Hybrids too quiet?

Today it is expected that a new law will be proposed in the US Congress to require Hybrids and battery powered cars to make more noise.

It appears the blind community feels there may be a safety hazard connected with the new technology. The bill includes a two year study time to determine the hazard and the need for new regulation.

Turthfully, I am not surprised to hear that hybrids pose a danger to blind people. A woman who works in my office building has a Prius, and when she is parking her car or driving slowly through the parking lot, it is absolutely silent.

Since a couple of other employees (who were not paying attention) have had close calls with her car while they were walking in the parking lot, it is very believeable that a blind person would be unable to detect when a hybrid car is approaching at low speed.

Does this mean mandatory earth moving vehicle style beepers on hybrids when they are in EV mode?
How about the playing card in the spokes style noisemakers that we all put on our bicycles when we were kids?
Maybe we should make them sound like George Jetson’s flying saucer car.

You took the words out of my mouth.

Very unsanitary.

But give the level of inattention of so many drivers out there, I think the visually-impaired have good cause to be nervous.

Fit them with a little model airplane engine without a muffler?

I’ve had a similar experience to your coworkers’. I was walking along the road in a state park last summer and a Prius came up behind me. I didn’t even hear it until it was practically on top of me, and I didn’t realize it was a car until I turned around because it was only making a faint whining noise. I can definitely see why they’d be a danger to the blind community, although it’ll be interesting to see what sort of noise is added.

A new market for the down load of cell phone ring tones. I think they should all sound like ice cream trucks.

Well, I for one hope that no one takes this idea seriously. It’s not that hybrids in electric mode, or pure electrics, don’t make any sound. They most certainly do. It’s just that people aren’t used to the sounds they do make. Yes, they are quieter, but tires on the road and a certain amount of wind noise is inevitable. Once enough of these cars are on the streets people will come to associate the sounds they do make with automobiles. Right now, our brains tend to filter out the non-dangerous sounds and since these don’t sound like a car with a running engine our brains just don’t alert us. If we get to a point where electric vehicles are more common we’ll start hearing them just fine.

The idea of noisemakers on quiet cars reminds me of the old turn of the (20th) century laws requiring a man with a red flag to walk ten paces ahead and another ten paces behind any automobile. They were dangerous and might spook the horses you know :wink:

I’m sure there’s tons of Mickey Mantel and Babe Ruth rookie cards out there for everyone of these cars. :stuck_out_tongue:

Gosh, assuming the driver is looking out the front window, it seems there shouldn’t be much problem. So, I wonder if there is a real danger, or if people get frightened when it appears without warning. I mean, do we assume a driver is going to run down anyone in front of them?

No, we can’t assume that a driver of a hybrid is going to run down someone in front of him/her, but the fact remains that pedestrians are hit by cars daily and many of these incidents are the result of driver inattention. Just as a driver needs to drive defensively, a pedestrian needs to walk defensively when crossing a street.

But, when a vehicle is silent (or at least unusually quiet), it is that much harder for a pedestrian to guard against being hit by a car driven by an inattentive driver. And, if the pedestrian is blind, major problems could result.

I agree 100%. The issue isn’t that hybrids are too quiet. In fact, that should be desired in all cars. The issue is that the people operating them are not paying proper attention.

If this law passes, it will only lend credence to the stupid “loud pipes save lives” myth.

I am not so sure I would call “loud pipes save lives” a stupid myth. It is true that there is no scientific evidence to prove that soud pipes save lives, but there no scientific evidence that proves that loud pipes don’t save lives either.

This is the kind of debate that has been long over due…cars too quite. Hopefully the next will be; they don’t use enough energy to “fuel” the economy; and the local underground gasoline storage tanks need “Stabil” added to it because the turn over is too infrequent. Ya gotta love it !!!

Mickey Mantle you rookie !! Mantel was a talk show host or bald comedian.

Actually, I read a preliminary study that help prompted this law. It is not just out of whole cloth, or a segment of people barking loudly. The study I read was conducted by a safety group for the blind that held an informal study with a couple of groups of blind people. They were grouped into a parking lot, and different hybrid models were used. According to the observations, none of the participants heard any one the cars, even though all of the cars were driving constant circles around them. One was quoted as saying, “Has the test started yet?”, and this was after the cars had completed about 2 laps.

The jokes and skepticism are understandable, but just think about it. In a typical urban and suburban setting, there is a large load of ambient noise to hide the very little noise a rolling car without the engine running would make. Kids on bikes analogy fall flat, because most kids are anything but quiet when playing. The bill basically funds a study over a legitimate safety issue. If the addition of a low-level buzzer, low enough not to be heard by the driver or passengers, but distinct enough to be noticed within 25 yards of a moving car would not hurt anybody or anybody’s pocketbook.

Just remember, they added beeper’s to commercial vehicles so you would have an audible warning when something big, and probably blind was about to back up nearby. This has resulted in a major drop in accidents involving these big trucks, pedestrians and workers.

Maybe all hybrids should come with 20" sub-woofers that constantly play an annoying base line that can be easily heard/felt by everyone within 50 feet.

The California Vehicle Code states that it is the responsibility of the vehicle drive to see, avoid, and yield right of way to pedestrians on the sidewalk, side of the road, and at marked and unmarked crosswalks. A separate item in the Code addresses the requirement to absolutely yield right of way to anyone displaying a red and white cane. Most drivers meet this responsibility. It is the other 10% that a pedestrian has to watch out for.

I, too, have been startled by the stealthy arrival of a Hybrid at a sidewalk driveway. But, being an attentive pedestrian, I always have my head on a swivel, keep aware of my surroundings; and yield to all vehicles that appear aggressive or distracted, i.e. encroachers on marked crosswalks and those with cell phones held to their ear. Hearing a car nearby is not going to tell you if that car is ready to launch or doesn’t see you. If I were a blind person in any medium to large city, I would only walk with a sighted and hearing enabled person accompaning.


How about some kind of a “chirp” alarm, both front and rear? It could be set up on, say, 5-second intervals to chirp for two seconds or so, a total of 7-second cycles, then repeat the 5-second delay onto another 2-second “chirp” cycle. This would somehow be connected to the vehicle to operate only when the vehicle is on electric and/or is going 10 mph or less. Maybe I should have kept this to myself, build a prototype, get it patented, and sit back and collect my royalties. By the time I get all of that done, wanna bet that at least three companies will have something like this?

But then the hippies would hafta compete with the punk kids for the cars. :stuck_out_tongue: