Back in 2010, Congress directed the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) to create rules requiring noise generating devices on EVs, PHEVs, and hybrids while operating on electric power. Studies conducted at the time had suggested that such cars were so quiet that they represent a danger to pedestrians, especially the blind. In fact, the National Federation For The Blind was one of the primary groups urging Congress to act. Final rules regulating EV noises were supposed to be issued in January, 2014 but have been delayed several times, already, pushing back the appearance of the proposed noise-making devices until 2016.
Now, however, several automakers are claiming that they simply cannot comply with that deadline because NHTSA dropped the ball by missing the deadline for finalizing the rules. They also complain the devices will cost many times more than the $35 per car the government estimates.
According to The Detroit News, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automaker have jointly urged the NHTSA to postpone full compliance until September 1, 2018, partly because the final rules have yet to be published but also because:
It is apparent that there remains a great deal of uncertainty as to the content of the final requirements. (The proposed rules of January 2013) would result in alert sounds that are louder than necessary, create driver and occupant annoyance and cost more than necessary.
Until the NHTSA rules regarding EV noise are finalized, manufacturers can’t know whether all EVs, PHEVs, and hybrids must have the same sound, or even whether such devices will be required to operate automatically, as in the Nissan LEAF, or under driver control, as they are in the current Chevy Volt.
I fully understand why pedestrians should need some help in identifying when a car operating solely on electric power is in the area. I bought a Prius in 2007 and was driving slowly on a side street when a man suddenly stepped off a curb and crossed right in front of me. I blew my horn, which startled him. We exchanged pleasantries accompanied by a few well known hand gestures. Then he yelled at me “They ought to make you tie a cow bell on that thing!” He was neither blind, nor blind drunk. He was simply someone caught off guard by my silent approach – so, yeah. I get it. Still, I find the government’s approach to be wrong headed.
Way back at the beginning of the automobile era, many cities passed laws requiring a person to walk in front of a car ringing a bell to warn law-abiding citizens that a vehicle was approaching. It was a dumb idea then, and it’s an even dumber idea now, after generations of “look both ways”.
The American government, it appears, is proposing a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem. Instead of urban vehicles mooing, chiming and chirping their way down city streets, why not develop a smart phone app that notifies pedestrians when an EV, PHEV or hybrid car is in the area? If it works for Uber, it should work for anyone, including blind and deaf pedestrians, right? Am I wrong? Let me know what you think in the comments section, below.
Source: Green Car Reports.