The United States federal government wants you to have choices when it comes to your quiet electric cars. It’s requiring automakers to include artificial motor sounds in any of their quieter hybrid and electric cars—but you, the owner, will actually be able to select which particular sounds you prefer.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has written up this particular rule-making proposal on its website:
NHTSA is proposing to remove the limit to the number of compliant sounds that a manufacturer may choose to install in a vehicle. Drivers would be able to select the sound they prefer from the set of sounds installed in the vehicle. NHTSA is also seeking comment on whether interested parties believe that the agency should establish a limit to the number of compliant sounds from which a driver may select that a manufacturer may choose to install in a vehicle.
Basically, this rule is the result of the fact that EVs are just really damn quiet. While most people, especially blind and visually impaired pedestrians, rely on engine noises as a way to gauge a vehicle’s distance and speed. EVs don’t have engine noises, though. Rather than implement a single noise for everyone, NHTSA is requiring automakers to include a variety of noises so that drivers can select their own.
It’s been a pretty fraught proposal, though. Here’s some more background from Reuters:
The long-delayed rules, which were first demanded by Congress in 2010, require automakers like Tesla Inc, Nissan Motor Co and General Motors Co to add sounds to vehicles when they are moving at speeds of up to 18.6 miles per hour (30 kph) to help prevent injuries among pedestrians, cyclists and the blind.
At higher speeds, tire noise, wind resistance, and other factors eliminate the need for a separate alert sound, regulators say.
As of today, there’s no cap on how many optional sounds an automaker can provide, which means these sounds could get pretty creative. These rules have to be implemented a year from now, by September 2020.