Earlier this week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a proposed “quiet car rule” that would require manufacturers of hybrid and electric cars “to match the ‘acoustic signal content’ of traditional cars driving at under 18 miles an hour.” The exact type of sound has been left open, but it does have to sound something like a car, and it must be consistent across all vehicles with the same make, model, and type. The rule is scheduled to be finalized by early next year and is open for public comment until early March, according to a press release on the NHTSA Web site.
What’s the Big Idea?
Anyone who’s ever been startled by a slow-moving Prius can understand why pedestrian advocates, who helped pushed through the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, welcome this news. For the blind in particular, who rely on sounds to navigate, it’s an especially important issue. Creative types, such as acoustic engineer Nick Antonio, had been imagining the kinds of sounds that could be used — birdsong, for example — but ultimately “this is a very practical document intended to save a lot of lives, [so] it has to be like this [for now].”