal, federal auto safety regulators would be given a year and a half to initiate a regulation for minimum sound in vehicles that would be incorporated into federal guidelines within the next three years. The sound would be required to automatically switch on without the option of manually making changes in any way. The NHTSA would set the noise limit at increments according to the speed that the automobile reaches.

In the past, automakers have acknowledged the problem, but not really suggested any new implementation strategies to deal with it. In 2007, Toyota spokesman, Bill Kwong was quoted as saying, “One of the many benefits of the Prius, besides excellent fuel economy and low emissions, is quiet performance. Not only does it not pollute the air, it doesn’t create noise pollution. We are studying the issue and trying to find that delicate balance.” Since Toyota has been under such scrutiny for its many safety liabilities, they may be the first in line to implement safer noise level in future Prius models.

If any good has come out of the recent Toyota recalls, it may be that automakers seem more willing to take action in implementing safety regulations. It seems the timing was good for groups that advocate for the blind who have been pushing for new safety laws pertaining to electric vehicle noise for years.


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