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Hybrid, Electric Vehicles Are Too Quiet, Feds Say

Automakers have until Sept. 1, 2020, to equip electric and hybrid vehicles with sounds so they’ll be audible to blind and hard-of-hearing pedestrians.

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Automakers have until Sept. 1, 2020, to equip electric and hybrid vehicles with sounds so they’ll be audible to blind and hard-of-hearing pedestrians.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Feb. 26 published a final rule establishing minimum sound-level requirements for low-speed operation of hybrid and electric vehicles.

“The minimum sound requirements provide a means for blind and other pedestrians as well as bicyclists and other road users to detect the presence of these so-called quiet vehicles and thereby reduce the risk that these vehicles will be involved in low-speed pedestrian crashes,” NHTSA explains in the Feb. 26 Federal Register.

The rule establishes Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, “Minimum Sound for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles.”

Under the new safety standard, all hybrid and electric vehicles must meet the minimum sound requirements by Sept. 1, 2020. The 50-percent phase-in date is Sept. 1, 2019.

In 2010, Congress directed NHTSA to develop minimum sound-level requirements for quiet vehicles, with passage of the Pedestrian Safety and Enhancement Act of 2010.

NHTSA promulgated the rule in December 2016. However, the Trump administration delayed implementation of the new safety standards so it could review petitions from the automakers.

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In the revised rule, NHTSA acknowledges six requests from the auto industry, one of which was to push the full and 50-percent compliance dates back by one year. NHTSA agrees to the compliance-date extension in its revised rule.

However, the agency is denying Nissan’s request to state that the rule only should apply to speeds below 12.4 mph. NHTSA retains the initial rule’s speed threshold of 18.6 mph.

In the 2016 rule, NHTSA prohibited any alteration of a vehicle’s factory-installed alert sound. Responding to automakers’ petitions, NHTSA has dropped that part of the rule, “because it was not the agency’s intention to hinder vehicle repairs or recall remedies.”

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The agency says it will seek comment on the automakers’ request to allow hybrid and electric vehicles “to be equipped with multiple, driver-selectable sounds before granting or denying this request.”

The deadline for any comments pertaining to the rule is April 12.

 

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