US finalizes legislation on “quiet cars”

The rules will require electric and hybrid cars to emit alert sounds

Insurance News

By Lyle Adriano

The US government has finalized legislation that will require “quiet” electric vehicles and hybrids to emit alert sounds when they hit a certain speed. It is hoped that the rule will help prevent injuries among pedestrians, cyclists, and especially the visually impaired.

Reuters reported that the rules, required by Congress, mandate that automakers such as Tesla, Nissan, and Toyota add a sound feature to all their vehicles whenever they hit speeds of up to 30 km per hour; and that automakers must accomplish this by September, 2019.

According to the US Transportation Department, the rules would prevent about 2,400 injuries a year by 2020 and would require the alert sounding feature to be implemented on roughly 530,000 2020 model vehicles.

The US National Highway Transportation Department said that the rules will cost the auto industry about US$39 million annually. The agency reasoned that manufacturers will have to spend more to install external waterproof speakers to comply with the rules. On the other hand, the agency said that the speakers would save an estimated $250 million to $320 million annually from auto injury costs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that the odds of a hybrid vehicle being involved in a pedestrian crash are 19% higher than that of a gas-powered one.

“This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians, especially folks who are blind or have low vision, make their way safely,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind.

The legislation will apply to hybrid and electric cars, SUVs, trucks and buses weighing up to 4,535 kilograms. The rules could help prevent crashes at intersections or when the vehicles are backing up.

Manufacturers had raised concerns that the required alerts are too loud and complicated. Reuters noted that while the legislation set minimum sound requirements, it did not specify what type of sound must be emitted.

“It’s important that automakers have the flexibility to equip vehicles with sounds that are sufficiently detectable yet pleasant to hear; consumer acceptance is critical and that hinges on sounds not annoying people inside the auto,” said trade group The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in a statement.

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