Electric vehicles are recognizable by their almost total absence of sound. This is something that has concerned certain associations in recent years, especially about the safety of blind people. Some of the electric or electrified vehicles marketed in other regions of the world have the possibility for their driver to select the sound that the vehicle will emit when traveling at low speed, something that the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has just to reject outright.
Last Tuesday, the aforementioned administration made public its decision regarding the proposal launched last year 2019, as published Automotive News. If approved, car manufacturers would have free rein to incorporate “any number of compatible sounds” into their hybrid or electric vehiclessomething this administration was not willing to go through.
This decision is more directed towards the prohibition or, rather, prevention of that car manufacturers not insert certain sounds into their “silent vehicles”, such as natural soundsthat is, of certain animals, since this could create an outstanding confusion between blind people or others with some other type of sensory handicap.
In his recent statements, a NHTSA official has admitted that during the debate on whether this measure was approved or denied, most of those present rejected it outright. Among the attendees were some associations for the defense of blind people, as well as several blind people; both, along with other members of the administration, backed the refusal to promote the proposal.
The aforementioned administration said that one of the main reasons for rejecting the proposal is that it was lacking in data to support it. However, not everyone has accepted this decision, since Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a group made up of enthusiasts, passionate people and managers from different companies, have declared their dissatisfaction since, as they say, this limits the possibilities of adopting their own or personal sounds of each company. They were the ones who initially launched a petition to the NHTSA, which later became a proposal in 2019. Their request clearly reflected the request to “be able to install an unspecified amount of compatible sounds in electric vehicles”.
However, in 2018, the NHTSA itself ruled that “silent vehicles” such as electric or hybrid with high electrical presence, should emit an external sound when traveling at low speed to alert pedestrians of the presence of said vehicle. During the publication of that legislation, it was not specified what kind of sounds they could or could not use.
At the moment, no final judgment has been issued on the aforementioned rejection of the proposal launched by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automobile Manufacturers, something that will happen in the coming days. From the NHTSA they affirm that only the manufacturer or authorized dealer can change or disable this sound.
In Europe, last July 2021, a ruling was issued in this regard and it is that all the electric cars, hybrids either plug-in hybrids that are sold in the region must equip the Acoustic Warning System (SAAV) as standard. Its noise must be between 56 and 75 decibels, it must be continuous and with variation depending on the speed at which it is circulated, as well as it cannot be turned off by the driver. All this is included in Regulation 138 of the CEPE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), which modifies Regulation 540/2014 on the noise level of motor vehicles.