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Automakers Must Add Sounds to Electric Cars by 2020

Automakers Must Add Sounds to Electric Cars by 2020

The government has set a 2020 deadline for automakers to comply with “quiet car” regulations. Not to curb noise pollution, mind you – but to solve an incidental quandary with electric vehicles.

Most electric and hybrid cars are as raucous as golf carts, and that’s a big problem for the blind community (or most people, really). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that electric cars are 19% more likely than gas-powered vehicles to injure pedestrians, for the simple reason that people don’t hear them coming.

Automakers will have to add sounds to “quiet cars” traveling up to 18.6 miles per hour. (The sounds of the road will suffice at higher speeds.) And while the NHTSA claims the addition of external waterproof speakers to an estimated 530,000 model 2020 vehicles will cost the industry $40 million annually, it’ll supposedly prevent about 2,400 injuries/year.

And if it’s any consolation, drivers might be able to choose the specific sounds.

Cynics might say the feds bet on electric cars with a healthy dose of grants and rebates – and regulations that force the industry to adapt or perish – before adding costly regulations to the finished product that cost them nothing. Not that this isn’t a worthwhile investment, but it does seem a tad maddening.

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