Your thoughts about DOT requiring our cars to make noise at slower speeds

Your thoughts about DOT requiring our cars to make noise at slower speeds

I guess I overlooked this news tidbit until now, but the DOT, in an effort to protect unwary pedestrians, will require all EV and hybrid manufacturers by 2020 to install devices which make our peaceful, quiet cars emit a sound recognizable as a motor vehicle at lower speeds up to 19 mph.

I’m all for driving carefully around pedestrians but this noisemaker requirement seems like an overreaction. As far as I know, there’s not an epidemic of a bunch of people being run over unawares by EVs, is there? Isn’t that the exception and not the rule? (Part of me thinks let’s just fire the emissions testing mode at people walking in front of our car, but I digress…).
So nope, I’m not a fan of this requirement. I like my nearly silent car. It reduces air AND noise pollution.

In the article link above, Elon has mentioned a creative way to solve/abide by this; “I think the sensible and ideal thing long-term is to have proximity sensors that direct a pleasant sound in the direction of where somebody is walking – so therefore, it’s the least amount of noise, and it’s not annoying, and it’s only going to where it needs to go. That’s what I think is the right long-term solution.”

I guess if we have to, this is an option...

What are your thoughts about this requirement from the DOT?

jimglas | January 11, 2019

I think it is out of concern for sight impaired people.

jordanrichard | January 11, 2019

The basis of the concern which lead to the rule is dumb. The theory is that if a person can't hear an EV, they will get hit. That getting hit by a car in a parking lot will be because the pedestrian can't here the EV. Great, so then explain how it is people every day are getting hit in a parking lot when 99% of the cars have engines that make noise..............

Magic 8 Ball | January 11, 2019

Regulators need to earn a living too.

We walk our dogs around our (no sidewalks and narrow streets) hood all the time and many ICE vehicles are quiet enough to sneak up on us so are all vehicles going to be required to emit noise above what they produce normally if they are "quiet" to begin with?

M3phan | January 11, 2019

@jimglas: understood, my father is blind, goes out shopping, etc, never been hit by a car while out walking; not saying it doesnt happen, but am saying the onus should be on drivers, no?

lbowroom | January 11, 2019

Sure, people get hit in parking lots, noise doesn't stop ALL pedestrian accidents. The question is will fewer people get hit if the car makes noise. Anyway, FIAT does that on the 500e and Pacifica hybrid. It's a pretty quite sound that you don't hear with the windows up in the cabin.

jimglas | January 11, 2019

Not taking sides, just an observation. I like my silent car.

M3phan | January 11, 2019

@jordanrichard/M8B: really good points there.

To me, put the onus on the driver to drive carefully in those situations.

jordanrichard | January 11, 2019

The problem is as more and ore cars have this noise, it just becomes back ground noise and it won't stand out, which is the point of the noise in the first place.

30 plus years ago when people started putting alarms on their cars, if one went off, it garnered attention. Now, no one gives a second look when one goes off.

This rule does not solve the problem, it just treats a system. Should malls and town centers get rid of fountains so that people don't fall into them as they walk looking at their phones............

spuzzz123 | January 11, 2019

The requirement is dumb. Most new ICE cars are just as quiet when rolling <20 mph and not accelerating. Don't the sight impaired need protection from them?

M3phan | January 11, 2019

@jimglas: oh yes, gotcha! Appreciate the comment, helpful consideration to the discussion.

@lbowroom: interesting, didn't know that. I do think Tesla will come up with a good solution. Would fewer people get hit? Maybe and maybe not?

Had a thought: occasionally people walk into other don't hear someone come around a corner or from behind you...maybe we should wear jingle bells around our necks to alert the unsuspecting?

Magic 8 Ball | January 11, 2019

It all makes sense. Smog stations will become noise stations. Get those noise makers checked every two years to make sure you still make the specified noise.

M3phan | January 11, 2019

@jordanrichard/spuzzz123: yup, great points y'all

I have to accept it though, unnecessary as I think it is, since it's apparently going to happen. Can't win 'em all.

stevenmaifert | January 11, 2019

My biggest heartburn with this is that AFAIK, the highway safety folks never presented any accident statistics to justify the regulation. Somebody just thought it would be a good idea.

hokiegir1 | January 11, 2019

Glad my car is a 2018 and not covered by this law. I agree that it won't help the issue save for a few fringe cases of visually impaired people who don't hear anything and proceed to cross. That said, I'm sure there are many better ways to accomplish this.

I just hope that by the time I'm ready for my next vehicle (maybe a Model Y) that I get to choose the sound. I'm thinking some Ludacris "Move B...." might be a good choice.

Tuning In | January 11, 2019

Are they assuming a completely silent surrounding (which is non-existent in cities and suburbs)? Because in a shopping mall parking lot, average road, or anything of the like, the ambient noise already is enough to drown out the average ICE.

jimglas | January 11, 2019

now that's funny

mamafuzbot | January 11, 2019

I understand the thought process behind trying to protect those persons who have lost their sense of sight. I get that they rely on their other senses - touch, taste, smell and hearing - to a greater degree to maneuver life and keep themselves safe. But at the end of the day, I can't imagine that a visually-impaired person will be stepping off a curb at the same moment an EV is moving into their path and the EV driver is completely oblivious to a human being crossing their path will be a frequently occurring event. And I don't say that to diminish the pain of any accident victims, but you can't just legislate away every potential risk to all humankind.

You have to imagine that the visually-impaired person is not running out into the street. They are carefully maneuvering their steps, stopping at the end of the curb, listening, and stepping off slowly. Much more carefully than a sighted person more likely than not. I just think this is an over-reaction to a potential situation that would be very limited in scope. I imagine that if they really dig at the root cause of the accident statistics, they will find that the driver (EV or ICE) was being inattentive or reckless in the majority of cases and the victim would not have had the time to react regardless of whether a noise preceded the accident.

All my opinion, of course. And, full disclosure, one of the greatest benefits of an EV in my mind is the lack of engine noise. For me, that is still one of the things I love most about my car, and I'd hate to see it diminished, even a little.

texxx | January 11, 2019

Having driven a Prius since 2004, a Volt last year, and now the Tesla, I can honestly say that if I wasn't paying close attention I could have easily hit several people walking in parking lots that simply had no idea I was there and stepped in front of the car. That was especially true in the early days of the Prius, where totally silent cars were novel, but I've still had the occasional "oh shit" look from people when they turn around and see you there. I think Elon's idea is an excellent solution and I hope they don't get out the bazooka to kill this mosquito.

M3phan | January 11, 2019

@stevenmaifert: really?! Wow. Good lord, I’ve got lots of thoughts I think are good ideas at the time, which I’m so thankful never saw the light of day. Too bad this one did, eh?

@hokiegir1: ah, didn’t know it was not going to be retrofitted. Mines a 2018 too. WHew.

@Tuning In: yes! good point.

The more y’all point out the weaknesses in the regulation, the more you gotta wonder how many people were in the room when the decision was vetted.

M3phan | January 11, 2019

@texxx: no bazooka; yes my hope too
@mamafuzbot: well said.

hokiegir1 | January 11, 2019

@m3phan -- yes, it's not a retro requirement. Any prior year vehicles are grandfathered in. That's not to say that if they do it as a software update in some way that 2018/2019 vehicles for sure won't have it, but if it requires any hardware, we are exempt.

Kathy Applebaum | January 11, 2019

"As far as I know, there’s not an epidemic of a bunch of people being run over unawares by EVs, is there? Isn’t that the exception and not the rule?"

I used to think this, because back when I first thought about getting an EV, I started paying attention and never, ever was surprised by one in a parking lot -- the tires make enough noise that you are aware they're coming.

However, there *is* a real problem at slow speeds on surface streets. People always bring up blind/visually impaired, but even sighted people are hit at a much, much higher rate by EVs going < 30 mph on a street (rather than in an intersection or a parking lot). The study I read was quite good in its methodology. The only explanation I've been able to come up with is that the EVs are drowned out by the louder ICEs. I don't think adding more noise is the answer, but I don't have a better one. :\

EM34ME | January 11, 2019

My wife and I are hearing impaired. How does this help us? I am opposed to this extra cost item.

Lorenzryanc | January 11, 2019

Strobe light and sound now... and wasabi mist spray.

I dislike it, but I'll drive 18 mph more often to piss people off so they write their congresspeople.

lbowroom | January 11, 2019

Again, on the Chrysler product that already has it, it's merely a small speaker in the engine compartment. The sound is somewhat space-age and subtle. Much ado about nothing. There's a opportunity here for a cool Jetsons sound anyway.

Magic 8 Ball | January 11, 2019

So can they modulate power to the horn and make cool sounds that way? OTA?

CST | January 11, 2019

If it saves ONE life... proves Darwin wrong...

Lorenzryanc | January 11, 2019

I wonder what sound the new electric Harley will make.

Sparky | January 11, 2019

If you're driving any car at any speed you are responsible not to drive into pedestrians whether they hear you or not. If you apply the brakes and stop your car and the pedestrian walks into your car they are at fault and not likely to be injured. If you require sound to alert them this is available with the well established technology of the horn, and many of todays pedestrians won't even hear that because they are already enjoying a sound track from their Dr. Dre earbuds at concert volume levels.

This regulation is unnecessary and a good example of added cost and complexity provided by parasitical regulators unaware of their required role to provide sound advice, as well as sound advice, to legislators only when warranted by facts.

Sparky | January 11, 2019

@Lorenzryanc; it will have a regulatory requirement to emit a sound track saying, "potato potato potato potato..."

lbowroom | January 11, 2019

Quick, dump your car in the bay as protest

Jiver | January 11, 2019

@EM34ME I'm with you. All of this talk about sight impaired people. What about the hearing impaired? If you are profoundly deaf then a noisemaker is not going to help you avoid an EV.

My 2013 Volt had a "pedestrian alert" button on the end of the left stalk. Pressing it emitted a chirping noise which was startling but much less startling than honking the horn. In nearly six years of driving the car I probably used it less than five times for its intended purpose. I have been behind people in parking lots in my M3 where they are walking in the middle of the aisle completely oblivious to my car behind them. I just patiently follow them and eventually they figure it out.

Adding noise to an EV seems like an ICE manufacturer move to try to make an EV less appealing.

AWDTesla | January 11, 2019

My brother in law works construction and was put on flags by the boss. He said he was holding up a a stop sign and looking in another direction when he heard a honk...looked up and there was a model X waiting for him to turn the sign to green. Lol. He said he had 0 clue it was there...

TabascoGuy | January 11, 2019

Mister wire cutter, meet mister wire. Problem solved.

dmastro | January 11, 2019

As a runner and cyclist, I am accustomed to listening for cars approaching behind me. I am able to gauge speed and proximity based on the noise I hear. More than a few times, what I've heard has helped alert me to move out of the way of danger.

When I can't see around a curve or have an obstructed view down the street, the sound alerts me to oncoming cars earlier than I would be able to see them.

From a safety perspective, I do think vehicles should make some sort of noise. What is the old saying... "eyes and ears"...

Magic 8 Ball | January 11, 2019

@dmastro As a walker I have had the crap scared out of me more by cyclists vs cars. Got a playing card in your spokes when you ride?

CST | January 11, 2019

I too have been a cyclist for year, and I can hear tires at pretty much any speed.

howard | January 11, 2019

I have been electric since 2012. I have startled my fair share. I have also been startled myself a few times.

I did like the pedestrian warning sound on the Volt. It was very convenient to use and just loud enough to let others know you were there without blaring the horn.

Lorenzryanc | January 11, 2019

*dumps car into the bay.
HEADLINE "Tesla Murders All Fish Through Violent Electrocution; EVs Worse Than ICE"

markr7 | January 11, 2019

Let's say you have a clicking noise or a squeak that occurs at low speed. Now it will be masked by some generated noise preventing you from troubleshooting your issue.
Next scenario, When EV's are more prevalent can you imagine the noise in your supermarket parking lot with all these EV's beeping or whatever noise is used.
Third, as mentioned above... Modern engines at < 20 MPH are as quiet as most EV's
My vote is a NO! to low speed noise

dmastro | January 11, 2019


Because a 165 lb cyclist (including bicycle) is the same as a 5,000 lb car.

Not to mention the rate of speed of vehicles vs bicycles is quite different.

Not to mention, I'm not talking about having "the crap scared out of me". I'm talking about being alerted to and aware of oncoming traffic.

It doesn't appear you actually have an argument against the point I made, or perhaps you just have chosen to create some fake news to drown it out.

Magic 8 Ball | January 11, 2019

@dmastro I have had quite a few cyclists buzz me and my wife walking our dogs. Many at speed going downhill and coming within inches of us and our dogs and a collision would not be a get up and walk away in those cases.

If we are going to put in "noise" regulation then let's get real about it. Cyclists and cycles need to be regulated too since nothing is forcing them to make noise warning us they are about to buzz by at 30+ MPH. Maybe I misunderstood and by vehicles you were including bicycles when you said "vehicles should make some sort of noise". So I ask again, do you have a playing card in your spokes?

whazupman | January 11, 2019

One person pees their pants and we must all wear a diaper...
Typical government solution.

howard | January 11, 2019

No we must all wear a diaper so no one feels different.

jerrykham | January 11, 2019

Yes, this is stupid and a non-issue. I have dumb people staring down at their phones while they walk in front of me all the time in parking lots. I don't run them over. If they don't get out of the way in a reasonable time I have this magic horn that I honk at them and then they move.

vmulla | January 11, 2019

I have it on my Leaf and it helps. I'd like it on my 3.

Not because I'm fond of the idea, it's because I find it useful.

teslu3 | January 11, 2019

My 2012 Prius noise at slow speeds is irritating to me but never helped near any pedestrians. We don't have enough stress in our lives so let's have more noise pollution. Imagine the collective noise in slow traffic on major highways when most vehicles have noise generators.

lbowroom | January 11, 2019

It's about as loud as a Lexus at idle. Odds are you've heard it an just don't know it. Not a click or beep. Peoples imaginations are wild

RES IPSA | January 11, 2019

How about personal responsibility... drivers need to be extra cautious driving a quite car and pedestrians needs to always be aware of their surrounding when on or near streets / parking lots.

A woman in a parking lot walked right into my M3. I had previously noticed she was looking at her phone so I payed extra attention. I had completely stopped my vehicle a few seconds before she walked right into my car. Thankfully she was reasonable and kinda laughed it off. Luckily she was not the type to make a false claim of injury and take it from there

lbowroom | January 11, 2019

Well sure, for that matter, do we really need horns if everyone was paying attention? The added expense, the noise pollution.