WASHINGTON — The "quiet-car" rule, which will require new alerts to warn pedestrians of the presence of electric and hybrid vehicles, will be coming soon, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a Wednesday speech.
"Our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon issue a final rule on sound requirements for electric and hybrid vehicles so people who are visually impaired can hear these innovative vehicles coming," said Foxx at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The rule is expected by the end of the year.
Foxx also noted NHTSA is "advancing vehicle technologies such as automation that could open up driving to more people with disabilities."
The quiet-car ruling will require the makers of electric and hybrid vehicles to add sounds that alert the visually impaired and other pedestrians when these vehicles are operating in certain low-speed maneuvers at speeds less than 18 mph. Each vehicle of the same make and model is expected to have a "signature" sound or set of sounds.
The quiet-car rule will affect a growing number of vehicles, including the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model S and Model X and the Toyota Prius. The Nissan Leaf already makes artificial noises at low speeds, but it is unclear whether it will meet the new mandate.
NHTSA said adding a speaker system to quiet cars is expected to add around $35 to the sticker price.
A NHTSA study found the odds of a hybrid vehicle being involved in a crash with a pedestrian or bicyclist are higher compared with gas- or diesel-powered vehicles.
Federal safety regulators estimate the new rule will result in 2,800 fewer pedestrian and bicyclist injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks and vans and low-speed vehicles, as compared to vehicles without sound.
Automakers will have until at least the 2018 model year to begin meeting the new quiet-car requirement under federal law.
Edmunds says: A victory for the blind (and the inattentive) as automakers must add artificial noises to electric and hybrid cars to reduce pedestrian accidents.