The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is calling for a minimum sound requirement on all electric and hybrid vehicles that do not rely solely on gasoline power, to help with pedestrian safety.
“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.
As electric vehicles are nearly silent, they are very hard to detect when approaching from behind, especially at low speeds. The proposed law, officially called Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 141, says that when travelling under 18 mph, vehicles must emit a noise that is loud enough to be heard over street noises and other ambient background sounds.
The specific sound is not limited, and every automaker will have a range of tones it can choose, as long as each vehicle of the same make and model emit the same sound or set of sounds.