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Electric car noisemakers now being tested

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Without a combustion engine blasting away inside of them, hybrid and electric cars are clean and quiet. However, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they may be too quiet. The U.S. government agency is leaning toward requiring car makers add some artificial sound to their engines to “protect unsuspecting pedestrians and the visually impaired” from being surprised by a car they didn’t know was there.  The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act will look into the impact of adding new sounds to quiet cars.

The issue has been heating up for a while. A 2008 study showed that pedestrians who were blindfolded were able to hear an internal combustion engine from 36 feet away, but couldn’t hear a hybrid car engine until it was 11 feet away, leaving little time to escape. The proposed engine sounds should help give pedestrians an audio cue earlier.

“America’s streets must be safe for everyone who uses them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot.”

Do you think cars need noisemakers inside them? Perhaps if everybody looked both ways before crossing the road, they wouldn’t.

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