Five Years After Law Passed, Silent Hybrid Cars Still Silent

Government misses deadline again for rules concerning making electric cars louder on the streets.

Posted in News

— Five years after a law was passed concerning pedestrian safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) still hasn't created the rules automakers must follow.

The process has been going on since 2010 when the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act was passed by Congress. The purpose of the law is to make electric vehicles loud enough to be heard by those with eyesight and hearing disabilities.

However, five years later and NHTSA keeps extending the deadline to finalize the rules.

The latest missed NHTSA deadline was November 2015, with the safety agency setting March 2016 as the new deadline. Automakers will then have at least 18 months from the date the rules are finalized to update vehicles with the new technology.

The government didn't say what caused this latest delay, but it's no secret some manufacturers aren't happy with the law. Concerns have been raised over the estimated $23 million it will cost automakers the first year to install the needed equipment, including at least one waterproof speaker used to broadcast the sounds.

Electric cars can be totally silent while driving, especially at slower speeds when less noise is created by the tires. It's estimated 125,000 pedestrians and bicyclists are injured each year, and NHTSA believes by providing engine noise those accidents could decrease by 2,800 per year.

NHTSA says pedestrians are 19 percent more likely to be involved in an accident with a silent electric vehicle compared to a gas-powered vehicle. Additionally, a 2011 study found that pedestrians were 35 percent more likely to be involved in an accident with a hybrid/electric vehicle compared to a gas-powered vehicle.

Under the current proposal, the sounds would need to be detectable under a wide range of street noises and other background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 18 miles per hour.