The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has struck down a proposal that would have allowed automakers to utilize “any number,” of compliant pedestrian alert sounds on their EVs, with feedback indicating the public would prefer these audible tones to be relatively consistent across all vehicle makes and models.
The proposal, put forth by NHTSA in 2019, would have allowed automakers more freedom in applying pedestrian alert sounds to EVs, allowing them to use a wide variety of sounds to ensure pedestrians, cyclists and other road users can hear battery-electric cars, trucks and SUVs, which are typically silent. This ruling would have also allowed for users to change the pedestrian alert sound themselves.
The safety watchdog requested comment from the general public on the proposal, with feedback from advocacy organizations for the blind, and from people who are blind or who have low vision, indicating that uniform pedestrian alert noises for EVs in the U.S. would be ideal.
“Most of those comments favored more uniformity, rather than less, in the number and types of alert sounds allowed,” the NHSTA ruling stated, as quoted by Automotive News.
The 2019 proposal came after an auto industry trade group called the Alliance for Automotive Innovation sent a letter to NHTSA urging it to allow for a wide variety of EV pedestrian alert tones to be used, as they could help encourage the public to accept battery-powered vehicles. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation represents a variety of automakers including GM and its brands, as well as BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and more.
Going forward, all vehicles of the same make, model, model year, body type and trim level must have the same pedestrian alert sound, AN reports. While the rules will not prevent certain types of sounds from being used, the agency told the publication that technical requirements for the rules would prevent tones that mimic so-called “natural sounds,” like animals. Many current EVs, like the Chevy Bolt EV and Nissan Leaf for example, emit a noise at low speed that could be compared to the whirring sound of an electric motor to help alert pedestrians of the vehicle’s presence.