Sounds and blind pedestrians. Hope not in Europe

Sounds and blind pedestrians. Hope not in Europe


IOW EV:s need a "Beep! Beep! Beep!" whenever they are driven slowly. That's like 1600 laws where people driving cars needed a person running in front of the vehicle with red flag.

I hope European version doesn't have that noisemaker. If it does and I buy it, first thing I will do is use wire cutters to disable that system.

I wonder what that means to Roadsters already sold. Or MiEV:s or any other car with silent engines.

Brian H | December 21, 2010

I have to wonder if there have EVER been ANY instances of EVs hitting blind pedestrians. More nanny-state preventative legislation, solutions for non-problems.

Many well-muffled cars can only be detected by road noise as they approach.

pmeyer1106 | December 22, 2010

I can't believe that our government has nothing better to worry about than the lack of noise from electric vehicles.

Kevin Sharpe | December 23, 2010
Timo | December 23, 2010

Voted, which included joining, closed account. I just hope they have some kind of privacy policy and not be any spammer crapsite.

Timo | January 5, 2011

That was fast. Hear from voting possibility at 23 December, vote ends before 6 January. That's about two weeks, and already it managed to get over 100 signatures.

Ramon123 | February 14, 2011

Someone has already demonstrated that tire noise is the predominant sound these days coming from most cars.
Notice that any proposals concerning this, if they were logical, would be based on the amount of noise a particular car must make,
not based simply on whether the car is electric or not. It's
been 20 years since I noticed that I couldn't hear a Toyota or Honda car - their engines simply didn't make any noise. People that are proposing these nonsensical rules should be informed as
to the fallacies of their ideas. They're based on false assumptions.

Volker.Berlin | November 18, 2011
Thumper | November 18, 2011

Follow the links and read the original documents. There is nothing definitive there few samples and possible missing data due to accidents that didn't fit narrow profile. Mostly an opportunity for prejudice. Always read the original documents if possible. Reporting is lamentably poor.

EdG | November 18, 2011

Citations are important, too.

Mycroft | November 18, 2011

Absolutely Thumper. There's usually some agenda.

From the news release:

"When hybrids operate in electric-only mode pedestrians can't hear them approaching," says Moore, "so they might step out into the roadway without checking first to see what's coming."

The pedestrian *might* also be called a jaywalker.

Moore points out that HLDI can't definitively tell from the claims data that a crash involved a pedestrian.

Can you imagine trying to introduce a gasoline powered car if all cars were electric? Everyone would be crying about how combustible the fuel is for the vehicle and it can't possibly be safe enough to use.

Volker.Berlin | November 18, 2011

Ok, I apologize that I quoted the news report rather than the source in this case. That's precisely what I don't like when others do it. Thumper, your comment is spot on.

Nevertheless, others will make the same mistake and the debate will be reignited. I'm curious where it's heading at. I think a "soft horn" to make pedestrians aware with some futuristic sound is probably the best solution -- where the sound is only played when the driver presses a button. The button may have a lock position though, so that the sound can be permanently play in situations where it seems appropriate.

Robert.Boston | November 18, 2011

I want my "soft horn!" And I want it to sound like a bicycle bell!

William13 | November 18, 2011

I think the noise machine is crazy but the government statements asking for comment did not leave any doubt. The government plans to require noise. They comments they solicited were only to comment on types and volume.

Brian H | November 18, 2011

Hi-frequency noise is "aimable"; a quietly piercing whistle projected from the nose would be inaudible to those inside. >:)

sarge7359 | November 18, 2011

I hope they'd just hear my premium radio through the open pano roof.

But if I have to have a sound... I want horse galloping. Some neighing and so on too. Make everybody stop and notice!

But, then again, won't be a problem for a Model S in 2012:

"Earlier this year, Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration three years to come up with a requirement for equipping hybrids and electric models with sounds to alert unsuspecting pedestrians.

Moore cited an article by CNN recognizing that Japan is the only place to have such a safety requirement."

Read more:

brianman | November 19, 2011

Maybe in the 2015 models, Tesla will allow you to customize...

"Hey, idiot pedestrian, look up from your electronic device and stop jaywalking."

... in 7 different languages.

Timo | November 19, 2011

I like that Robert.Boston suggestion. From my time as pedestrian I don't pay much attention to car horns because I'm not walking on the street, but bicycle bell causes slight panic because I know that there might be someone cycling at 50mph at sidewalk coming towards me. I have had close call with cyclists like that several times. It seems that some of them have no concept about proper situation speed.

sarge7359 | November 19, 2011

Actually some accidents with hybrids and pedestrians are probably with cyclists. Bicycles use their ears quite a bit to figure out if there is anything nearby.

cytek | November 19, 2011

My neighbors complained about the loud engine music coming from my Ferrari with Tubi exhaust. It would be funny, if my Model S has a virtual Ferrari engine sound too, if the law requires a pedestrian noisemaker on EVs. I guess it makes no difference whether people complain of noise on a Ferrari or EVs. I think this noisemaker for EVs is a real joke and a stupidest idea. What's the point of having horns on our steering wheel, if that is it's purpose?

Brad Holt | November 20, 2011

Seriously. The horn should be all we need. Wouldn't it be our responsibility as drivers to honk at that dude walking into the street while talking to his buddy on the corner going the other direction?

EdG | November 20, 2011

Maybe a "horn app" which would, upon initiation, pipe a preprogrammed mp3 file at low volume outside. Use it or don't, as you wish and the law allows.

Peak Oil bruin | November 20, 2011

Last time I checked there were plenty of (7 billion) people to go around ;) do we really need more noise?

Mycroft | November 20, 2011

Unfortunately the bureaucrats have spoken. We *will* have noise generators on EVs regardless of the true necessity.

Soflauthor | November 20, 2011

If we have to have a noise generator (I'm opposed) then at least it should have some soft, futuristic sound that's appropriate for an EV, not some ridiculous beeper sound like the one that's typical when trucks or heavy equipment back up. Better, of course, it to have a variety of sounds (like a smart phone ringtone list) to choose from.

Mycroft | November 20, 2011

Most likely that's what it'll have. The sound made by the Leaf is very unobtrusive.

I wonder if anyone's been hit by a Leaf and when asked why they didn't hear it, they said, "yeah, but I just assumed it was a gerbil". :)

Brian H | November 20, 2011

Contrary to my ultra-sonic suggestion above, perhaps what people are reacting to is "felt" subsonics from the ICE cars' engines. A 15Hz rumble would be inaudible, but perhaps sensed.

michiganmodels | November 20, 2011

If we have to have a noise, we should choose from a variety of noises similar to cell phone ring tones.

I would choose the noise from the Jetsons spaceship.

Brian H | November 20, 2011

Correction: hi-frequency (not ultra-sonic). Although there's a new technology for aiming crossing ultrasonic frequencies at a particular point, and imposing a signal on them as a "beat" frequency difference -- audible only where the beams cross!
Military versions:

brianman | November 20, 2011
Mycroft | November 20, 2011

The noise the Leaf makes is rather Jetsonish.

Brian H | November 21, 2011

Hm, just thinking of Timo's skitter-zapper; that principle could be combined with the crossing ultrasonics tech to identify hoomons heading for the car's path, and automatically give them a loud "Aa-OOOgah", without anyone else hearing it. I like it!

Could also work for cats, birds, dogs, deer, mooses, skunks, and other biological impediments to the S's right of way and passage. >:)

michiganmodels | November 21, 2011

@brianman - Thanks!

If my Model S has a government mandate to produce sound, I'd even pay for the "Jetison's" option. In fact, it should be standard with the child jump seats. It'd be a great cross-promotional marketing opportunity, actually.

EdG | November 21, 2011

And when you pull into your driveway, it can switch to "Hey Wilma, I'm home!" Not the car Fred usually drives!

Brian H | November 21, 2011

Like this: Aoogah!

Brian H | November 21, 2011

Speaking of Fred, didja know that in the stone age the wheel was invented many times before it caught on -- but it was square! They kept giving up on it because the corners wore off ...

olanmills | November 30, 2011

I've only seen blind folks crossing the road a few times, and they always do it at crosswalks. I don't think EV's need extraneous noises. This is looking to solve a problem that we don't have.

If you're the driver, you need to be attentive at all times.

Timo | December 1, 2011

I started to think about that based on some previous comment and actual danger from silent car comes between cyclist and a car. Not pedestrians that are actually using their legs or with blind people.

Many cyclists have poor understanding of traffic rules and they do stunts that would be considered crazy for any motorist in traffic, so silent car that they do not hear coming is way more likely to cause collision with cyclist than with blind people.

OTOH this does not give that noise-maker any real reason to exist because collisions between cyclist and a car tend to happen at relatively high speeds (for a cyclist) when cyclist decides to swap lanes in front of the car, not in a crossroads where cyclists can see the car. That speed is probably higher than required by this law.

Volker.Berlin | December 1, 2011

Timo, I agree. On top, those cyclists frequently have their iPods on at full volume, not being able to hear cars coming, anyway. Similarly with elderly people, who are particularly endangered b/c they cannot react and move so quickly -- many of them cannot rely on hearing a car coming, either.

On the other hand, all of this can also be interpreted as an argument pro artificial noise: Optimal safety for all participants can only be achieved if you tap into all available senses, including hearing. That's why we have daylight running lights: You could argue we don't need them because most of us can hear the car coming...

EdG | December 1, 2011

FWIW, IMO: the daytime running lights are very good for less than optimal conditions like fog, dusk, dawn. It allows others to see the car much more easily when there's insufficient contrast with the background or glare from a low sun.

Volker.Berlin | December 1, 2011

Just to be explicit: I am all for daytime running lights.

Timo | December 1, 2011

They are actually very good even in optimal conditions. Human eye can detect and distinguish lightsources way more easily than just different contrasts from background. In slow city traffic that doesn't matter much, but on long stretches where you wonder if it is safe to pass this truck or not, it does.

JohanH | December 1, 2011

Since where I live and drive I'm used to daytime running lights I find that if there's a car that doesn't have the lights on my brain will automatically register it as being parket or off and I will only realise once it really gets closer that the car is actually moving.

I find the idea of noise generators in EV's ridiculous, but I have noticed when driving my EV (iMiev) that I have to be careful when passing people, especially children, from behing since they don't hear me coming at all!

Timo | December 1, 2011

I think Darwin will sort out those that do not look around pretty quickly, we don't need rules to make that happen slower >:-P

EdG | December 1, 2011

@Timo: (yes, I know you were kidding) Our large societal structure has largely eliminated Darwin from the picture for humans. Most people can name diseases or syndromes which no longer prevent their genes from continuing on...

Discoducky | December 3, 2011

Very surprised that more are not interested in protecting children. Don't understand how you could not be in favor of any sound that will grab a child's attention to ensure they know a car is approaching. Even if you believe that cyclists do not obey traffic laws or that all blind ped's use crosswalks or even if the sound is from the Jetsons which would be totally awesome and my first pick.

All kidding aside it's shortsighted to believe that, at a minimum, kids won't be the innocent victims of silent cars.

Robert.Boston | December 4, 2011

There should be a large dataset already of "silent cars" to determine statistically the degree to which this is a real problem. Priuses and other hybrids mostly run on batteries around parking lots; do we really see more low-speed accidents with them? If not, then the regulation mandating noise-makers on EV cars is solving a problem that isn't there. If so, I would still prefer a "low-impact" horn that I can use without being obnoxious -- honking at cyclists is rude and as likely as not to startle them into doing something dangerous.

EdG | December 4, 2011

Also, knowing your car is almost silent would engender different driving behavior. We'd all have to be aware that people don't hear us coming. A study has found that removing traffic lights and signs has improved safety and flow:

So it's not obviously good to cure an ill that has not yet occurred.

Timo | December 4, 2011

Kids, at least normal kids, have very good hearing. If they do not hear car approaching that means their mind is occupied elsewhere. In that case it really doesn't matter if the car is monster truck, they do not hear it. From moving car there is always at least rattling of the tires that is loud enough that kids hear it.

This is also attitude education -thing. Don't play at driveway. Look where you are going. If your ball bounces to the road don't sprint after it. etc. common sense things that are not so common sense to kids unless taught.

Kids get hit by cars, not because they don't hear them, but because they don't listen.

@Robert.Boston, I agree with the "low impact horn". That is something I miss sometimes.

@EdG, not always, there are places in my home city where you couldn't get to the street at all without traffic lights at the rush hours. Same with signs, you need to know where you should be going, without that traffic "flow" could stop completely at some places.

It might be true that some places there are just too many of those, but with some thinking what to put in intersections those should not be any problem.

EdG | December 4, 2011

I once left a car (I was a passenger) in NYC just to clear up an intersection 100 meters away - it was jammed for 20 minutes with no movement.

Perhaps where you are and in New York City it wouldn't work, but the idea is that drivers become aware of each other and of pedestrians and become, believe it or not, polite!