Are hybrid vehicles doing their job a little too well? Safety regulators seem to think so.
On Thursday, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a final ruling that will require automobile manufacturers to install devices in their electric and hybrid vehicles that make the cars produce more noise, in response to concerns over pedestrian safety.
“The full implementation of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 will protect all pedestrians, especially the blind, as well as cyclists. This regulation will ensure that blind Americans can continue to travel safely and independently as we work, learn, shop, and engage in all facets of community life,” said Mark A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind.
The NHTSA predicts that the addition of the noise making device will see around 2400 fewer accidents between cyclists/pedestrians and smart/hybrid cars. Devices must be implemented on all new vehicles by no later than September 1, 2019. The Ruling says only vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds will have to produce more noise, and only produce noise when vehicles are traveling in forward or reverse speeds less than 30 Km/h and not over due to the noise that tires and wind produce.
The move comes as the percentage of non-combustion engine vehicles seems set to rise sharply. Recent research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that by the year 2040, electric vehicles (EVs) will count for 35% of total global car sales, and due to the quick advancements in battery technology they will become cheaper than conventional vehicles by the year 2025. If proven to be true, this will mean that 13 million less barrels of crude oil will be used per day, but will increase daily electricity use by 2,700TWh (that’s 2,700,000,000,000,000) which is just over 10% of the global demand in 2015.
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Canadians have been concerned with the dangers associated with EVs being nearly silent for since as early as July of 2008. When fully electric vehicles were first being legalized for road use in the quiet municipality of Oak Bay B.C., some were thrilled because of the steps being take to help the environment, while others were worried about the distinct and possible threat to their blind community members.
Instead of proposing to ban these vehicles the Canadian Federation of the Blind worked hand in hand with its American counter part to have the vehicles be made noisier whilst idling, accelerating, and slowing down.
“If they are so quiet we can’t hear them, then no sane blind person is going to want to be out on the street alone. And that would make us virtual prisoners in our own homes,” said Canadian Federation of the Blind vice president Mary Ellen Gabias, to CBC News in 2008. She also went on to say that this change will not only benefit those who are visually impaired “A couple of months ago, an eight-year-old was hit by a Prius, He didn’t hear it coming,”