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House backs Senate for hybrid, electric car noisemakers


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House backs Senate for hybrid, electric car noisemakers

05:40 PM

Today the House, joining the Senate, has decided silence is golden -- except when it comes to hybrid and electric vehicles.

Auto safety regulators would have to set minimum sound levels for hybrid and electric vehicles, which can creep along virtually silently compared to gas-powered cars, under a bill approved today by the House, the Associated Press reports.

Some automakers, like Fisker with its Karma hybrid, above, and Nissan, with its electric Leaf, at right, say they are already including noisemakers.

Blind pedestrians say the quietness of hybrids can pose risks for them because they use sound cues to travel safely.

The House passed the bill 379-30. The Senate approved its version last week, and the measure now goes to President Obama for his signature.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) says it will protect blind pedestrians along with joggers, children and others who need to be alerted to approaching traffic. The bill was supported by automakers and the National Federation for the Blind.



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By Mark Kleis

Ever since the introduction of the first electric vehicles and hybrids there have been questions raised regarding the safety factor of these quiet vehicles hitting an unsuspecting pedestrian. Now, after many years of fruitless debate, the House has voted to approve the bill following the Senate’s approval vote last week.

The bill essentially aims to find a minimum levels of audible output required from a vehicle in order for it to be safety identifiable to those who are vision impaired, and according to The Detroit News, the bill received an overwhelmingly supportive vote of 379-30.

What type of sound, or how loud the sound will need to be is not yet known. Instead, the bill identifies the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the responsible party for determining those factors in order to allow the blind, children and other otherwise at-risk pedestrians to “reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicles” while traveling at slower speeds.

The bill did stipulate, however, that the sound will not be defeat-able by the drivers, meaning there is no option to turn the safety function off like some safety technologies such as traction control sometimes allow.

Currently, most hybrid vehicles on the road lack this technology, but the Nissan Leaf has a device that is said to automatically notify pedestrians of its presense, while the Chevrolet Volt extended range electric vehicle has an activate-able chirping sound. The Prius does not currently offer such a device, but options are in testing in Japan.



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