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Feds to Green Automakers: Your Cars Are Too Quiet!

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On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 3:10PM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Feds to Green Automakers: Your Cars Are Too Quiet!

It seems that the world of autos and cars has been changed forever with the advent of hybrid cars, ‘green’ cars, solar cars, and electric cars alike. Now these cars finally are falling to normal price levels, comparable to not-so-‘green’ cars. 'Green' vehicles are finally being manufactured by tons of automakers, and this market is ever so quickly expanding. As the world makes more demands on automakers to rise to the challenges of combating global warming, there is yet another hurdle that is being presented to green vehicles by the US government (and others): Apparently, they are too quiet!

Before I delve into this, let us first recognize one thing: the Feds, and most countries, have forever and a day, to be exact, vied for cleaner and more fuel-efficient and less emission-producing cars. But now, these cars drive so quietly and smoothly that governments are actually considering passing what they will call the Auto Safety Bill. This bill, in essence, would require the makers of such green cars to provide some sort of alert noise whenever, say, a pedestrian is nearby—so that they are safer on the roads.

But this is not a bad thing. No way. For sure, a smooth and quiet ride is very desirable to most consumers and has forever been a mainstay in the marketing of many different cars. However, did we really think that we would ever see the day when technology has them running so quietly that there are now bills being enacted into law to regulate that lack of noise? The last time I checked, they were passing bills for quite the opposite reasons—mostly by city and region—laws that would limit how loud a motorcycle could be, for example. In the area of auto safety, however, something is often overlooked: the street-side pedestrian. So this new bill is actually a good thing, if you ask me.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL)—one of the fellows who has been working to push this bill into law with another lawmaker, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY)—said, “I had a personal experience in a parking lot when I did not hear an approaching vehicle. This amendment looks for a way to prevent avoidable injuries and deaths without onerous and untenable requirements on vehicle manufacturers.”

The same Post article sheds some light on why this bill is so important, and the impact that it can have on society. According to the newspaper, “A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year found that in some situations hybrid electric vehicles are two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash than a conventional car.”

Carmakers like Nissan are grabbing the reins and trying to figure out ways to accommodate this bill with their newer electric cars, like the forthcoming Nissan Leaf—a hybrid car that offers some impressive features, including almost zero emissions. The company has been toying with some ideas on how to inform pedestrians that these really quiet-as-a-mouse cars are coming their way.

According the Washington Post article, “Nissan, one of the leaders in electric car technology, has begun experimenting with chimes, melodies, and whirring that could be added to its forthcoming Leaf.”

The blind and those who are hard of hearing have desired this for quite some time. It seems like the Fed has indeed responded to their queries. John G. Pare (executive director for Strategic Initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind) offered some insight in an interview with the Washington Post. “"We're thrilled! After 2 1/2 years, this is finally coming to fruition."

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