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Electric and hybrid cars will soon make sounds when driven at slow speeds

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked car manufacturers to ensure that all their new electric and hybrid vehicles make sounds when driven at slow speeds to ensure safety of pedestrians.

The NHTSA has laid out noise requirements for hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less. According to the rules, will make audible noise when traveling in reverse or forward at speeds up to 30 kilometers per hour (about 19 miles per hour). This is specifically when moving at low speeds because at high speeds there are other factors including tire and wind noise that provide warning to pedestrians including the blind or those with low vision about a vehicle traveling near by.

The deadline is September 1, 2019 before which all auto makers should equip all their new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new federal safety standard. Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline.

The move has been pegged as a safety move under which the NHTSA believes that as many as 2,400 pedestrian injuries can be prevented annually once all cars are properly equipped with the required instruments.

The new standard, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, responds to Congress’ mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound requirements to provide an audible alert for blind and visually-impaired pedestrians.

Studies conducted by NHTSA indicate that, under certain low-speed scenarios, the odds of hybrid and electric vehicles being involved in collisions with pedestrians are thirty-five percent higher than those for comparable internal combustion engine vehicles and that the odds of hybrid and electric vehicles being involved in collisions with cyclists are fifty-seven percent higher than for comparable internal combustion engine vehicles.

The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act was passed by unanimous consent in the United States Senate and by an overwhelming bipartisan majority vote of 379 to 30 in the House of Representatives. It was signed by President Obama on January 4, 2011.