Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Electric and Hybrid Freight Trucks and Passenger Cars Need to be NOISY!

US Proposal for Minimum Standards put forward for Federal Approval
Shipping News Feature

US – WORLDWIDE – Whilst we have done all we can to promote the cause of more environmentally friendly forms of transport, particularly the new generation of electric and hybrid trucks, there remains one central problem which applies to both freight and passenger carrying vehicles. The latest generation of vehicles are simply too quiet for safe operation and now the US Department of Transport has moved to ensure needless accidents with pedestrians unaware of the danger are a thing of the past.

The need for more noise was highlighted in the 2010’s Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (PSEA) aimed particularly at protecting the visually impaired, and the standard proposed by the DoT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, should ensure that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound requirements so that pedestrians are able to detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are operating at low speeds. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, commented:

“Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, cyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street.”

The sounds would need to be detectable under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when the vehicle is travelling under 18 miles per hour. At 18 miles per hour and above, the NHTSA says vehicles make sufficient noise to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to detect them without added sound. Each automaker would have a significant range of choices about the sounds it chooses for its vehicles, but the characteristics of those sounds would need to meet certain minimum requirements. In addition, each vehicle of the same make and model would need to emit the same sound or set of sounds.

If the NHTSA proposal is implemented in full the department estimates that in the US there would be 2,800 fewer pedestrian and cyclist injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks and vans and low speed vehicles, as compared to vehicles without sound. The proposal was lodged yesterday with the Federal Register and upon publication, the public will have 60 days to submit comments. Hopefully this commonsense legislation will be implemented automatically across the globe.