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Electric Car Owners May Select Engine Sounds To Alert Pedestrians

Electric car owners should be able to select the noise their vehicle makes in order to alert pedestrians, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency says that automakers may offer several sound options to owners of the "quiet cars."

The NHTSA says cars should make noise when traveling at less than 19mph. They will ask the public how many types of sounds cars should make, and how loud they should be. The road safety regulator believes that if electric cars are too quiet at low speeds, they can pose a danger to "blind and sighted pedestrians, as well as bicyclists."

The agency has been asking that electric cars and hybrids be noisy enough to hear when moving at low speeds since 2010, and rules forcing vehicles to comply were first drafted in 2016. At higher speeds, tire noise and wind resistance are considered loud enough to alert other drivers or pedestrians. Initially, makers of battery-powered vehicles were given until September 1, 2019, to ensure all models complied with the regulations. Now, the deadline has now been extended to 2020.

The first draft of the NHTSA regulations required that cars make only one type of sound. Now, the NHTSA will allow vehicles to make several sounds, however, feedback from the public is being requested. Simulated engine sounds available on existing vehicles, such as the Mitsubishi Outlander, usually make the hum of the battery-driven engine louder.

However, Mercedes AMG has worked with rock band Linkin Park to make customized sounds for its electric vehicles. Meanwhile, Porsche offers a $500 upgrade to the Taycan sports car that boosts the volume of its electric motor to make it sound like a petrol engine. Nissan, on the other hand, has tested a warning system called Canto that adds a musical element to the sound of the engine, and Volkswagen will install a fake sound for low speeds of the compact ID.3 electric vehicle when it arrives in showrooms in 2020.

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Ford, which is seeking a partial exemption for its police vehicles, has asked whether it could include an “off switch” so that law enforcement officials can use their electric vehicles to surprise suspected criminals. In Europe, the addition of warning sounds became mandatory on new types of vehicles made after July 1, 2019.

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