Update March, 11 2016: new legislation is upcoming, see also here. The United Nations’ World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations proposes this sound to be added artificially. To my opinion we should embrace that our world will become more silent, see also this blogpost of me from two years ago. In the past 81.000 km I did not run into any dangerous situation because my car was too silent.
Recently, the discussions about the absence of noise of electrical vehicles emerged because of upcoming legislation. The dutch TV came to our Automotive Lab, and made an item on this issue, see here for the link (Dutch). Here is a great blog “ZERO motorcycles: the sound of silence: quote “Think about noise and exhaust fumes from cars and motorbikes and scooters. We accept it, because we’ve never been exposed to a world without it.”
Already in 2008 Stanford University did some research into the subject.
In the USA a new law is proposed to have (always!) a sound below 18 m/h. From the LA Times:
“This proposal will help keep everyone using our nation’s streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. The Department of Transportation estimates the proposed changes to hybrid and electric vehicles would result in 2,800 fewer injuries to pedestrians and cyclists for every model year that such a system is required. The proposed noise would be necessary only at speeds under 18 miles per hour, the agency said. At 18 mph and above, vehicles naturally make enough sound to be detected. Automakers would have a range of choices for car noises, the agency said. The agency posted 14 samples of sounds at http://www.nhtsa.gov/SampleSounds.”
Now also in Europe the European Parliament has just mandated that electric and hybrid cars must add acoustic vehicle alerting systems by 2019/2021.
Based on my own experience I think this mandate should be handled with care. As an electric driver I would like to address the following remarks and concerns:
- since an electric car is so quiet, we as drivers of electrical vehicles are also much more aware of our environment, and we act more cautiously than we would do with an ICE car,
- not only e-cars hardly make noise at low speeds but also bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters, high class standard cars as Mercedes, BMW’s, Jaguar’s, Lexus, Toyota, etc. In fact, they all should then be forced into an acoustic vehicle alerting system,
- in Europe alone, it is known we have about 3.000 people killed because of noise: it gives a higher adrenaline, and scientific research has proven this to be related to death. For this reason, the transition to electrical driving gives the ability in helping to drastically reduce background noise of traffic, and an alerting system could reduce this opportunity especially in cities!
- we suggest to first give some room for further research to have either an active sensing system as additional requirement, or to have a system with the need for a driver’s action, like the bell on a bike (the system on a Twizy),
- we should be careful for the problems of blind people. Because i got some emails from blind people, who were really concerned, i had the idea to require that every car broadcasts an electronic (non audible) signal, and an app on a phone or a small device that can be sensitive, for instance with a vibration. Then children, blind people, elderly etc can have such a small device, which starts to vibrate if (any!) cars comes too close. I applied for a patent, but the idea already existed.
I think we should have a discussion first before we add a constant noise to electrical vehicles, and instead be happy that the cities will become more quiet and healthy! Please give your comments below!