Electric and hybrid cars have been a staple alternative for eco-conscious motorist for some time, though there might be a chance you’d be involved in an accident more often than that of a standard car. This is obviously due to the fact that electric and hybrid cars produce a very minimal amount of noise as compared to a normal engine.

This poses lots of problems especially for sight impaired pedestrians. Thus automakers and campaigners for the blind are looking into presenting the US Congress with a proposal for minimum noise levels that future cars have to produce.

This problem isn’t just restricted to blind people as a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that hybrid cars tend to hit pedestrians more often than cars in situations where the car approaching cannot be seen.


I wonder if the Road Safety Department in Malaysia has any studies showing a high pedestrian collision rate with hybrid cars here in Malaysia. Technically only the Prius (and the grey import Estima Hybrid) would qualify as it is the only hybrid in Malaysia that can run on an EV mode – the Civic Hybrid’s combustion engine has to be turned on all the time when it is on the go. But with Malaysians tendency to “settle sendiri” I doubt any meaningful statistics can be collected here.

Anyway, the coalition group has suggested a ‘car language’ that would be a new safety standard for electric and hybrid cars. This would produce some sort of minimum noise when the car is moving at low speeds. When the car speeds up wind and tire noise usually make the car detectable and by then the car would probably exceed the speeds of EV-only modes anyway.

The group would like the sound to be a standardized noise and owners should not be able to customize the sound of the car the same way they do with mobile phone ring tones. In the end it would be up to the NHTSA to determine the minimum sound level or what exact sound would be allowed. Though you can expect this to run through out the motor industry eventually reaching other global markets.

We blogged about this issue in the past and some auto suppliers such as Lotus Engineering have a few proposed solutions to this problem such as the Lotus Sound Synthesis technology. A road speed signal is obtained from the car and a waterproof speaker is positioned near the front of the car to emit a realistic sound based on the throttle and speed of the car.