Silence is often noted as a nifty feature of EVs. But the danger to pedestrians has led government regulators to discuss requiring the vehicles to make an artificial noise when traveling at low speeds.
The federal Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act was signed into law in 2011, but there is still no requirement for EVs to have sound generators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in July that the regulations would be finalized this year. However, the agency said in a recent government filing that it will not be able to meet this timetable, and that the new rules will be delayed until at least March 2016.
The National Federation of the Blind has led the push for regulations, but the blind are not the only ones in danger. According to NHTSA, studies have shown that EVs and hybrids are 20 to 100 percent more likely to hit a pedestrian than are legacy vehicles. The agency estimates that if running sounds were required, it might lead to 2,800 fewer pedestrian and bicyclist injuries per year. It said in 2013 that complying with the rules would cost the auto industry about $23 million in the first year.