Feds: Your Damn Quiet Hybrid Must Now Make Noise At People

Disaster waiting to happen. Photo credit: BMW via Newspress
Disaster waiting to happen. Photo credit: BMW via Newspress

Electric and hybrid vehicles can be eerily quiet at low speeds, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes it’s a safety problem. Starting in 2019, NHTSA will require all new electric and hybrid light-duty vehicles to make noise at speeds below 19 miles an hour to alert pedestrians they’re there.

By September 1, 2019, all new electric and hybrid vehicles with four wheels with a gross vehicle weight of less than 10,000 pounds must emit sound when traveling forwards or backwards of speeds up to 30 kilometers an hour, or 19 mph.

Above that speed, the NHTSA claims that tire and wind noise are usually adequate to let pedestrians know these cars are coming, and thus, the sound alert isn’t needed then. It’s the low-speed movement that doesn’t make enough noise, which is how Priuses are able to sneak up on you like demon ninja cars in parking lots.


The NHTSA had blind and visually impaired pedestrians in mind who can’t just see the cars coming when they made this new federal motor vehicle safety standard, but it should help everyone be able to know these cars are coming.
The NHTSA estimates that about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year will be prevented once this new electric car standard goes into effect.

If you’ve ever wondered what artificial electric car noises sounds like though, it’s not like a constant “AWOOOOGAH” or “WEEOOOWEEOOOWEOOO” sound or anything like that. It’s much more futuristic. Here’s the Audi R8 e-tron from a few years back:

And the sadly-doomed Fisker Karma:

Come to think of it, I prefer AWOOGAH.

Moderator, OppositeLock. Former Staff Writer, Jalopnik. 1984 "Porschelump" 944 race car, 1971 Volkswagen 411 race car, 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS.

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You know, it seems like these days everything is aimed towards the safety of pedestrians. Cars are redesigned, hybrids and EVs must make noise, city speed limits have been lowered between once and three times, they add lights, stop signs, reduce the width of lanes, add chicanes... I walked everywhere from 6 years old when I went to the park 2 blocks away to 19 when I bought my first car, and I still walk 10-15 hours a week, and yet I have never been hit by a car.

Maybe, just maybe, that would be less of a problem if pedestrians would actually pay attention to what’s around them instead of looking at their fucking smartphones? Maybe the solution is much simpler than making carmakers and cities dump billions in pedestrian safety?