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AASHTO Journal

NHTSA Proposes New Sound Requirements for <br>Hybrid & Electric Vehicles for Road Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Monday it has proposed minimum sound requirements for all hybrid and electric vehicles in order to better ensure the safety of those sharing the road, namely pedestrians and bicyclists.

Electric and hybrid vehicles typically produce less sound than combustion engine vehicles due to the fact that they do not rely on gas or diesel-powered engines at lower speeds, making it more difficult for others sharing the road to hear those vehicles coming. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010​ mandated that the U.S. Department of Transportation study and establish a motor vehicle safety standard that provides a way to alert blind and other pedestrians of vehicle operation. NHTSA estimates that if implemented, the proposal could prevent 2,800 injuries over the life of each model year of these vehicles compared to the same vehicles without sound.

"Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists, and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in a statement.

While there will be that flexibility for each manufacturer, the sounds would need to be heard over street and background noise when the vehicle is traveling less than 18 miles per hour. According to NHTSA, tire and wind noise make the vehicles audible above 18 mph without the need for additional sounds.

The proposed rule will be officially published in the Federal Register as early as Monday. Once on the website, the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal. ​​

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