Electric Cars May Be Too Quiet To Be Safe
Advertisements for automobiles frequently tout the noise reducing qualities of vehicle’s cabins, but can too quiet be a bad thing? Apparently if it’s the engine, it can.
Federal safety regulators plan to require that electric cars and other noiseless vehicles implement sound technology, or “noisemakers”, in order to make the vehicles easier for pedestrians and other drivers to detect.
“The regulation, required by the pedestrian safety law passed last year by Congress and signed by President Obama in January, also will cover light and low-speed vehicles, motorcycles, buses and heavy-duty trucks,” according to USA Today.
While the new, clean vehicles are designed to be safer for the environment, they may pose new dangers, particularly to blind pedestrians.
"’America's streets must be safe for everyone who uses them,’ U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. ’As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot,’" reported the Wall Street Journal.
Some cars already use sound emitters in order to make the vehicles easier to detect, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will now be evaluating the possibility of requiring that electric and hybrid cars be equipped with sound alert systems.
Some of the vehicles that currently have sound alert systems have the option for the driver to disengage the system, but the NHTSA would likely require that the option to disengage the alert system not be included in new vehicles.
If you would like to hear a few examples of what the alert system for an electric car might sound like, you can listen to a sound clip created by Scientific American here.
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