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NHTSA Says You Can't Pick Your Own EV Low-Speed Warning Sounds [Updated]

If you were hoping to make your EV or PHEV sound like a screaming goat or Nature Boy Ric Flair below 18.6 mph, you’re out of luck.

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Sorry, but there’ll be no low-speed fart noises for your plug-in hybrid RAV4, pal.
Sorry, but there’ll be no low-speed fart noises for your plug-in hybrid RAV4, pal.
Photo: Toyota

You probably know that vehicles that can operate solely under electric power have a low-speed warning sound that it projects to let pedestrians – particularly blind or vision-impaired pedestrians – know that a car is coming. The sounds vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but currently, those sounds are unable to be changed by the end-user.

That could have changed, though, thanks to a 2019 proposal that would have given motorists several low-speed sound options — but it won’t, according to a report published on Tuesday by Automotive News. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opted to reject the proposal based on comments it received from the public.


The biggest concerns came from advocacy groups for the blind, and from blind or otherwise low-vision individuals themselves. They suggested that having fewer sounds would actually prove more beneficial because it would allow persons without vision to more easily identify an oncoming vehicle for what it was, rather than having to guess.

The biggest voice in favor of having unlimited sound choices is an automotive industry group called the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. Its main conceit seems to be that drivers might reject electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles en masse based on an inability to choose their own sounds. If that sounds a little dumb, you’re not wrong. People buy cars all the time with exhausts that sound terrible – look how many F80/82/83 M3 and M4s BMW sold, for example (I’m kidding, put down your pitchforks).


So, I put it to you, the commentariat: Does an electrified vehicle’s low-speed warning noise have an effect on how much you want or don’t want that vehicle? For example, would you choose a Tesla over a Taycan based on that noise alone? Let me know in the comments.

Updated July 15, 2022 at 3:19 p.m. PT: The Alliance for Automotive Innovation responded with a comment.

The association is disappointed.”