A couple months ago, I casually wrote a post wondering aloud if quiet hybrids and electric cars would be a hazard to pedestrians who are visually disabled. After all, it’s quite easy to hear a combustion engine from a distance. Many commenters bashed the post saying that it was stupid to suggest adding some type of small noise to the vehicles. Apparently, these people were not blind.
Today, the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind will present written testimony asking for a minimum sound standard for hybrids to be included in the state’s emissions regulations. As the President of the group, Marc Maurer, mentioned, he’s not interested in returning to gas-guzzling vehicles, they just want fuel-efficient hybrids to have some type of warning noise. From the article,
“‘I don’t want to pick that way of going, but I don’t want to get run over by a quiet car, either,’ Maurer said.
Manufacturers are aware of the problem but have made no pledges yet. Toyota is studying the issue internally, said Bill Kwong, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales USA.
“One of the many benefits of the Prius, besides excellent fuel economy and low emissions, is quiet performance. Not only does it not pollute the air, it doesn’t create noise pollution,” Kwong said. “We are studying the issue and trying to find that delicate balance.”
The Association of International Auto Manufacturers Inc., a trade group, is also studying the problem, along with a committee established by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The groups are considering “the possibility of setting a minimum noise level standard for hybrid vehicles,” said Mike Camissa, the safety director for the manufacturers’ association.”
It’s obviously a real concern — and I imagine a compromise can be met with some type of gentle noise to make people aware. As someone who recently almost got nailed by a Prius pulling out of a parking spot, I can sympathize. You certainly get used to hearing a car’s engine as a warning that it may move. Granted, the responsibility of not getting hit falls with the driver too — and it seems like so many people are blind behind the wheel as it is with cell phones, distractions, etc.
What do you think the proper noise would be?