As hybrid and electric vehicles become more popular, advocates for the blind are reporting concerns about the lack of operating noise. It seems these green vehicles just don’t produce enough noise – especially at low speeds – to warn pedestrians. A 2009 government study found collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists more prevalent among hybrids than among gasoline-powered vehicles.
Some auto makers are already working toward producing synthetic noise in their hybrid and electric vehicles.
For example, the electric Nissan Leaf emits a whooshing sound at low speeds. Likewise, the Chevrolet Volt optionally produces a chirping sound and activates flashing lights if the driver activates the alert system. Others like the Infinity M35 and the Hyundai Sonata hybrid also produce such synthetic sounds.
To move the effort along, President Obama signed a law in January, 2011, designating a 2014 deadline for equipping these hybrid and electric models with synthetic sound that can be heard by pedestrians.