NHTSA Quiet Car mandate for hybrids, EVs gets delayed

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has earlier issued a safety mandate for hybrid and electric cars, which would require them to alert visually impaired and cyclists at slow speeds. The EVs and hybrids at slow speeds are apparently so quiet that people might be unaware of their road presence, so to avoid any mishaps from occurring, NHTSA had issued the mandate.

2010 US Congress passed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which required additional noise devices on vehicles that operate silently at speeds under 18 miles per hour. NHTSA had to finalize a mandate by January 2014, but it was delayed until November. Now it is delayed further until March 2016 after it was unable to meet its deadline.

According to a survey by NHTSA, it is 19 percent more likely that a hybrid or electric vehicle will involve in a pedestrian crash compared to a traditional gas-powered vehicle with an internal combustion engine running. The same study says that pedestrian and bicyclist injuries can be reduced by 2,800 annually after the implementation of this mandate. Close to 125,000 pedestrians and bicyclists are injured each year due to a car crash.

The giant automakers involved in the manufacturing of hybrids and EVs, including Tesla Motors Inc, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp, will have to install an additional system to alert pedestrians and cyclists, in their EVs and hybrid cars traveling at 18 miles per hour or less. The alert may be a siren or an enhanced engine noise.

After the hybrid cars and EVs, the next implication of this rule will include SUVs, trucks, buses and motorcycles to alert the pedestrians and cyclists while traveling below 18 miles per hour. The rule might also include a reversing signal for the vehicles as many crashes are caused when the vehicle is backing up unalerted. The aftermarket reversing sirens are already present, although automakers do not install such systems in their stock cars.





An estimated amount of $23 million will be required after the mandate is issued, so NHTSA advises the carmakers to buckle up because an external waterproof speaker needs to be added to cars. While the automakers have concerns about the alerts being too loud or unsuitable for some areas, with added complication of being active only at slow speeds.

Mark Rosekind, Administrator NHTSA stated, “Additional coordination necessary,” as the only reason for the delay in the implementation of the mandate.

On a different note, Nissan’s all-electric car, Leaf, already has a system that emits a sound when the car is traveling below 18mph. Other automakers can take a note of the technology used by the car, or even improve it accordingly to make a better alert system for their cars.