Automakers Say EV Noisemakers Too Loud


Two automaker groups are challenging a proposal for hybrids and electric vehicles to make artificial noises at low speeds. Congress authorized the initiative, aimed to keep drivers from pulling an Andy Bernard from "The Office" on nearby pedestrians or bicyclists, with the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act in December 2010. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration followed with a slew of proposals, which the Detroit News recapped today. Automakers would have to implement sounds that could be heard amid background noise at speeds up to 18.6 mph; automakers could craft their own noises, and the requirement would phase in beginning with the 2015 model year.

Several cars, including the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, already have their own pedestrian-detection noises. But two groups — the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers — representing virtually the entire auto industry declared the rule "too complicated" and "unnecessarily prescriptive," according to a joint statement via the Detroit News. Current noisemakers in the Leaf and Volt would fail NHTSA requirements.

Association of Global Automakers safety director Michael Cammisa said Friday that automakers support the regulation's intent, but the noise requirements are too loud. The Detroit News reports automakers want the noise-making threshold lowered to 12.4 mph, or the phase-in period delayed to 2018 to give the industry enough time to adapt. They're also concerned about global standardization; rules in Europe and Japan don't prescribe noisemaking at idle while U.S. rules could.

NHTSA estimates the cost per vehicle will amount to $35, but automakers say it could be close to $200. "The Office" episodes aside, pedestrian collisions are no laughing matter. NHTSA says hybrids are 19% more likely to collide with pedestrians and 38% more likely to collide with bicyclists versus traditional cars, according to the Detroit News.

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Danny Ulster

I have a Chevy Volt and I can hardly hear any noise when the car is powered on...which I love. I am in favor of a sound similar to the "Jetsons" spacecrafts if forced to make it more audible.

Matt C.

I like the idea of it sounding like the Fred Flinstone running to get his vehicle going, or possible the sound of Fred suddenly stopping the vehicle... Really I'd be happy with any old fashioned Hanna-Barberra sound effect.


Maybe it's because I'm young, but the distinctive whine of a hybrid is more noticeable than a faint growl from a miniscule engine.


I vote for a plurality of great sounds selectable by the driver. Jetson's? Cool. Fred's feet? That'd be my choice.


Specify a minimum volume, but let the owner load any MP3 they want, just like cell phone ring tones. Given the ubiquity of that technology, it would probably cost less than limiting the cars to built-in sounds. I'll take Ride of the Valkyries...

Susan Gawarecki

Most car noise while driving is from the wheels on the pavement. So is more noise really needed? If the government is set on mandating it, drivers should be able to choose what it sounds like for their car, sort of like a ring tone.

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