How About Those New Rules For “Quiet” Cars?

Tesla Model 3

AUG 19 2018 BY EVANNEX 64


The auto industry has been working for decades to make cars quieter, and now it seems it has succeeded a bit too well. Silent operation is one of the features that many drivers love about electric vehicles, but it poses a real danger to blind (or simply inattentive) pedestrians.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: The ultra-quiet Tesla Model S (Image: Arctic Swan)

In order to improve safety on the streets, the US Congress mandated in 2010 that electrified vehicles, or “quiet cars,” be equipped to emit “alert sounds” to warn pedestrians of their approach. Now Reuters reports that, after multiple delays, the US DOT has finalized rules that will require electrified vehicles to generate sounds when moving at speeds of up to 18.6 miles per hour. At higher speeds, according to regulators, tire and wind noise make artificial sounds unnecessary.

The new regulation requires automakers to add the sounds to 50 percent of vehicles by September 2019, and to all vehicles by September 2020. Regulators said they will consider a request from automakers to allow car owners to select from multiple sounds.

Above: Perhaps a future software update could enable a Tesla to emit a friendly sound to pedestrians (Image: Arctic Swan)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it expects about 530,000 model 2020 vehicles to be affected. NHTSA says the rules will cost the auto industry about $40 million per year, as automakers will need to add an external waterproof speaker to comply. However, the agency predicts the new rules will prevent 2,400 injuries annually, saving between 250 million and 320 million dollars.

NHTSA estimates that the odds of a hybrid vehicle being involved in a pedestrian crash are 19 percent higher than those of a legacy vehicle. About 125,000 pedestrians and cyclists are injured each year on US roads.

Above: More on the ‘Quiet Cars’ rule (Youtube: Wochit News)

“This rule strikes the right balance for automakers and for the blind community,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

So what kind of sound will automakers opt for? Commenters have suggested the sound of The Jetsons’ flying car, sleigh bells, or perhaps the theme from Jaws. However, it might be appropriate to use something that subtly reminds people of the technological shift that is underway, such as the sound of a team of horses, a steam locomotive or a clipper ship under full sail.


Written by: Charles Morris; This article was originally published in Charged; Source: Reuters

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers, free of charge. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX. Check out the site here.

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64 Comments on "How About Those New Rules For “Quiet” Cars?"

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How about the spaceships/speeders from Star Wars?
Wouldn’t that be futuristic?!

My 1st Gen Leaf had a subtle “whoosh” sound under 19 mph, wasn’t all that unpleasant. I’ve almost struck people in parking lots who walked right out in front of me while they were staring at their cell phones. Every time I brake and they finally look up it’s always my fault. Crowded parking lots are the worst, because the slow speeds = not tire noise, and pedestrians always turn their brains off because it’s not a busy street. It’s also why I like my Volt’s pedestrian horn, subtle little chirp that it makes.

and still, in our Leaf, I can’t count the number of times people didn’t notice the sound. Once I followed right behind a lady walking right down the middle of the parking lot lane, completely oblivious to the sound 5 feet behind her.

Maybe you argue she was hard of hearing? I think she would have been more attentive to where she was walking then. I think she was just stupid.

People are just checked out, they bury themselves in their phones and the world gets tuned out. I hear ya!

Operating at low speeds is not necessarily quiet for evs. If the AC is on for example it will make enough noise for the car to get noticed. The other thing that can be done here is to use the visual feeds or radar sensors and generate a sound only if pedestrians are detected. Let’s not make more noise pollution han we have to.

Pedestrian detection would be nice, but it’s sometimes impossible, as when they walk out from between parked cars. Children, especially.

Amen! Vigilance is key. And I hope you’re having a great day, Seven.

You as well!

We should be allowed to choose music maybe? I’d love to cruise through the lot broadcasting “IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA” !!!!

or maybe Foghat’s “Slow Ride” ?

I like the idea of pimping he sound system to the outside.

I have had as many problems with inattentive pedestrians in our Bolt (with sound module removed) as our ICE cars. When you aren’t focussing, you can miss most anything. I wonder how the NHTSA estimated the carnage savings.

NHTSA did not base the estimate on a scientific data set – It is a number taken from out of the blue.

People like you who knowingly remove safety equipment are a-holes. This has an asymmetrically worse impact on people around you as opposed to to say a seatbelt which is for your own good.

Uh oh. You’re violating commentary rules.

His “safety equipment” was not required, nor has anyone shown the noise emitter actually improves safety. The upcoming regulation was issued by this administration to further discriminate against hybrids and EVs, not to protect people.

Its is mandatory in EU from 07/2019 onwards for new cars, to have external sound below 20 km/h for pedestrian safety.
I would like to know the sound of the Tesla Model 3. It should be already designed. The M3 for EU MUST have some external speakers.
My ZOE from 2013 has 6 speakers and an updatable sound generator for speeds below 30 km/h.

The Model 3 can already chirp on lock and unlock, but otherwise haven’t seen evidence of external speakers.

Why would other evidence be needed? If it can make one sound clearly audible outside and the sound isn’t mechanical, isn’t it very likely coming from one or more speakers? I’m going to assume you’re aware that a speaker that can make chirping sounds will also be able to make a wide range of other sounds…

The “chirp” is from the Model 3 horn, not a speaker.

It should be the sound of tires on gravel. Organic and universally understood, or almost so.

That is perfect, but only if they won’t let us do the coconut horse sounds from Monty Python.

I think you just won the discussion. I like your suggestion even better than my “Kill the Waaaabit!” idea! 🙂

That would be absolutely freaking awesome!!!

The good news is that the rattling subwoofers of many lowered Impalas already meet this requirement, saving the owners any additional costs in their future electric conversions.

I actually did some tests with loud artificial sounds for my Nissan Leaf. Crossing a busy street where a number of pedestrians often ignore the traffic lights I found that the artificial sounds did little or no difference. The problem seems to be mainly related to smartphone use by the pedestrians.

Perhaps the best approach is to modify smartphones to alert the user to incoming cars.

Or just let natural selection run its course.

Yup. “Think of it as evolution in action.” 😉

What *would* Darwin say?

I concur, preferably before they’ve had the chance to procreate. Albeit a bit crude, it would surely smarten and strengthen up the human population by weeding out some of the zombies living inside their phones.
Natural selection back in business? Who would’ve thunk it?!

If the problem is simply down to phone zombies, how do you explain the 20% increased incidence for hybrids versus ICE?

What sounds are more effective would be investigated though. The may be major differences, and an “organic” sound isn’t necessarily the most effective.

I like, “Hey I’m Drivin’ Here.” Translated into the locally popular idiom.

Seems like the most common idiom I see on the roads between drivers is the middle finger. Not sure I would want to walk around with a bunch of cars shouting “Hey, F*** You!!” all the time…. *grin*

Not far in the future even headlights gonna take their part.

An another idiotic law! What about the gas cars that are super quiet? I had a civic that no one would hear when I drove around a parking lot. I lost count how many people on their phones or just lost in another thought jumped once they noticed me. Seems this law is only created to punish EV manufactures and buyers.

They are affected too. At least in the EU it will affect all cars.
At least we don’t have the stupid beeping on reverse.

In other news, in 2022 all bikes and pedestrians will be required to emit a buzz when cycling or walking at low speed.

This really seems so unnecessary. People look up when I get close to them even driving less than 20mph. I notice no difference driving my Tesla or Murano.

Several options: BMW already has a soundtrack for M5
Harley Davidson engine popping the throttle
I want diesel Semi engine noise with an air horn for those really engrossed in their texting.

The bolt already does this and it is annoying to me as a driver. I doubt it will have much if any effect on accidents, but people will figure out how to bypass or disable the noise makers.

If you have figured out how to bypass it, the correct grammar is “it WAS annoying”. 😉

Seems to me it would be possible to play the exact reverse sound inside the car that is being played outside, so that it won’t affect the car occupants inside as it will be very muted,

Any rules should apply equally to EV’s and to quiet ICE cars, based upon how much noise they make below 18 mph. There are very quiet ICE cars too.

We should demand that one of the alternative sound tracks be “Ride of the Valkyries” played (on external speakers only!) at 200+ decibels. Preferably the version from “What’s Opera, Doc?”, with Elmer Fudd singing “Kill the waaaabit, kill the waaaabit, kill the waaaabit!”

Too much, you say? Well, at least that would put an end to complaints about electric cars being “Too quiet!” 😉


“So what kind of sound will automakers opt for? Commenters have suggested the sound of The Jetsons’ flying car, sleigh bells, or perhaps the theme from Jaws.”

But seriously, I kinda like the sound of the “spinner” flying cars from the “Blade Runner” movie. Come to think of it, that’s not too dissimilar to the Jetson’s flying car noise, altho somewhat less silly. Perhaps an homage by the “Blade Runner” sound designer?

Just as long as the requirement is that it be no louder than gasoline powered vehicles. Will gasoline powered cars require the same? And are we discriminating against the hearing impaired?

There were once a megaphone with farming sounds available. Might do the trick.

It wouldn’t make a difference to have a car playing sound with a good majority of pedestrians playing sound to their ears. I think with today’s technology the car itself can keep an eye out and stop before they hit a pedestrian. Why make things noisier than they need to be.

Should be applied to all cars, or no cars.

Forced Volt->Bolt Conversion

Nothing like “you must do this” to bring out our inner child. “You must brush your teeth.” “No, all dentists are wrong and it won’t make any difference and I’m not gonna!”

Rinse and repeat.

Going to the trouble to disconnect an automobile part that produces a statistical improvement in safety suggests a whole special level of ignorance and failure of imagination, along the lines of removing seatbelts because they’re not guaranteed to save all lives in all circumstances. And “I don’t believe it” isn’t an argument, just disagreement that doesn’t wash against meek acceptance by auto manufacturers, the historically ultimate “pinch pennies until they die” industrialists.

People just don’t pay attention. I’ve surprised people in my ICE car, before I traded it in for my EV.

Stop looking at your phone and unplug the headphones when walking about town.

How about Circus music? Or the ice cream truck sound. Everyone hears that.

Given the convergence of technology, they should do as they do with phones, and give drivers a choice of low-speed sounds. The default would be an ordinary hum/buzz, but wiseacres could have a choice of other sounds:

Jaws Theme
Squeaky Tank Treads
Diesel Engine on Idle
Slow Steam Engine
Benny Hill Theme
Breaking Glass
Enterprise Transporter
Holy Grail Coconuts
Peter Gunn Theme

The Tardis materializing.

Removing one of the things that makes EVs great. Silent operation means less noise pollution in cities. Now there is going to be a whole new cauchopony of irritation.

How about the sound of two coconut halves clomping together?

If EVs are required to have ‘sounds’ to save some hundreds of lives then LICE cars should have extra large tampons up their exhaust pipes to filter their pollution that kills tens of thousands annually

Under the current administration I’d have expected the regulation to require EVs to become obnoxiously loud, at speeds up to significantly more than 18 mph. Happy to see that the regulation seems very sensible. From inside the car the sound might not even be audible. (And it shouldn’t be, at least not annoying, as that would just make it tempting to go at 20 mph where people would otherwise go at 15 mph).

Excellent point. I will disable the noise when I get a car with it. If someone is a walking moron then honk your horn. duh.

“it poses a real danger to blind (or simply inattentive) pedestrians” [Citation needed]

While walking I was nearly hit by a hybrid backing out of a parking spot, and I was not distracted. It took me a second to realize that one of the vehicles was suddenly moving relative to the others (I was walking towards it not sideways). Driver either didn’t check mirrors or I was in a blind spot. Fortunately we both realized before a collision happened.
Thinking of all the times people didn’t hear me (usually on a cell phone, but not always) there is definitely a need for this, if it can be done in a non-annoying manner.
As most new cars have auto shut-down for ICEs, I assume there is no need for noise when at a standstill, only when in motion.

Why use a skimpy speaker when you could use a foghorn?