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Government Transportation Technology

Electric Cars May Be Made Noisier By Law 620

msgtomatt writes "The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act would require electric cars and hybrids to make noise, and would fund the Department of Transportation to create a set of rules for automakers, who would be allowed some leeway in how they carry out the guidelines." Downloadable and do-it-yourself car-tones are the future: my own snoring could keep deer and toddlers off the road.
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Electric Cars May Be Made Noisier By Law

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  • by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @11:58PM (#34637646)

    Obviously, the below statements do not take into consideration those that are visually impaired. But that final point (Road Noise) probably already handles most of that.

    I'm sorry, but I never trust my ears when deciding whether to cross the street. Even if I'm in a fairly quiet suburban road off away from the main streets and such, I always look. And you want to know what? I learned to do that at a really young age.

    If you're an adult, you should know better. I see adults cross the street without looking while on the phone and not even notice me beeping at them. And this was back when I drove a beat up car that sounded like a Boeing 747.

    As for kids, I'm sorry to say but a lot are either stupid or their parents are doing a really poor job raising them. I've seen the whole "chase the ball into traffic" scenario when they SEE the cars coming and assume that magic fairy dust will make the SUV go from 25-to-zero in less than 3 feet. Often times these kids are really old enough to know better: by the time your kid reaches 10+ years old you really should've educated them to not do that.

    Besides, lastly but not least... unless the car is accelerating the biggest noise is the road noise (pavement vs vulcanized rubber). Last I checked, electric cars don't solve this problem. If you're relying on Engine noise to determine if a car is coming, you're already fairly screwed.

  • Hell, NO! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <oarigogirdor>> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @12:00AM (#34637660) Homepage

    So here we are on the verge of winning the war against noise pollution, and those motherfuckers WANT cars to be noisy?

  • Idiocracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_Blank ( 172031 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @12:01AM (#34637666) Journal

    As Green Car Reports notes, the legislation would allow for a common set of standards, rather than than a motley crew of approaches attempted by various automakers.

    Brilliant. Legislate away the possibilities for innovation before the new market has a chance to solve the problem. Is it only in America that "leaders" push science and math and the entrepreneurial spirit, and then quickly make it illegal to innovate lest anyone gets hurt? sheesh

    What this country needs is a good five cent nickel.

  • by dx40sh ( 1773338 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @12:04AM (#34637680)
    This whole thing could be solved by:

    a] drivers watching for pedestrians, like they're supposed to be doing [but who actually follows the laws these days?].
    b] pedestrians checking for traffic before they walk into areas that might be occupied by cars; as it would actually be smart [this may be too much to ask].
    c] lawmakers passing laws that actually benefit a majority of people, not just a small minority.

    If this does go into effect, though, my car is totally going to have the TIE Fighter sound.
  • by skids ( 119237 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @12:12AM (#34637740) Homepage

    Really, to be consistent, it should apply to all cars, not just electrics. Even with the motor running, a coasting car can be hard to hear.

  • by Paua Fritter ( 448250 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @12:13AM (#34637750)

    You didn't read the first sentence of his post? Are you blind?!

  • (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @12:17AM (#34637768)

    Those things don't add to noise pollution, and they address *real* problems. Walking through a parking lot these days you'll notice that very few cars make any engine noise audible from more than a few feet away. I hear tire noise long before I hear engine noise. The fact that electric cars have no engine noise isn't really a significant change.

  • by RobinEggs ( 1453925 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @12:58AM (#34638036)

    If you're an adult, you should know better. I see adults cross the street without looking while on the phone and not even notice me beeping at them. And this was back when I drove a beat up car that sounded like a Boeing 747.

    For every adult pedestrian who's been hit for jaywalking while talking on their cell phone without looking, there's another who got hit in a signaled crosswalk by a driver on a cell phone who checked only the oncoming vehicle traffic before pulling out, a guy who had a car door opened in his face while riding a bicycle in a marked lane, or a pedestrian who got hit by a car on the god damn sidewalk. I've been hit all three of those ways.

    I'm sick of self-righteous, insouciant comments such as yours (see also []) about how stupid pedestrians are, about how it's just legislation to protect idiots, etc. If you're driving 4,000 pounds of steel you have to be more careful than the guy driving 175 pounds of meat, and guy driving the meat deserves some extra warning, including an auditory warning, when you're not doing your job. If he walks out without looking, you hit him and he dies. If you fuck up, you hit him and he dies. Staying alive is all on the pedestrian, no matter who would be legally at fault if they get hit. Don't act like they're all idiots and pedestrian safety is a trivial problem and this just one more step into a total abdication of personal responsibility. This is serious stuff and I believe the majority of people who get hit by cars were not stupid and not doing the wrong thing. Your snarky anecdotes about idiot children and cell phone users are a strawman, drawing all attention away from the thousands of pedestrians who get hit and killed by bad drivers while the pedestrians were doing everything right.

  • Re:Hell, NO! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aagmrb7289 ( 652113 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:21AM (#34638158) Journal
    No. And really? What accidents? What factors are taken into consideration? Will people get used to cars that aren't so loud, and thus hear the tires and the sound of movement? Or does it even matter, since half the people are running around with their iPods blasting as loud as they can be? This article is B.S. - it doesn't address even half of the concerns, situations and problems. And it's a rehash that's being repeated every two or three months like someone has some sort scheduled gagging session. "Legislating car noise - news @ 11" x infinity
  • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:29AM (#34638212)

    It's probably smarter and more cost effective to equip the visually impaired with a sonar-type device than to force *every* (i'm thinking future) vehicle to maintain noise pollution for such a small number of people.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:29AM (#34638214)

    Really, huh? Last time I checked they still taught "FIRST look left, THEN look right, THEN cross the streets" to our kids, did they forgo that in your country?

    I honestly don't get it. How is it safer for pedestrians if cars make noises? First, are there not traffic lights in your country? At least where it counts, i.e. where there's actually a chance to meet a car on the road? Are there no pedestrian crossing areas on your roads? Along with pedestrian traffic lights telling you when it's safe to walk? Are drivers in your country so reckless that they ignore those traffic lights that LOOKING ain't enough to cross the road safely, you have to listen?

    And most of all, are there still teenagers in your country that remove those iPod earphones from time to time from their ears?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:30AM (#34638220)

    Great idea, and to be able to sleep within city limits all you have to do is get your eardrums punctured.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:32AM (#34638234)

    Pedestrian crossing points with audible signals telling you when it's safe to go. Why, they don't have that in your country yet?

    Frankly, is it safe NOW for a blind person to "listen for traffic" and then cross a street? Be honest.

  • Re:Parking lots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:33AM (#34638248) Homepage

    More than once I've had to side step quickly to avoid a Prius in a store parking lot - I'm used to audio cues of my environment, and they just weren't paying attention while backing out.

    I call bullshit on this.

    In a busy parking lot, someone backing up quickly is going to be mostly inaudible regardless of the vehicle involved - and either way, your ability to respond is roughly the same. (And with a Prius, at least you'd probably survive the impact.)

    I hardly see how it being a Prius makes any difference. I've seen people back up into others walking behind their vehicle - hop in, quickly turn the ignition and then quickly throw into reverse. There's no consideration for others; people go myopic.

    It's not going to do shit if you're in the vehicle, driving. You can sometimes not hear the large truck next to you due to road noise, never mind a Prius.

    The fact is, Prius drivers (apparently) have little to no respect for the others who share their environment. (This goes for SUV drivers, too, btw.) "Oh, we'll just zip out quickly because we can, and I looked in my rear view mirror about 10 seconds ago when i got in the vehicle" is demonstrative of their mentality.

    I've said it once and I'll say it again, because it still (mostly) applies: there's a reason we've only got one 'reverse' gear. GO SLOW. The same applies to the asinine regulations requiring reverse cameras in newly made vehicles (to the tune of another $200 to the purchaser).

    I wonder how much it'd cost to buy a vehicle if we could get one with "just the road safety features invented in the past 50 years, please". I would not be surprised if stripping all the extraneous stuff out (dangerous-to-children air bags, ass heaters, electric windows, thermostats, etc.) resulted in a $25k vehicle costing less than $20k, and a $45k one less than 35k (assuming it's not $45k simply due to said luxury items).

    Imagine what that would save the environment. (Here's an idea: "Imagine" what a city without automotive sounds would be like.)

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:39AM (#34638286)

    I disagree.

    No cars should make noise. Its an arms race.

    Instead of taking the advent of electric vehicles as an opportunity to quiet our cities, requiring them to make more noise seems counter productive.

    Make them all quiet enough and you will be able to hear the tire noise.

    Cover that noise with a louder noise and pretty soon all you know is its noisy and you can't hear the cars because they disappear into the noise.

    Ok, Won't somebody please think of the Blind!!??
    Yeah. Why not equip the blind with the sensors that they need to detect large/fast moving objects instead of equipping all large moving objects with noise makers to be drowner out by other noise makers.

    Relying on everything that might hurt you to carry a warning is just counter-productive and costly. Hear nothing, step off the curb and get hit by a bike messenger, or a car with a defective noise maker.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:56AM (#34638392)

    Almost ALL of the demand for noise makers on cars comes from the blind lobby.

    In a quieter world, the blind would hear the tire noise just fine.

  • by EmperorOuk ( 870377 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @01:58AM (#34638402)

    Well done. Yes, safety regulation is about finding the proper balance between risk and inconvenience. Do you think making hybrid cars emit a modicum of noise would be a crippling burden?

    If you think it would be a waste of time, the evidence is against you. The study linked to in the article indicates that silent engines in cars doubles the likelihood of a pedestrian getting hit in certain situations. Forcing cars to emit some degree of noise is a very logical response to that problem, if it can be confirmed.

    A variety of crash factors were examined to determine the relative incidence rates of HEVs versus ICE vehicles in a range of crash scenarios. For one group of scenarios, those in which a vehicle is slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space, a statistically significant effect was found due to engine type. The HEV was two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash in these situations than was an ICE vehicle.

  • Re:Hell, NO! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @02:18AM (#34638506)

    So, you'd fine me for hitting my horn when someone is about to hit me/pull out in front of me/move into my lane and hit me/etc....? Do you know what the horn is there for?

    I said it would be justified, yes. If there were a magical way to collect $5 every time someone honked without, say, requiring everyone to put a box in their car that reported the number of honks, or something like that, I would be for that. I can't think of a good way to do that without invading everyone's privacy with an inefficient system that would just be a waste of money.

    If you're honking to avoid a collision, $5 isn't going to be a concern. If you're honking because you're angry or because you're too lazy to get out of your car and knock on the door, yeah, $5 is a small price to pay for annoying everyone in earshot.

    Anyway, everyone knows that horns are there for those situations, but 90% of the time are used for non-emergency situations. I stopped short of suggesting they should be banned altogether.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:29AM (#34638742) Homepage Journal

    I've got to agree with the other guy. The apparent sleekness of bikers may be misguiding. It looks like a biker turns on a dime, and yes, once the turn starts, it's pretty narrow. But if a biker turns the handle bar like a car driver, he'll just fall. Rapid braking, sharp turning, this all requires preparation - shift your body weight, turn minimally to the other side, let the bike dip towards the curve a little, move your weight backwards. The sharp turn at high speed itself takes 2-3s but the biker took another 2-3s to prepare for it. I have very good brakes in my bike but if I use them, I'll fall over the handle bars, hitting the road face first. So I have to brake the hind brake lightly, shifting my weight, bracing myself, and only then I can depress front brake fully, and go to a standstill from a rather high speed in a matter of 5-10 meters... after starting braking good 20 meters earlier.

    Unexpected rapid turn is very difficult to execute. You don't get a dip deep enough so your turning radius won't be short enough... and you slam whatever obstacle appeared. Add some slippery surface where the bike will skid, which is very nice when you're about to stop but very dangerous if your speed is still too high (and totally kills any ability to turn controllably) and you have a crash ready.

  • by dargaud ( 518470 ) <(slashdot2) (at) (> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @03:32AM (#34638750) Homepage

    Instead of taking the advent of electric vehicles as an opportunity to quiet our cities, requiring them to make more noise seems counter productive.

    Yeah, that's ridiculous. Why don't we make electric cars stink as well so that the deaf can keep on hating them too ? And while we are at it force all cars owners to have a buggy whip.

  • Red Flag (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @06:22AM (#34639346) Journal

    I'd be more likely to step out in front of such cars so I wouldn't ever have to hear that again.

    There may be more of a future in that than you suppose. I expect that we'll regress to having a person walk in front of such vehicles, waving a red flag to warn bystanders of its approach.

  • by Dan541 ( 1032000 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @06:37AM (#34639430) Homepage

    I drive a diesel around the city all day every day. Pedestrians walk out in front of vehicles no matter now much noise they make.

  • Re:Forget that (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ken D ( 100098 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @11:05AM (#34641150)

    I think parking lots are the single most likely place for anyone, deaf or not, to be clipped by a silent car.
    I was almost clipped when a Prius suddenly started backing up as I was walking along the parked cars.

    But this could be fixed by requiring a 'backup beeper'

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