US to require electric vehicles user audible alert for pedestrian safety

Published: November 15, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that keeping pedestrians safe is the priority behind its new “quiet car” safety standard. The new regulations requires and audible alert to be installed on all new light-duty hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles in manufacturing.

The federal standard “will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are travelling at low speeds,” notes a statement this week from the NHTSA.

In its release, the administration says electric and hybrid vehicles are usually quieter than combustion engine vehicles so an alert will help pedestrians know where there cars are. The NHTSA notes that this is particularly important for visually impaired pedestrians to detect the presence and location of a vehicle.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 – NHTSA’s response to Congress’ efforts to ensure related requirements in line with the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, PSEA – will “help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.”

Those avoided injuries add up “to 32 equivalent lives saved over the lifecycle of the 2020 model year vehicle fleet,” reports the final rule. “Comparing the monetized benefits associated with those equivalent lives saved to the estimated cost of complying with this final rule,” it points out that “this final rule is cost beneficial.”

“At higher speeds, the sound alert is not required because other factors, such as tire and wind noise, provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians,” the NHTSA notes.

The PSEA “mandates that the new performance requirement enable a pedestrian to reasonably detect a nearby EV or HV operating at constant speed, accelerating, decelerating and operating in any other scenarios that NHTSA deems appropriate,” the environmental assessment notes.

“With more, quieter hybrid and electrical cars on the road, the ability for all pedestrians to hear as well as see the cars becomes an important factor of reducing the risk of possible crashes and improving safety,” U.S. transportation secretary Anthony Foxx says in the NHTSA statement.