Automakers are not happy with rules set down by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that will soon require hybrid and electric vehicles to play car-like sounds.
The sounds are required under the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, to alert the blind, visually impaired, other pedestrians, and cyclists to the approach of cars that are otherwise nearly silent.
U.S. car companies say the rules are overly complicated, and require sounds that are louder than necessary, which would annoy passengers and add cost to the cars.
The NHTSA estimated in January the changes would cost $30 per vehicle. It said they could could prevent 2,800 cyclist and pedestrian injuries over the life of each model year of the vehicles, and save 35 lives (a low number, as relatively few deaths are caused by low speed collisions).
In remarks sent to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland last week, trade groups Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the proposed rules are "too complicated" and "unnecessarily prescriptive."
Between them, the groups represent just about every automaker operating in the US. According to their remarks, the proposed sound levels are so "excessive and unrealistic," even a high-performance sports car would not meet them (though a non-hybrid one would not have to).
Manufacturers are supposed to begin phasing in the changes by September 1, 2014, which the trade groups say "is not possible."
If the final rule is substantially similar to the NPRM [notice of proposed rulemaking], we recommend foregoing the phase-in and going directly to full implementation on 9/1/2018. However, if the final rule approximates the Alliance-Global recommendations, then a phase-in period is feasible beginning with vehicles built on or after 9/1/2015.
They will have some flexibility in what sort of sounds their cars will make, but most will likely go with a whirring noise that fits within the NHTSA rules.
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