Electric, Hybrid Cars to Be Required to Sound Pedestrian Alerts

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will propose a rule requiring electric and hybrid vehicles to sound an alert under certain conditions to alert pedestrians to their presence.

The rule will require all such vehicles to come equipped with a pedestrian safety sound system, the agency said in a notice published on its website today. The regulation will cover light and low-speed vehicles, motorcycles, buses and heavy-duty trucks.

“Even as we make giant leaps forward with hybrid and electric vehicles, we must remain laser focused on safety,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement. “With more and more quiet vehicles on the road, we have to consider their effect on pedestrians.”

NHSTA raised concerns about pedestrian safety risks posed by hybrid and electric vehicles, which make less noise than internal-combustion-engine vehicles, when it convened a public meeting on the matter in June 2008.

The agency, in an October 2009 report, found a higher rate of pedestrian accidents associated with hybrid vehicles compared with gasoline-powered vehicles. An April 2010 report found quieter cars, such as hybrid-electric vehicles with only their electric motors running, could pose a safety risk to visually impaired pedestrians.

Rulemaking Process

NHTSA by law must write a standard by July 4, 2012 for an alert system that doesn’t require action by a driver or pedestrian to activate it, the notice said. All vehicles of the same make and model must have the same alert sound, the notice said.

A final rule must be published by Jan. 4, 2014. Covered electric and hybrid vehicles will have to comply if they are manufactured in September of the calendar year that begins three years after the rule’s final publication.

General Motors Co. (GM)’s Chevy Volt, a plug-in electric vehicle, has an alert system that’s activated when the driver pulls the turn-signal handle, according to the NHTSA notice and GM’s website. Japan issued guidelines in 2010 recommending that sound alerts be required only on hybrids that can run exclusively on electric motors, electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles, according to the notice.

To contact the reporter on this story: Puneet Kollipara in Washington at pkollipara@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn in Washington at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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