back to article US lawmakers to de-silence electric cars

A bill that will require electric and hybrid cars to make enough noise so that blind folks can hear them coming has been introduced in the US Senate. The bill, S. 841 - more pedestrian-ly known as the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 - doesn't specifically mention adding noise to otherwise silent vehicles. It merely …


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  1. Eddy Ito
    Paris Hilton

    No really!

    It isn't about money, it's about safety, honest. So what if folks will soon get tickets for being too loud and too quiet based on the silk purse of a LEO's ear. If you can't decide if your car sounds "just right" don't ask Solomon, call Goldilocks. How long before there is a sound requirement for power wheelchairs, bicyclists and stupid pedestrians.

  2. raving angry loony


    So instead of nice quiet environments where the blind can actually listen for the quiet hiss of tires on the road, we'll be stuck with the equivalent of ringtones for cars, all blaring at each other and making so much racket that the blind won't be able to distinguish a car from a nearby cellphone.

    Joy. More noise.

  3. ratfox
    Paris Hilton

    Jesus H Christ

    Bicycles have existed for centuries without that being a problem...

    Most cars can be really silent too.

    PH, because even she knows when to shut up.

  4. Michael

    recalls the old guy on "family guy"

  5. Maxime Rainville

    Dumb question

    How many blind people (if any) got run over by an electric car or an hybrid in the US because those vehicule were not noisy enough?

    And is that number significant enough to impose an extra regulation?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Next time I cycle to work Im going to shout broom broom at everyone I pass.

    Then Im getting a g-wizz, big stereo, amp and speakers and a CD of V8 engines being revved... try and judge my speed now!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silence is golden

    One of the things I was looking forward to the most about electric cars was the absence of noise (having suffered traffic noise for far longer than I care to remember).

    Why make every single electric car make noise all of the time, just on the off chance that there may be blind person around?

    Couldn't they instead add a device to all electric cars that emits a generic silent signal that when picked up by a small receiver (wrist band or lanyard / pendant) emits a tone that varies depending on the distance, speed (and number) of electric vehicles.

    Also, unless the electric cars are floating, they'll still be making road / tyre noise anyway.

  8. OmniCitadel

    Let me get this strait

    My motor cycle is illegal cause its too loud now they are bitching and moaning about a mode of transportation thats too quiet?

  9. Paul
    Thumb Up

    More for the transition period

    I can see peoples points if we immediately went from all internal combustion engined cars to electric ones but that's not going happen and I can understand the trepidation of blind people trying to cross the road when 50% of the cars are loud and 50% are a lot quieter. As these sound systems will probably use loudspeakers and so be adjustable it should be possible to come up with a system that reduces the volume as the proportion of electric vehicles increases.

    Also how many people here have started to cross the road without really looking but have stopped because they heard a car coming? Silent electric cars will increase the number of 'I didn't see it coming' incidents.

    So I'm in favour just as long as the sound is similar for all cars, such as artificial engine noise, and that people are not allowed to replace it with the crazy frog.

  10. Anonymous Scotsman

    Bicycles etc

    To the bicycle comment, there are two major differences to the lec situation.

    1. There is significantly more visual interaction *possible* for the driver of a bike than a car.

    2. It's less obtrusive and not so regulated by law to ring a small bell attached to the tiller. Horn honking in a crowded street (i.e. Glasgow central) is, at the least, likely to get a few eggs thrown at you.

    I for one approve of this though, so long as I can have a small (discrete) noise maker that replicates the futurama hovercars' pleasant audio signature.

  11. Filippo Silver badge

    @Dumb question

    What? Asking for proof that regulation is needed before imposing it?!? What nonsense!

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Oh Dear God!

    One of the stupidest laws ever. Blind people should be crossing at designated crossings only. We have many precedents of crossings being built for the blind and elderly, near their residences and near service centres/buildings/malls etc. Don't modify perfectly good cars - instead legislate for crossing design which suits all vehicle types (including bicycles) and provides for safety even if a noisemaker should fail or for a blind person who's also a bit deaf.

    Is there no end to the stupidity our species can produce?

  13. SuperTim

    I think it is a good idea, but

    I dont want it to turn into the ringtone fiasco that has blighted our lives.

    If i had a leccy car i would like it to have to option of a good ol' V8 or even a special "french connection" setting that make you sound like you are driving in a car chase, even if you are travelling at a sedate 20mph.

    i dont want any old snot-nosed punk to download some rediculous drum n bass track and "thump thump" his way around town.

  14. David

    Defeats the object

    Rather defeats the object of the exercise, doesn't it? Nice, environmentally-friendly car that makes a non-environmentally-friendly noise? Hmm........dread to think what might happen if tech-savvy kids manage to pimp up their leccy cars. It's bad enough now, with their so-called car hi-fi booming away, with the doors bulging outwards on every bass note!

    There has to be a better way - some sort of transmitter/receiver device to say where the car is for blind folk maybe, although I suppose if there were loads of leccy cars in the area, that wouldn't work. Doh! In any case, can blind people tell where all the conventional vehicles are in the street? Would all the leccy cars sound the same? That could be confusing. Have they had problems in the past locating silent cycles or existing electric vehicles?

    Sounds like some politician is trying to make a name for themselves.

  15. Nigel Whitfield

    Crossing signals

    Don't pedestrian crossings make noises, like the ones in the UK do? If they don't, surely that would be the most sensible way to tackle the problem.

    Yes, there are places where people may want to cross and no crossing to help, but that happens now, with hazards like bicycles and other pedestrians. If you can't find a friendly person to help, then surely you wait until it's quiet, and people on a bike ring their bell. Electric car drivers can toot their horn.

  16. paulc
    Thumb Down

    dying gasp of the petrol dinosaurs...

    ordinary internal combustion engined cars are pretty quiet as well these days, but any move to delay electric cars by a few years keeps the oil business in control a few years longer.

    What's the bets they'll want electric cars to go peep. peep, peep like electric forklifts have to do when in motion

    anyway, I thought this was the 21st centurey? why haven't the blind been fitted up with 3D sonar headsets yet so they can tell what's close and also let the headset do the detection of things close by giveaway noises like tyres on asphalt...

  17. storng.bare.durid
    Thumb Down


    No. Just Flipping stupid.

    Car noise is annoying enough as it stands, why scupper attempts at silencing them?

    There are other alternatives.

    1. Equip all 'deemed silent' cars with a radio emitter.

    2. If you care about hearing them, you can go get a receiver that will give you a proximity alert. Blind people could get this heavily subsidized/free from the government.

    3. Even better - build this alert device into some sort of high visibility jacket with LEDs which could flash at a certain proximity etc.

    4. This would even benefit deaf and blind people. Rig the receiver to a vibrating alert.

  18. Fluffykins Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    oooh look

    I've invented a HORN

    Wonder if that could be used - you know, to provided autible warning of approach.

    Now we just make it sound all the time, 'cos yanks would be too stupid to know when to sound it.

    Richest third world nation on the planet.

    Paris. Horn. 'nuff said

  19. SminkyBazzA
    Thumb Up

    sod personalised number plates...

    Methinks this is going to bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "mobile ringtones"... I want mine to sound like its running on a Merlin 45 Spitfire engine please!

    I witnessed my first silent-running Prius a couple of weeks ago, pulling away from the curb a few metres from me (admittedly in a busy town centre) and if I hadn't been looking at it I would never have expected it to move.

    Also, cyclists tend not to weigh a ton, although I imagine we can shout louder.

  20. Steve Browne


    There has been a requirement for any vehicle, including cycles, to warn of their presence. Horns are installed into cars for a reason, and it isn't so lazy taxi drivers can call their customers.

    Cycles are required to have a bell for this purpose, ratfox.

  21. Paul


    honk the bloody HORN!!!

  22. Steven Jones

    @Maxime Rainville

    It's worth doing a bit of research on this first - it isn't just blind people who are affected, it is ordinary pedestrians, the elderly, children. Tests have been done on this - people are adapted and evolved to use all their senses to detect danger. The tests that have been done show that this is only a problem below about 20 miles/30 km per hour. Above that speed, road noise suffices and nobody is suggesting intrusive noises - we aren't going to have cars with sirens or the type of warning beeps they put on reversing lorries. Something that beams a bit of noise in a forward direction suggesting of a moving object would do the job. Given that this would have a trivial effect on the cost of any electric car, it's hardly a big imposition to make.

    As for the person who suggested it is not a problem for bicycles - well yes it is. I know when I'm out and about on a bike I have to be specially wary of pedestrians that haven't noticed me and can't hear me. It's a particular problem on shared use routes. That's why I have a bell on my bike (shouting at a pedestrian is a lot more intrusive and aggressive sounding than letting one know gently by an appropriate audible warning). Also, being hit be a bicycle is likely to be far less damaging than a car. Bicycle have not been around for "centuries" - the modern safety cycle only came about in 1885, and even the "high-wheel" only went back to the 1860s and were very rare; prior to that velocipedes were just toys and barely count. In any event, bicycles really required good road surfaces which simply didn't exist centuries before.

  23. wildmonkeyuk
    Paris Hilton


    Just give the electric cars a half decent speaker system and a CD of V8 noises they can play while driving about :)

    Paris... Well she knows how to drive us all crazy ;)

  24. Xris Middleton

    RE: Most

    "nice quiet environments where the blind can actually listen for the quiet hiss of tires on the road,"

    Not all cars are going to suddenly become electric over night; there will be a mix of electric and combustible vehicles, making plenty of noise, occupying the roads. Of course once all the oil runs out this will cease to be a problem.

    "Bicycles have existed for centuries without that being a problem..."

    Because if a bicycles hits you at 15ish mph the chance of it doing serious bodily harm is low. Also they have a smaller profile and I’m pretty sure the rider takes more notice of who steps in front of him giving him time to manoeuvre.

    "How many blind people (if any) got run over by an electric car or an hybrid in the US"

    What percentage of vehicles in the US are silent electric? As this figure grows then surely the number of auto accidents will increase as well. How many blind people are we allowed to run over before we decide to do something about it, 56?

    Why is preventative action that will protect people that have a disability been shouted down?

  25. Simon Neill


    @Bicycles have existed for centuries without that being a problem...

    Bikes can't go 60mph and don't mass significantly more than a person.

    Also, all cars these days already come with a device to prevent injury to pedestrians. It's called the brakes and they can be operated by the driver with ease.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Mysterious lack of evidence

    - I live near Berkeley, California, where it seems like every third or fourth car is a Prius.

    - I also live less than 2 miles from a school for the blind.

    - I have yet to read a single article about a blind person being hit and having it confirmed that it was because they couldn't hear the car.

    So as many have noted, it is a solution in search of a problem.

    @Xris: The difficulty is that legislators want to take action that will affect everyone owning a hybrid or electric car, without any proof that there's a problem. I live near San Francisco. The hills there are a danger to those in wheelchairs. Shall we bulldoze them all to protect the disabled, or should we first do some research and determine how much of a problem it is? What about putting gateways across all staircases in the country to protect those who are both blind and wheelchair-bound? I am perfectly willing to put up with some inconvenience if there's a proven issue (wheelchair ramps increase my taxes a bit, but make perfect sense). But to scream, "There may be an issue here! Let's DO something instead of researching the problem first!" is the worst kind of government.

  27. Matt Caldwell

    Go for it...

    I for one am all for this, if it is done right (which it wouldn't be anyway, if it gets passed at all, which I'm not gonna bet on). I'm a perfectly sighted and well hearing person, but I've almost been run over by electrics a couple times. Like yesterday for oxample....

    11pm, just got off work. I'm walking through the parking garage. A car pulls out of the spot I was just about to step in front of. They couldn't have seen me, I was just coming from behind the other car Their lighst were still off. Engine made no noise. Just pulled out.

    We're trained to use our ears at least as much as our eyes in avoiding cars.

  28. Murray Pearson

    This isn't a new problem

    When the Pennsylvania Railroad introduced their sleek brown electric locomotives in the 1930s they painted a brilliant gold stripe on them. It wasn't just for aesthetics, it was for safety; the stripe was intended to heliograph and catch the attention of rail workers on the tracks who were accustomed to hearing great thundering steam locomotives from miles off and simply didn't notice the 'leccy locos bearing down on them at 60 mph.

    Personally, I'd say the solution is to change the laws to make drivers explicitly responsible for pedestrian fatalities they cause, with colossal penalties. That'll cause responsible drivers to PAY ATTENTION DAMMIT and eliminate the irresponsible ones.

  29. Haku


    You know what this means?

    The ability to have a car that looks AND sounds like KITT - just make it electric and add in your own digitised sounds from the tv show :D

  30. A

    How very PC

    Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act = PEA C = PC geddit? ;)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Root Cause

    Someone complained in San Francisco that electric cars were too quiet so now the whole country has to be punished.

  32. Christopher Martin

    A legislator should be severely beaten every time he proposes a law

    That'd make 'em think long and hard about whether they're actually worthwhile. Maybe they'd finally stop wasting everyone's time.

    "How many blind people (if any) got run over by an electric car or an hybrid in the US because those vehicule were not noisy enough?" - Irrelevant. I'm pretty sure laws are based on how they appear at first glance to voters - what makes you think they would be judged by any real data on their utility?

    Seriously, though, folks, let's propose a thought experiment. Suppose the car's initial invention had been electric, and loud rumbly engines had never existed. Would anyone have thought about mandating that they make noise for safety? Or are we just thinking about it now because the noise is what we're used to?

    The vehicles that are required to make noise are big trucks when backing up - presumably because the driver can't see where he's going. Other drivers can see, so unless blind people are driving, or are in the habit of darting out at random into the road, maybe the solution is a kind reminder not to drive into pedestrians at crossing points.

  33. mr.K

    As if smell and sound are the only options

    What about taste? It might be a little tricky to implement, but I am sure it can be done if we put enough money into it.

    Personally I vote for heat. Put a big thorch on top of the cars, and make it hot enough so that one can feel it at least 500m away. The power consumption might of course put a slight drain on the batteries, but that is solveable. You can just fuel it with oil.

    You could of course try thouch, but that might defeat the purpose since thouch is what you try to avoid.

    On a sidenote, give them a dog instead. I bet the cost of providing every single blind person with a dog is a cheaper alternative if you add all the costs of implementing the regulation, administrating the regulation, the extra euipment needed, the extra power it would consume, the reduced health of the public exposed this noise etc etc.

    Yes, that is my coat. Why do you ask?

  34. Fatman

    US poloticos to de-silence electric cars

    This kind of reminds me of the time when automobiles first came on the scene. Some intellectually challenged politicos actually required someone to WALK in front of a automobile carrying a lantern to warn people.

    This is just more of that same old thinking.

    God help us all.

    I have to ask, are there not MORE IMPORTANT things to concern Congress???

  35. James O'Brien

    @a few commenters here

    @Bikes can't go 60mph

    I average about 35-40 mph on my bike and have topped at 65 going down a long hill so umm yeah you fail on that comment.

    On a side note going over 50+ is damn exciting on a bike cause you know if you wipe your going to have the worst case of road rash ever :) Also I have run over people when going at 35 not because I tried, but because they were idiots and decided to jaywalk infront of me when I had the right of way. Yeah they got flattened.

    @Rig the receiver to a vibrating alert.

    So are the women going to get a custom one that they can hide discretely but still be notified of a coming (no pun intended....or maybe there was?) car? This thought reminds me of the scene on Orgasmo where the little old lady starts humping her walker...god that was a funny scene.

    @Cycles are required to have a bell for this purpose, ratfox.

    I dont have a bell because it seems lame to go ring ring ring on a road bike that is around $2500 :)

  36. Thomas Steven

    How about touch?

    Might be a bit late by that time, but technically doesn't it meet the spec?

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Free idea

    I'm going to toss this out to the masses for deep consideration: The solution involves a duck call ($8.00 US) and I can tell you from personal experience, they get louder and more annoying, the faster one goes. Things tend to go very bad at speeds over 120 mph, though; somehow I don't think most owners of electrics will need to worry about it.

    Hell, it's worth the $8.00 just to see the look on peoples faces when you pass them.

  38. Alan Esworthy


    Given the ratio of blind pedestrians to vehicles on the road, wouldn't it be cheaper to issue each blind person a small radar set?

    If electric vehicles simply *must* make noise, just attach a playing card to a brake caliper bracket with a clothes pin so the card goes clackety-clack against the wheel spokes. Or perhaps a sound system with an external speaker to play back recordings of politicians' campaign speeches wherein they promise to fight against big intrusive nanny-state government.

    ...mine's the one with the huge book in the pocket, "Famous Kept Campaign Promises."

  39. Nick Kew

    noise? what noise?

    How is this noise - or any other such as the bell or horn - going to alert the deaf person?

    Anyone in charge of a vehicle - from cyclist to juggernaut - has a duty of care to more vulnerable people, including all pedestrians. You don't generally know if a person is blind and/or deaf. Or might suffer some other condition such as a faint or an epileptic fit in front of you.

  40. Orv Silver badge

    Not a new proposal, really.

    Advocates for the blind have been pushing for this ever since the Prius appeared on the scene; this isn't something that Congress thought up on their own. I'm generally in favor of the idea. It's not like it has to be particularly loud, just enough to replace the sound of a well-muffled engine at near-idle speeds.

    Alternatively, I suppose we could take the bicycle solution and force every driver to lean out the window and shout "ON YOUR LEFT!" every time they approach a pedestrian. ;)

  41. John Tserkezis

    Easy fix

    Bring back the playing card and clothes peg against the spokes of a bicycle wheel sound.

    Costs the manufacturer very little, the end user very little, and the idiot politicians nothing.

    If the stupid pollies want a stupid solution, that's would be it.

    (Yah! Bring it back!)

  42. Pablo

    @AC 13:26

    Hardly a balanced sample. Berkeley drivers stop for pedestrians.

  43. JK


    People aren't supposed to blindly cross the road in the first place (ha ha, pun), they're supposed to wait at cross walks and then cross. And what do the blind do, cross the road until they hear a noise, then decide whether to turn around or keep going? I mean, it sounds like the only reasonable legislation would require people put on those macho-man sports mufflers on every car, so that you could hear a vehicle a few blocks down, thus buying your disabled, hobbling, blind grandmother enough time to cross the road. Instead of getting a fucking guide dog.

  44. JK

    additional hilarity

    ... being that this comes from John Kerry. So much for your champion of the environment.

    That, and the fact that he's affiliated with a carbon credit corporation. Ha ha ha.

  45. Hud Dunlap
    Thumb Up

    The noise is for the dogs

    It is so the seeing eye dogs can tell the car is running. Other wise they have no way to tell the difference between a parked car and one that is running. The biggest problem is at stop signs were there is no road noise.

    I am surprised we are not handling this the good old fashioned American way. Let a Tesla run over a seeing eye dog and his owner and then sue the company into the ground. That will fix it.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    @Murray Pearson

    > "Personally, I'd say the solution is to change the laws to make drivers explicitly responsible for pedestrian fatalities they cause, with colossal penalties. That'll cause responsible drivers to PAY ATTENTION DAMMIT and eliminate the irresponsible ones."

    You're kidding right? That's pretty much the way it is now in many countries - I can't see how the USA is that much different. A pedestrian can walk out from anywhere, anytime, and the driver has to stop or avoid, even if it means hitting something solid like a light pole and injuring themselves. Any failure is the driver's fault. A pedestrian could deliberately throw themselves onto the bonnet of your car and, as it stands, the burden of proof is on the driver to show how the 'accident' could not be avoided. No witnesses to confirm what the crazy/suicidal pedestrian did? Too bad, you're off to jail, son.

    This legal situation results in some pedestrians doing whatever they like whenever they like ON THE ROADS, such as cross without looking and hold up a hand as if that will instantly stop all traffic, or walking down the middle on the white line - and that's from sober people in the middle of the day!

    We do not need to make the driving laws or vehicle compliance laws ANY harder. What would be good - and something I argue for frequently - is tougher licensing standards and much better driver education, such as mandatory professional training (as opposed to being taught by Uncle Billy-Bob) and mandatory skid pan sessions. And I'd love to see a few more laws to stop pedestrians from being so bloody stupid on the roads.

  47. Joe Geer
    Paris Hilton

    Laws can bite you, choose well!

    Ah Statistics! Apparently, in 1994 1.3 million Americans were legally blind. 109,000 blind people seemingly use long canes. (We are all trained to stop for people with canes). Apparently, there are over 1,000,000 hybrid cars out there now, but growing. Also, one might argue that all cars are "out there" while some blind people chill at home mostly. So, it seems like it would be far cheaper to give blind people a proximity device to alert them to cars than to make cars squeal like pigs. My car is old and loud so I have no vested interest in this. BUT, I recall, in my neighborhood, that they passed a law removing the curb at all intersections so that non-existent (in my neighborhood) people in wheelchairs might not be impeded. Of course, at the same time, you yell at your running 4-year-old to "Stop at the curb" and "Don't run in the street" of course, they now just run in to the street on that very ramp created for the wheelchair-bound. In my neighborhood, there were many more toddlers at risk, and I have seen that happen. I'd sure like to NOT see that mistake repeated. No offense to blind people, I'm sure I'll be blind myself one day. Let's legislate a cool device to warn blind people of impending cars (Hey, and bicycles)! Paris, because she would run into the car because she was watching, well, perhaps her reflection?

  48. Herby

    Obvious solution?

    Just have the electric vehicle emit the voice:

    "Danger Will Robinson".

    Pretty obvious if you ask me!

  49. This post has been deleted by its author

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want to move to another planet

    I've had enough of the idiots on this one!

    If the 'leccy car *HAS* to make a noise then have it make a short trill, but only:

    a. when first moving off from a standstill; and,

    b. when the brakes are initially applied.

    As for any other audible warnings for the blind, make them ultrasonic and distinctive - audible to dogs only - and train the SEEING (!) eye dogs to respond accordingly.

  51. Alan

    @ AC re: Oh Dear God...

    You say "Blind people should be crossing at designated crossings only".

    Oh Dear God, what a stupid comment to make!

    What about the blind people who are somewhere where there are no designated crossings? Yes, there are hundreds of thousands, probably millions of places like that. What should they do? Keep walking for miles and miles on that side of the road until they find a designated crossing?

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Maxime Rainville

    @How many blind people (if any) got run over by an electric car or an hybrid in the US because those vehicule were not noisy enough?

    The answer is very few (if any) because there are very few electric cars around today. In a few years time, when the act comes into force, there will be lots. You do the math.

  53. alan smith

    The Solution Already Exists

    Its called a horn

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Since when...

    Since when do blind people need an audible warning to jaywalk. It's a law in most places that pedestrians have a right of way at cross walks. That's what horns are for.

  55. b166er

    Never mind blind people,

    what about those who rely largely on their ears for road-traversing safety. If they're that quiet, we'll all have to re-train.

    Why not manufacture a key-ring/white cane/hearing aid that vibrates when in proximity to an electric vehicle and give people a choice as to whether they need one in their pocket/hand/ear or not, rather than having no choice other than to be offended by the 'ring-tone' sound of the latest EV?

    I guess the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act could be satisfied by such a solution, so lets not panic, eh?

  56. Anonymous Coward

    Noise doesn't always help

    I have a friend who lost his dad thanks to a vehicle which was fitted with a beeper. His dad wasn't blind. His dad wasn't deaf. His dad was run over by a bus which was reversing. The driver had assumed that people would get out of the way and didn't want to bother looking. There simply wasn't enough time to get out of the way and the bus was going to fast.

    I've had a few near misses myself with reversing vehicles. Sometimes there is nowhere to move to. If you're a car, it's easy, they can see that and you are protected a bit whilst being crunched. But when you are in a crowded environment and you are on foot or on your bike, there isn't usually much time or space available between the beeps starting and the vehicle being on you - eg a traffic queue when someone decides to reverse to change lane, or a parked vehicle wanting to move off.

    Many times whilst in traffic I have seen cyclists in traffic slap the side or rear of a car or lorry to get the attention of the driver before they are squashed. Sometimes they have to abandon the bike - if they are lucky, they and the bike are fine. But I know quite a few cyclists who have had their bikes run over by lorries.

    For every life this will save, it will perhaps take another. How many lives have beeping vehicles saved? Drivers being aware of their environment comes first and foremost wrt road safety.

  57. gollux

    Strap-ons for simulating old tech.

    Reminds me of an ad from the early days of automobiles. It was a horse head and forequarters you strapped to the front of the car so your horseless carriage wouldn't alarm all the horses on the road.

    It's one of those measures that will be quaint and annoying over time.

  58. Andus McCoatover


    Isn't it true that losing one sense (sight) enhances another (hearing)?

    I once had an argument with a copper when I was a lad. I didn't have a bell on my bike. He explained "You must have an audible means of approach"*. I replied that I always have one on me. "Where, sonny" - hated being called "sonny"

    "GET OUT THE FUCKING WAY!!!!" I shouted - works for me. Surprisingly, I won the argument. Then it was "Dixon of Dock Green" Britain, not "Met Britain".

    Evening, all.

    Should the blind be forced to wear flashing waistcoats, so drivers know where they are? (OK, might make them points-collectable targets, but a bloke walking a Labrador, waving a white stick's a dead giveaway)

    Maybe we'll pass the law in Britain to prevent Prime Ministers (current one anyway) being squashed like a bug by a 'lekky motor.

    Nah. Keep it like it is......There's always hope....

    * Reminds me of the Cosmopolitan article years ago, when vibrators were discussed. One doctor wrote in, pompously that "One should never put anything unsterilised in the vagina" to which the (bleeding obvious) reply came "How does one sterlilse a penis? By boiling?"

  59. Anonymous Coward

    @Simon Neill

    "Bikes can't go 60mph" They b****y well can.

    I have done at least 64mph on a standard mountain bike on a public road (OK, so I was exceeding the 60 limit... sue me).

    You see what it feels like having a fly hit you at 60+mph - it hurts (not helmet etc)

    However, the difference is that bike riders pay attention; most car drivers don't seem to.

  60. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    @Maxime Rainville

    "And is that number significant enough to impose an extra regulation?"

    Ah, the Elephant in the room. Specifically the one that applies to all road transport, not just electric cars.

    Your assumption there is that somewhere there's an "acceptable level" of road deaths. However, ask anyone at the political sharp end of the road safety business and that level is zero. This is patently impossible to achieve as long as road vehicles are controlled by human beings. People make mistakes and such mistakes have a habit of killing people. Buses kill people, trucks kill people, cars kill people, motorcycles kill people and bicycles sometimes kill people. Hell, even other pedestrians can accidently kill people.

    So the answer here is: yes, the number is significant enough, but only if you're a politician. This is why we live in a continuous drizzle of ever more draconian road safety legislation chasing ever smaller returns in safety at the expense of ever higher levels of expense and inconvenience to road users.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember a bit of history

    Drop the knee-jerk US bashing. Search Google for "Whispering Death Trolley" and see what comes up.


  62. breakfast Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Do they really care?

    If the US really cares about pedestrians, why do they design all their towns to be accessible by car and nothing else?

  63. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Stupid Pedestrians ?

    "Stupid pedestrians" - I've seen this a couple of times in the past few weeks in comments at El Reg.

    Truth is pedestrians are allowed to be stupid, and should be expected to be so. We all do stupid things at one time or another, usually being lucky enough to survive it.

    Perhaps those who hold the view that pedestrians are somehow inferior to themselves, stupid pedestrians deserve whatever they get, subscribe to the principles of 'ethnic cleansing' and eugenics ?

    I bet their tune soon changes though when they are on the receiving end.

  64. Anonymous Coward

    artificially created problems

    1. Sound is not a very helpful indicator on a heavily trafficed road.

    2. It would be a stupid idea for any person to cross a heavily trafficed road, even with exceptional care, where cars drive 60/h without using a pedestrian crossing etc. Sound or no sound.

    3. Only on quiet roads with very little traffic and with low speed limit does sound make a significant difference.

    4. Most of the sound that many modern fossil fuel cars make today in slow spead comes from the tires. In fact many cars are so quiet that owners have been known to try to start cars (again) when the engines were already up and running.

    So the legislators have yet again ignored the real world issues and created an imaginary problem based on their ignorance drawing on amateurish logic. What else is new...

  65. James O'Shea

    So they want noise, eh?

    I have a few .MP3s of assorted tank sounds. My current favs are recordings of an M1 Abrams starting up (the thing has a friggin' _jet engine_. It's _loud_.) and another one of an Abrams firing its main gun. I think that I'd use the engine start noise for when I start up an electric, and the main gun noise for when I see someone crossing the street in front of me. I also have a recording of the co-ax and cupola machine guns in action; that'll do for when I'm passing by whoever had been about to cross in front of me before I fired the main gun.

    Alternatively I could just pipe through a few bars of 'Scotland the Brave'. Complete with bagpipes. Silly buggers will never cross a road again after _that_.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Rather defeats the object of the exercise, doesn't it? Nice, environmentally-friendly car that makes a non-environmentally-friendly noise? "

    Not at all. The object of the electric car is to reduce pollution. That objective is still achieved if the car has to artificially make a noise.

    Your conflict of an environmentally friendly car that makes a non-environmentally friendly noise isn't valid. The fact the car makes any kind of noise, environmentally friendly or not, doesn't make a heap of difference to the actual environmentally friendliness of the car itself.

    You're mixing up two different things: the environmentally friendliness of the car and what noise it makes.

  67. Giles Jones Gold badge


    Bikes are capable of doing 30MPH. Easily enough to kill someone or the rider if they're forced to make an abrupt stop.

    Adults who can see need to look not listen for traffic.

    Those that cannot see should stick to designated crossings or indicate they are about to cross the road in some way.

  68. Anonymous Coward

    @AC 0625 25/04

    "Then Im getting a g-wizz, big stereo, amp and speakers and a CD of V8 engines being revved... try and judge my speed now!"

    About 0mph after the first 30ft, due to your big stereo, amp and speakers flattening the battery...

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Ah, the internal combustion engine?

    In the UK vehicles motivated by internal combustion engines at some early point in there introduction required a person to walk ahead of the vehicle waving flags and attracting attention.

    In the 21st century electric cars might require someone to walk ahead waving a flag to attract attention? No?

    Whatever the ruling is or may be I hope it is piloted first in suitable rural, town and city environs with a view to establishing what might be the most effective solution. And as it is a state motivated conditionality on electric vehicles I truly hope that the state will pick up the tab as part of its commitment (or should I type " -ahem- hrrmph hrrmph, "commitment" " to lowering dubious omissions?

    ps - by picking up the tab I mean that early adopters should be reasonably recompensed partly for their assistance in helping fine tune suitable remedies to efficient, effective and safe uptake that might have impact on millions of people for many years to come.

    Why not? Well, bluntly, what's the point in having international, national, regional, shire-wide, city-wide, local forms of administration if such are not willing to be put out for the common good?

    We might as well have done with and save oodles of hard earned dosh? (Same view holds on stuff like 'market forces' (if governments cannot protect/insulate their people from market forces what is the point in having such governments? and so forth ... )

  70. JimC

    > However, the difference is that bike riders pay attention


  71. Orv Silver badge

    @Mr. K, JK:

    @Mr. K: I think leader dogs rely primarily on sound, not sight, to determine when it's safe to cross. Dogs are quite nearsighted.

    @JK: The problem isn't so much blind people trying to cross in moving traffic; at any reasonable traffic speed car tires make enough noise to be audible, and drivers are required to stop for a blind person carrying a white cane. But at traffic lights blind people and/or their leader dogs listen to the traffic noise to tell them when the light is in their favor. Hybrids and electric cars make no noise at all when stopped.

  72. vincent himpe


    simply install that volvo automatic braking system. if it detects an obstacle it jams the brakes shut.

    a similar system could be used. a simple passive infrared detector can scan for 'warm' objects such as people.

  73. Neoc
    Thumb Down

    Re: This isn't a new problem

    @Murray Pearson Posted Saturday 25th April 2009 14:41 GMT

    "Personally, I'd say the solution is to change the laws to make drivers explicitly responsible for pedestrian fatalities they cause, with colossal penalties. That'll cause responsible drivers to PAY ATTENTION DAMMIT and eliminate the irresponsible ones."

    What? As opposed to the number of idiotic pedestrians I've had to deal with over the years who simply step off the curb without looking, forcing me to screech to a halt, and then have the gall to abuse *me* for actually having missed hitting them?

    As a driver, *I* have to exercise caution when crossing a sidewalk. As a pedestrian *you* should also have to exercise caution when stepping onto a street. Your comment reminds of the guy who jumped into a lion's enclosure then tried to sue the zoo for not having declawed the lions to make the enclosure safe for tourists.

    Stupidity should not be encouraged. Making the electrical cars "louder" for those who cannot see them is as stupid as my forcing the government to make the road-signs larger and have the cars and pedestrians wear fluoro colours because my eyesight is not 20/20 and I'd otherwise have to wear glasses (and yes, I do wear glasses to drive).

    Having said that, I *am* in favour of the silent -signal-to-a-receiver option for the visually impaired - they should have *some* warning... just not one that is an imposition on *everyone*.

  74. Keith T

    I have a blind friend and this is a big concern for them.

    I have a blind friend and this is a big concern for them.

    Hybrid cars are already a serious hazard for him.

    It is sufficient if electric vehicles are as quiet as the quietest normal internal combustion powered vehicles. With study and experiments, it may be possible to make them quieter, but still give enough locatable noise to be safe.

  75. Keith T

    It requires courage to walk city streets when blind

    It requires immense courage to walk city streets when totally or near totally blind. I doubt I would have enough.

    The protocol for crossing a city street with traffic lights is go to the corner and listen for traffic to stop.

    If hear no traffic, you wait until there is some, or until someone comes by to help you. (This can be a problem in the late evening.)

    With a few hybrids, silent vehicles are not common enough to present an immense problem. But when electric cars predominate, if they are almost totally silent, this technique just won't work.

    As for the wag who suggested bicycles aren't a problem for blind people, oh yes they are.

    But the damage a bicycle can do when in a collision is limited by its gross weight and speed.

    You just don't see many 1 tonne bicycles doing 30 mph in cities.

    (And of course cyclists have much better awareness of what is going on around them, not being enclosed in a cab.)

  76. Charles Manning

    Fear of the new

    Whenever a new technology comes along, every blogger and politician wants to make his mark by yelling about its dangers.

    If knives were invented in modern times, kitchen knives would only be bade of foam and sold through controlled channels. They would come in boxes covered in WARNING-SHARP OBJECT labels (rather than the current one which says "Warning contains a plastic bag which the young tykes might swallow or pull over his head").

    Beer would not be allowed by the FDA because they fed some lab rats beer and they got sleepy/violent/pregnant.

    Thankfully brewing, knives and fire were invented long ago before PC was invented. If the FDA was any good at its job they'd ban PC for causing irrational fear.

  77. Anonymous Coward

    @ Steven Jones

    "shouting at a pedestrian is a lot more intrusive and aggressive sounding than letting one know gently by an appropriate audible warning"

    I'm sorry, but has to be the funniest thing I've ever read in my life. I'll try to remember that when some idiot looks right at me while they're jay walking, when I have the right of way. Now my question to you is: is it still considered intrusive and aggressive to swear at them, because you wind up wrecking your bike, while avoiding them? Or should I just give them a big hug?

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Most cars are so quiet all you can hear is the tires, electric ones still have tires dont they?

  79. Nick Askew


    I really am unsure which side of the fence is more comfortable so I might just end up sitting on it here. As a cyclist I often listen for cars behind me before making a visual check, the sound of the vehicle really helps but I suspect that should only be in a belt and braces fashion. Indeed pitty the person who is blind and has to rely on hearing in a traffic situation but I suspect precious few of them will be riding bicycles.

    While we are talking about bicycles, it was only yesterday that I saw some kid cycling along with one of those 'exhausts' on his bike and a little flappy thing that helped make his bicycle sound like a motor bike. There are other examples of artifically noisy vehicle too, most lorries and busses have beepers for reversing. Perhaps all vehicles could have such a thing attached as surely that is the time that a blind peron is most likely to be caught out as one of these new fangled things comes gliding silently out of a parking space. In fact it might be argued that all of us could do with a little warning in this situation.

    On the other hand the quietness of electric vehicles is possibly a key selling point after the pollution benefits. Imaging a world where living next to a busy road does not mean you have to keep your windows closed to keep out the smell and the noise. Sure there are old gits who would say that the noise is a key part of a vehicle but those people mostly present infantile motoring shows. For most people living in big cities the prospect of silent vehicles is something to be welcomed and if we can couple in some kind of futuristic forward looking infrared camera system then the presence of errant pedestrians on the road need not be such a problem.

  80. JW Smythe

    beep beep beep beep beep

    I can just see every car on the road, by law, having the jetsons car noise.

    I can almost understand the need for a little noise. Someone I work with has a hybrid car. I've walked out of work with him, walked the other way, and never heard him drive off. I just glance over, and his car is gone (with him in it).

    I drive a nice loud car, when I want it to be. At idle, it's quiet. If I rev the engine, the throaty V8 sound reminds you that I'm there. I've found just revving my engine once is more intimidating than the horn. One night, a driver (probably drunk) was sitting at a green light, with 6 cars behind him. I was #4. My friend was #3. Everyone was honking, except me. Once I was sufficiently annoyed that he didn't know how to go through a green light, I just revved my engine once. He was moving almost immediately. When we got to our destination, my friend was laughing his ass off about it. I have no need for a horn. I also use it to let a friend know I'm almost home. As I pass the house, I rev my engine one. Not much, just a quick rev to 3k RPM and back to idle. It's a subtle reminder that I'm driving past. It's our prearranged notice that I'm almost home. If they need me for something, my phone rings shortly after. :) It's not as obnoxious as a horn honk, so no other neighbors have complained.

  81. Anonymous Coward


    This law is clearly discriminatory against deaf/blind people.

    The cars, in addition to making loud noise (to cater for the hard of hearing), should also be made to vibrate the ground in some way, so that deaf/blind people can feel the tremor / rumble when there are any electric cars in the vicinity.

    Safety is paramount and one disability should not be prioritised over another.

  82. Edward Miles

    This is a brilliant idea... long as I can make mine sound like a Tie Fighter :D

  83. Tim

    An idea

    If they fitted each leccy car with a petrol powered generator, it could make some noise and save on recharging time too.

    Sometimes my brilliance amazes me.


  84. Dave Bell

    At least it's getting talked about

    I don't know how much use traffic noise is now, It's so pervasive. How do you judge the direction of a sound from all around?

    We might actually get something useful from this. There's a lot of alarms--reversing and police sirens--where you know they're somewhere out there, but you can't easily tell a direction.

    And we might get a good dose of stupidity.

  85. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge


    What ever happened to sonar glasses? A long time ago, some company was talking about building ultrasonic doppler sensors into glasses so the blind could sense approaching obstacles. It could probably use LEDs to send out focused IR pulses. What about a camera that translates images into tactile stimulus for a finger? I don't see how that tech would cost more than $150 today.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Are you serious? You think blind people pop up out of nowhere and cross roads anywhere? The middle of a highway, maybe? Just parked their car perhaps? You're suggesting that we redesign the entire world just for blind people? A noble sentiment but rather impossible.

    How exactly does a blind person navigate on their own without any landmarks such as crossings? Face it - they have restricted movement. They will never get it all back unless they get artificial or restored sight. Why would a blind person attempt to cross a road at anywhere other than a crossing without a seeing-eye dog or a helper, even with regular cars? That's courting disaster, even now! Blind people should stay on the pavement and cross at crossings - which is what they do now and I have never, in many, many years heard of or seen a blind person attempt to cross a road by themselves at anywhere other than a crossing. Even sighted pedestrians should stick to crossings a lot more than they do. If it was, for some reason, essential for a blind person to cross a road anywhere other than a crossing, then they really must have a seeing-eye dog or a sighted helper - I would have thought that was obvious enough. And BTW, a bicycle (silent) will still do a blind person injury in a collision on a road.

    If you want to re-design the whole world for disabled people, then you can pay for it yourself (or are you only a supporter of the proposal as long as someone else pays?). I'll limit my tax support to designing/redesigning crossings, building entrances and selected phone/internet/library services and the like - basically what we do now, since it's perfectly adequate. We've been putting in audible signals at crossings for many years and they work just fine.

    This "noisemaker" proposal is just another ill-thought, knee-jerk reaction from dumb politicians who believe that the cost of anything they propose if zero and that the benefits they imagine are somehow magical and all-pervasive. They want their hero status and they want it now.

    But I'm not surprised there a few arguing the other way. After all, it's always an easy position to take to "defend" the disabled, the children, the ethnic minorities or the poor, regardless of the merits of the case, the costs or whether it was needed in the first place. I'll paraphrase a saying that has become all too common ..... "won't some think of the blind people"?

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Trend to Support Case

    Go back, say, 40 years, when cars were noisier, and follow trends forward - you will easily see a trend of cars getting quieter and blind people enjoying greater mobility and better services, and FEWER injuries/fatalities involving pedestrians (both number and percentage) including fewer involving blind people. It seems to me that there is no correlation at all between car noise and blind person mobility or pedestrian (blind person) accidents.

  88. JohnG

    I drive a Prius...

    .. and I have had several cases where people have walked out in front of the car when it is in electric mode, particularly in car parks. However, I have never run anyone over because I am aware that that pedestrians may not hear the car coming and drive more carefully in these situations. It's pretty simple really, much like being aware that children or animals might run into the road because they haven't got much road sense. Road users, whether driving, walking or cycling, all need to pay attention to what is going on around them. The idea that some artificial noise on electric vehicles will help anyone in a busy street surrounded by other noises from all directions is plain daft. Have you ever noticed how people in busy city streets cannot tell which direction approaching emergency vehicles are coming from from until they are almost on top of them?

  89. JK

    @additional hilarity

    er... my mistake. Sorry, got Kerry mixed with Gore. So, no, I guess Kerry was never a champion for green.

  90. Richard Porter
    Thumb Down

    Re: How about touch?

    Perfectly sensible! Fit leccy vehicles with long whiskers so that they gently prod the pedestrians to get out of the way before anything more solid hits them.

    Actually I don't remember many blind people getting run down by trolleybuses.

  91. GrahamT

    We've been there

    For many years; from the 50's through the 80's, Britain had more electric vehicles on the road than the rest of the world combined. They were called milk floats. The only noise they made was the whirr of the motors and the clank of the bottles in their crates (even that was reduced when plastic crates were introduced) They were deliberatly quiet so that people wouldn't be woken early in the morning when they started their rounds, but if you were awake you could hear them going by outside.

    In all my years, I never heard of it being a problem for blind - or any other - people. The pitch of an electric motor is high enough to cut through most traffic noise, especially if your hearing is acute, as it is for many vision impaired people.

    Of course the noise of impatient car drivers revving their engines behind one as it crept back to the depot , at 5 mph with an almost flat battery, was a bit of a giveaway too ;-)

  92. J Ford

    Think of the kittens...

    My cats often like to sit in the middle of the road washing their posteriors, and having seen the occasional near miss, I'm all for something that alerts them to oncoming traffic in the age of the silent electric car. Of course, eventually we will have some sort of GPS beacon attached to felines which automatically applies the brakes of approaching traffic, but until then, just a little noise would be nice.

  93. WinHatter
    Thumb Down

    Leccy car detector

    What about a standard emitter on the car that can be picked up by the receptor the blind people may need.

    Batteries for such devices will be paid for by SUV owners and idiots with extra loud "audio" sound systems.

    That should be an interim measure whilst all the cars are being converted to quieter models so the device is no longer needed. Or make the noise emitting system aware of the noise ambiance so you don't get a 90 dB level in a 45 dB background.

    Having said that Yanks love noisy things, I got meself a US PC that goes "BEEP BEEP BEEP ..." when shutting down ... how annoying.

  94. Matt D

    Imagine it...

    ...Every electric car driver having the choice of either sticking with the standard, neutral, standard-issue car noise, or paying a small fee to have the sound of their choice installed, as people currently do with mobile phones. Imagine a big city full of cars making the sound of TIE fighters, steam engines, the Rolling Stones doing 'Gimme Shelter', dogs barking, air-raid sirens, Krusty the Klown laughing etc. It would sound like a circus in an amusement arcade.

  95. Rosco

    @ James O'Brien

    "I average about 35-40 mph on my bike"

    I seriously doubt that. Lance Armstrong averaged 33mph over the prolog stage of his last Tour de France (about 12 miles). Either you mean Kmph or you've configured your bike's speedometer very incorrectly.

  96. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Cycles are not particularly safe due to being silent, how many accidents are there between cyclists and pedestrians particularly in large cycle populations? I doubt the poor guy who I saw have his Jaw ripped apart (amonst other injuries) by a silent cyclist hitting him from behind in Utrecht would agree that they are not dangerous! I was petrified when I was over there due to the high speed silent bikes whizzing around everwhere with no regard for pedestrians. I also witnessed 2 cyclists hit head on when both silently came around a bend on a cycle path, much injury resulting!

  97. Steve


    Are much higher up and can see where they are going, and we don't normally speed, we don't have blind spots, oh and my air horn works for the ipodded tards out there.

  98. Matt Newton

    Isn't it obvious why they're doing ths?

    They've been lobbied by the motor industry who sees electric cars as competition to their oil based ones. If the government takes away one of the benefits of electric cars (much quieter), it may not make as many people switch.

  99. Adrian Tritschler
    Thumb Down

    It isn't for the blind, its for the stupid

    Too many cell-phone addicted foot-bound idiots want other people to do the thinking for them. I'm amazed at the number of idiots I see every day who walk straight onto the road without looking, eyes glazed over staring at the 2" screen in their hand as they desperately update their myspace, facebook or twitter updates to say "i'm off the train now, i'll be with you in... *SPLAT*

    Think of it as evolution in action, make the cars quieter and put a dirty great steel spike pointing up from the centre of the steering wheel. People inside and outside the car will pay more attention to their driving.

  100. Anonymous Coward

    @ imagine it

    I have a friend who knows a guy that has spoken to an inside source.

    Apparantly the idea is lobbied by the same industry that currently sells downloadable ringtones to your mobile phones. Not wanting to miss out on a new business opportunity they are looking at a new future market to exploit. The idea is to enhance the customer experience and give the owners of electric vehicles the possibility to buy subscriptions to downloadable *car-tunes* to their electric vehicle...

  101. Anonymous Coward

    @ @ imagine it

    To coin a phrase: Was that "car tunes" or "car toons"?

    I'd like to claim the Trademark and Registered mark right now ... CarToon (TM) (R)

  102. MnM
    Dead Vulture

    pub landlord would not be happy

    just remember, nobheads, that over here we like to strike a balance between too many rules and too few.

    Noise isn't necessarily desirable but it's still a feature of cars today, has been for decades, and has made it into the green cross code. This is about general awareness of heavy fast lumps. Sound is useful, what with it travelling round corners much faster than the vehicles it's telegraphing. Horn arguments blatantly miss the point, because the point is about pedestrian awareness, not driver awareness. Bicycle arguments miss the point because bicyles can't judge the dross of humanity as well as powered vehicels can (I'm referring to the fully-facultied, grown-up paedestrians who have such faith that the road is clear if they can't hear anything, that they walk into me and my bike.)

    My flatmate witnessed a woman talking on her phone walk out into the road right in front of a London bus, going slowly, but there was no time to brake. Entirely her fault. Her head hit the windscreen at about 10 mph and it critically injured her, not sure if she survived or not. Stupid as it sounds, all the hubbab in the centre of town and a concentration lapse was all it took. It's less funny when a bus is involved, not a bicycle.

  103. Paul Stockwell
    Jobs Halo

    Not the first time this has been done

    This has come up before in the US. During the 1930's a chap named Abner Doble built some remarkable steam-driven cars that not only could hold thier own easily with modern traffic but were so silent that were required in Califonian state law to carry what amounted to a UK football rattle rotated by the front axle so pedestrians could hear them coming!

    The technology he pioneered went on to be incorporated into various railcars and the Sentinel S8 Steam lorry as well as domestic steam boilers and is worth a look. The cars were very well engineered and most still survive.

  104. Dave

    Highway Code

    How about someone introduces a rule or Law that says that drivers & riders should watch out for, and give way to pedestrians, whether sighted or not?

    What? You say there is one already?

  105. Baldychap

    For all those bleating on about crossings....

    ...It's maybe a fair comment in the centre of large towns, but as soon as you move towards the residential roads then you'll find there are no crossings and you have to cross where you can.

    I like to think of myself as observant, but there have been a couple of times the 'leccy cars have caught me by surprise. You don't realise how much you are trained to listen for cars until it happens.

    I think leccy cars should make some sort of noise, but it should be standardised, with no option of modifications. Surely it shouldn't be too hard for the volume to automatically adjust to the surroundings so that quiet areas stay that way.

  106. Steve

    "Bicycles have existed for centuries without that being a problem..."

    Speak for yourself. I've had many very close misses with pedestrians stepping out in my path when I'm on my bike. I've never had any form of close shave when driving my car.

    Some perspective:

    As it is, many people don't look when they cross the road. There were 646 pedestrian fatalities in 2007, 74% of those resulting from pedestrian error, most of the error was 'failing to look properly' (RCGB2007). If this is left unchecked, silent cars will make the problem worse.

  107. David Evans
    Thumb Up

    Believe it or not, this is a good idea

    I've actually visited a place where there were no combustion vehicles, only electric golf carts and bicycles; Caye Caulker in Belize. It was LETHAL. Every vehicle was silent and fast moving, but at least being open there was the option for drivers to shout at soon-to-be-run-over pedestrians. With real electric cars there were be no such option. This isn't just about blind people; entire populations have been trained to use their ears at least as much as their eyes in traffic.

  108. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Someone got hit by a silent electric car?

    He didn't see that coming.

  109. Anthony Charlton

    How many blind people are they?

    Instead of making cars noisy, which is unpleasant and unnecessary for the 99.9% of the population that can see them, what about some sort of doppler system for blind people that tells them when a vehicle is approaching? It works for bats and dolphins.

  110. Eduard Coli
    Black Helicopters

    Smile citizen BB loves you!

    "non-visual alert regarding the location, motion, speed, and direction of travel of a motor vehicle."

    Could also be interpreted to mean a tracking system for all cars.

  111. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How often do people need telling? On current IC powered cars by far the loudest noise at anything much above walking pace is tyre noise. OK so under hard acceleration an IC powered car will make more noise than an EV, but most of the time the difference will hardly be noticable.

    I can only assume that most of the people complaining about EVs being silent have never actually heard an EV and have never actually listened to a modern IC powered car passing.

  112. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That reminds me ...

    My car is very quiet and has caught a few people out in car parks - I sit there patiently until they turn around and go "Oh! Sorry, I didn't even know you were there" - I can't bring myself to beep a pedestrian in a carpark.

    A few times I've caught myself out especially in bright sunlight when the instruments are harder to see: start the car, get distracted with something in map pockets or glove box, start the car ... Do'h! Thank God for the cut-out that prevents the starter motor from engaging when the engine is running.

  113. Anonymous Coward

    Try this...

    A "non-visual alert regarding the location, motion, speed, and direction of travel of a motor vehicle"?

    Here's a little experiment for sighted readers to try. Stand at the edge of the pavement on any main road in London (Tottenham Court Road works well) at the location of your choice during a busy period and close your eyes. You will be horrified to find that it is actually almost impossible to judge the location, motion, speed or direction of travel of any single vehicle until it is right in front of you, producing a level of noise substantially higher than the background road traffic noise level.

    My training as an acoustical engineer and the tiny shred of common sense I have tell me that this is possibly an misguided idea. But I would rather like it if my P-reg Micra made a noise like a Bugatti so maybe there is something in this after all.

  114. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I tried this today

    I spent a couple of hours in the city and suburbs as a pedestrian today, so I tried this at every intersection and every crossing (i.e. closing my eyes and trying to judge location and movement of traffic from sound alone). Impossible! There is no way a person can judge the traffic - there's far too much noise in the city and even suburban areas, e.g. the local shops. This would only work for one or two vehicles ... on a quiet stretch of road ... exactly where blind people aren't!

    In other words, it's a stupid idea.

  115. Anonymous Coward

    Already Done...

    Brabus have already released a "tuned" version of the Tesla complete with V8 soundtrack:

  116. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why 2 fucking years????

    What really gets up my nose are these stupid fucking committee types and take for ever and fuck around add infinitum... just to do a simple thing.

    What? You mean these stupid individuals cannot screw a little 50mm high brass bell onto the front of the vehicle - with a wind chime style driven donger - or something as equally simple?

    I mean electric vehicles are great.... but add a little bit of back ground noise - like other vehicles, birds, a breeze etc., and you cannot hear them coming.

    It's a fair call to a stupid committee.

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