Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dying for a quiet ride

File this under "Risky Unintended Consequences:"

"Hybrids are so quiet that pedestrians never hear them coming ... NHTSA studies ... confirmed what many long suspected: Hybrids and electric cars are too quiet for the blind or even the fully sighted to hear them coming."


On the other hand, I was taught to always look both ways before crossing the street.

Of course, that doesn't really apply to the sight-impaired, who count on a certain noise level to assess risk before stepping off the curb. 'Tis a puzzler.

Then again, maybe not:

"Thanks to the Pedestrian Safety Act of 2010 ... the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is required to initiate a rulemaking process for minimal vehicle noise—not how quiet, but how loud a car must be." [emphasis in original]

"Initiate a process." As in, start to consider the idea of a study to determine how to proceed.

How many people will die (or be seriously injured) while they commission the blue ribbon panel?

And the problem's only going to get worse, of course, as more and more electric and hybrid cars roll off the assembly lines and into traffic. The good news is that the Chevy Volt contains its own vehicle announcement system:

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