back to article Carmakers boost e-car noise standards for vision-impaired

Car trade organizations and advocacy groups for the vision-impaired have joined forces to set noise standards for electric and hybrid cars. Their goal is simple: keep blind folks from being run over by cars they can't hear coming. The groups involved - the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, National Federation of the Blind …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Jerry

    Bicycles ?

    If this was a good idea they'd be doing it for bicycles long ago. Bikes are just as silent as electric cars and there are never ending collisions on shared pedestrian/cycle paths.

    Bikes sort the problem with a bell. What the bell doesn't do - and likely the same case in electric cars - is deal with the bloody pedestrians with ipods at full volume.

  2. Syd
    Paris Hilton

    I just have this funny feeling...

    ... that if we were in the process of moving from electric to gasoline, the world would be up in arms about how noisy internal combustion engines are, and we'd be devising regulations to force them towards silence.

    (Paris... because...oh damn it - I can't think of a funny reason!)

    1. Elmer Phud

      And bells to you too

      Bells are no use as what's required is a constant sound that doesn't rely on someone operating the t(h)ing. Bells are rubbish anyway, ever heard an Air Zounds in use? - you won't hear much afterwards.

      What's needed is a return to playing cards held in place by clothes pegs.

      I'll see your iPod and raise wth a mobile .

    2. Havin_it

      FFS Don't give them ideas!

      What we really need to keep footpath coexistence harmonious is automatic bike-mounted tasers to detect and immobilize oncoming dogs, children and other erratically-moving obstacles. These can be a nightmare even when moving at a crawl - at least I've got the bell for the blind people. Give me a main road over a footpath any day for safe navigability.

      1. Chemist

        In the Alps....

        many villages are essentially motorized traffic-free and rely on electric vehicles like golf-buggies or small milkfloats. They solve the problem with small cowbells attached to the front. The small undulations in the road do the rest.

    3. The First Dave Silver badge


      How about we just teach road users where their priorities lie?

      In other words, sounding a bell, or artificial noise of any kind does not give drivers or cyclists right of way over a pedestrian.

      1. Graham Marsden

        @The First Dave

        It goes both ways. I cycle a lot and forget bells, a bellowed "LOOK OUT" as an idiotic pedestrian steps off the pavement into my path without looking is a much more effective way of reminding them that *THEY* are required to use observation (and their brains) too.

        PS I've never hit a pedestrian because I'm always watching out for them, even though they aren't looking out for me (SMIDSY...)

  3. jake Silver badge

    Easy answer.

    Mandate diesel/electric for land vehicles. You know, like locomotives?

    There is a reason that nearly all long-haul trains are diesel/electric ... it's the single most cost effective means of autonomously moving material across dry land.

    Win/win, right?

    Oh, wait. The "greens" hate diesel ... even though D/E is the most efficient use of petroleum that good ol' homosap has devised to date ...

  4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    I have an idea...

    ...we could use a series of chemical explosions, suitably muffled by passing them through a pipe. We could arrange for these chemical explosions to take place in big metal box, with valves to let them out a carefully-timed intervals, corresponding to the speed of the car....

  5. Anonymous Coward


    Why don't they just look before they cross........Oh

    Anon cos it's a little too tasteless

  6. password
    Thumb Down

    Bull**** legislation designed to hinder production.

    Cars make a hell of a noise by their motion through the air. by the time they are going slowly enough for this not to be noticable they are travelling very slowly indeed. Most of the blind people I know manage to avoid stepping into oncoming traffic quite well be use of either a friend, a guide dog or if they're heading out alone usually going to pedestrian crossing points which act as good landmarks for navigation.

    These people are blind not stupid.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      I can hear quite well...

      ...but I have been startled by a hybrid running on electric as I looked round while crossing a road. It's uncanny how quite they can actually be. And this was in a quiet rural town with little background noise apart from the birds!

      And on the subject of noise, it is in the interests of the car manufacturer to reduce wind and tyre noise, as these are both energy drains on the vehicle.

      Many vehicles are quiet below 20 MPH, which is the speed they will be traveling where most accidents of this type will happen. Hybrid/Electric vehicles at this speed can be nearly silent. Go and find a Prius in town (I'm not suggesting a G-wizz, as these are mainly found in London, and I am not capital-centric), and listen to it when it is running on electric.

    2. Michael 28

      Makink noise? ...i got your noise right HERE!!!

      Jet bikes are the future !

  7. GettinSadda

    Better idea

    How about they simply pass a law that states that all electric vehicles must have a man walking in front waving a red flag - that worked so well last time.

  8. GoFasterStripes


    Remember that when motorised cars were first introduced, there was a guy walking in front of them with a red flag? I, much as I hate to admit it, think that it is highly unlikely that the 'car' as we know it [ie a method of personal transport with equivalent carrying/transporting capabilities] is going to go away.

    Why not seize the chance and invest aural research, right now, and find a sound or combination of sounds which can convey the intentions of cars travelling in the area to those around them via sound? TFA, for example mentions the Doppler effect....

    Find a way to do this, and make it an open standard APPLICABLE TO ALL eCARS sold in subscribing countries, and you have the basis for reducing the number of car-and-pedestrian/cyclist/suchlike accidents :)

  9. Huntsman

    It's a shame

    that you can't customise the sounds, I'd have plumped for Kenneth Williams going 'oooooooooh matron' (you hear the oooh bit on the approach, and matron as the car zips past).

  10. DrStrangeLug

    Make It sound like...

    I dunno, perhaps a car? You can already get a V8 soundeffects which plugs into your car stereo, making your little 1.0 micra sound like a mustang. Just install one of those by default and have a waterproof speaker under the bonnet, next to the horn.

  11. Filippo

    Quietness used to be considered an upside

    I was looking forward to a future where I can actually talk to someone while standing near a busy road, or eat outside at a cafeteria without the stress of constant noise. It's a shame that we have to give up on a pretty good upside because it's dangerous to less than 1% of the population. We don't ban nuts because of allergies, after all.

    I've got an idea - make all silent cars emit some kind of radio signal that can be picked up by special receivers. Distribute said receivers to anyone who wants them.

    Okay, that's probably not feasible. Can we at least arrange things so that the noise is deactivated on motorways and other roads where no pedestrian traffic is allowed?

    1. Havin_it

      Sounds feasible to me

      The emitter could even use sound - just at an inaudible frequency, which the receiver would pick up and convert. The receivers would only be needed by a very small percentage of the population, so the cost shouldn't be prohibitive. They could even build the tech into music players for those who choose to render their ears useless on roadways...

      Only problem is the receiver's batteries running out.

      1. Code Monkey


        Do that and watch the number of dog attacks rocket as the "inaudible" sound drives them mental.

    2. Graham Marsden


      ... how do you hear the noise of the V8 over the massive bass bins in your chavved-up hatchback...?

  12. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Also bicycles?

    Well since someone in Bristol was killed when they were hit by a bicycle, then surely they will also insist on this being fitted to bicycles? (Although in Bristol just making them fit lights in the dark would be a start!)

    Also my petrol car is very quiet; should I fit a dixie horn running all the time?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not

    Get the vehicles to broadcast over over short range radio an appropriate signal.

    The deaf (through a hearing aid) and the blind could then receive the signal and be warned, while the rest of us enjoy the quiet roads.

    Though as these new electric cars will be chock full of electronics, why not add some sensors to stop them runing into things.

  14. Code Monkey


    Just issue every driver with a Best of Motorhead CD and oblige them to play it at full blast with the windows open.

    As a bonus side-effect hybrid drivers will have some excitement to make up for their pitifully underperforming cars.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Down

      just making them fit lights in the dark would be a start!

      And the next time you're out on the road at night, count the number of vehicles driving illegally because they have only one working headlight or a brake light out...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "or, for that matter, anyone"

    Assuming they're not deaf...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeh but...

    "you won't, as one reporter noted, be able to customize your own car's sounds in the same way that you "can download ringtones for cell phones"

    When did that stop any of the hackers. I bet the boy racers will have underground, "chips" to mod their sound to a throaty , Vruum, vruum ...

    Just so long as they don't make it legal for the ice cream vans to sound, "La Cucuracha" as they drive our streets ... that's where I draw the line.

    1. Code Monkey

      La Cucuracha

      They do round my way. Well actually it's the Match of the Day theme tune; either way it's a huge assault on the senses

  17. LuMan


    So, electric vehicles make NO noise whatsoever because they don't have internal combustion engines?? Hmm.. What about tyres and road surface? Air movement? Vibrations? Even the mind-numbing 'thuum-thuum-thuum' of the car stereo?

    I can understand a need for improving road safety, but adding additional noise to a vehicle is not it. Better education relating to how dangerous cars are, improved driving skills (i.e. don't hand out licences to every Tom, Dick and Sally who can write their name - or not!) and more pedestrian crossings are a solution. Not noise!

    Anyway, if I had an electric car I'd have the thing blasting out a tie-fighter sound as I drive along. That'll keep folk out the way (until someone turns up with an x-wing fighter sound...)

  18. Craig 12


    This seems like a massive waste of time, and a bit of a step back tbh.

    1) Blind people will have a friend, guide dog, or use the crossing to get across safely. Does the US have bumps in the pavement like us?

    2) Surely just moving (tires etc) will make electric cars more noisy than bikes now?

    3) Remember that youtube video of a road playing music? Couldn't they install things at crossings so cars made a slight 'note' as they approached. Maybe 3 notes, getting higher pitched the closer they get.

    Point 3 is important because this tech shouldn't be in cars (if needed at all). It should be in the environment or attached to the people who need it. Being in cars will lead to all sorts of problems, maybe even lawsuits because someone's car didn't make the right noise at the right time.

    Also, how on earth is "location information to those who hear them" going to work?

    Car: Beep! I am 50m away from you.

    Me: Phew.


    Car: Not you, that other guy.

    p.s. For the record, I am blind in one eye. Hopefully I'll never be fully blind, but if that ever happens, I'd still take the peace and quiet over molly-coddling levels of safety.

  19. Dan 10

    I've an idea!!

    "The sounds will be required to present not only location information to those who hear them, but also provide feedback on the vehicle's speed and rate of acceleration"

    I know, why not make it go brmmm, brmmm?! You know, with revs and everything?!

    There, provided your consultancy for you - can I haz 1 million pounds now plz?

    As for customisable sounds not being allowed - I'll give it 72 hours for a software hack to be devised once a few mischievous types have a crack at it.

  20. Beanzy

    Surely this is backwards

    Why should the rest of the world have to put up with nonsense noise pollution which if there's enough of it swamps you & doesn't really help anyone?

    Surely we need manufacturers to supply the technology required to help blind and deaf people cope with the world as it is? We already have lifts and busses which devalue the whole comfort of using them by the incessant repetition of stop names, 'doors closing' etc. Where's the technology which would allow people who need this information to select what they need then have it relayed to them personally and privately without driving people away from using an annoying and uncomfortable transport system and into their cars. Maybe this will at last get people funding development of proper systems to help people compensate for their sense impairments.

    We need to address this so there is one standard developed which could be incorporated into iPods, phones etc so everyone has the required alerts and sensory feedback, without getting bombarded by more than they require and without distroying our public space with noise clutter.

  21. Anonymous Coward


    Surely electric cars only sound quiet because they're on the road with other noisy petrol cars. Once all the cars are electric, they'll all be audible again. I somehow doubt that anyone will be able to make a large motorised metal box that can creep up on you at any significant speed in a quiet environment without you hearing it.

    And yes, they could always fit a horn as an audible warning to prevent accidents. Oh, they do that already don't they?

  22. Richard_C


    May i propose the sound be that made by the vehicles in The Jetsons or retro-fitting all electrowagons with large Theremin, that'll sort out the proximity warning too. Backup for that should be a slide whistle for when it runs out of power...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Milk floats?

    Never had problems with death by milk float. This is just the modern version.

    But if we must have a noise "ooooooh matron" is the best proposal so far.

    1. David Kelly 2

      Perhaps this fool legislation is why ...

      Perhaps the reason the Jetson's car makes those sounds is *because* this fool legislation mandated it? :-)

  24. Gordon is not a Moron

    How about

    installing a Jericho Trumpet on all of these new fangled silent cars? Now if that doesn't get people out of the way, nothing will.

  25. Mark Dempster

    This wouldn't help my wife...

    ... who IS legally blind (partially sighted, can only see blurred outlines etc).

    unfortunately she has the attitude that the car drivers will see her even if she can't see them, so steps into the road oblivious of what's coming. She's been run over 7 times now (didn't say she was a quick learner, did I?)

    A related, but funnier, story is about the time she flagged down a fire engine thinking it was a bus....

  26. Colin Miller


    Another way to do this would to fit all leccy cars with a near-field transmitter that broadcasts its speed, track and GPS position. Blind folks would carry a receiver; it would alert them if there is a car almost in their path. GPS errors are the same over a few miles radius (its how D-GPS works), so aren't a problem.

    Car platoons would need the information, so its a good first step in that direction.

    1. Michael 28


      Maybe EU regulations could make hands free mandatory/standard in new cars, and with that new emergency button they were going to install.... might even be good for cyclists too... you'd get speed , distance , and possibly licence plate too, if properly coded.

  27. Steven Raith

    emergency service wailers+white noise

    Don't the emergency service wailers have white noise interspersed with the normal siren to help pinpoint them easier - as the plain wailer is difficult to judge distance/location wise due to the doppler effect?

    A variation on this from the cars grille at a lower volume, triggered by RFID/induction loops ahead of crosswalks and traffic light signposts would do the job.

    That'll be £3,000,000 please.

    Steven R

  28. Craig 28

    Get a grip

    With a quiet petrol car my mother used to nearly run over people not watching where they were going, this was in the days before mobiles or ipods. Some people just don't pay attention.

    I'm blind and yes hybrids do concern me. Pedestrian crossing points don't do bollocks unless they're linked to traffic lights, they only just put the very first one in our town and not only is it in the silliest damn place but it also doesn't have any audio or tactile indications for when the lights are green for the pedestrians. The nearby zebra crossing gets ignored by at least 90% of motorists, is the busiest road in the town, and has been known to have accidents. They put the pelican crossing closer to the school, but this is only 3 minutes away from the zebra crossing I mentioned and has I'm reliably told by my younger sister been generally ignored by all the kids. Putting it in the centre of the town where the zebra crossing is would have benefitted the whole town as well as school kids, but that would have made too much damn sense.

  29. jim 45


    An hysterical over-reaction to a problem that probably won't even exist. Electric cars aren't silent, and people will quickly learn and adapt to the new sounds. Pass a nonsense regulation like this now, and we'll be stuck forever, with streets full of whining cars. Make it loud enough so a person can easily hear one car coming - now multiply that by 100 on a crowded street - guess what, it's a nightmare.

  30. rc

    Silent electrics? Not quite...

    You'd have to be deaf not to hear the pwm controllers in the electrics/hybrids coming up the street. I can hear them whining a block away (Maybe it's just me and the dogs.). Ohh, either there's an electric car coming or I'm being run down by a UFO...

    @Craig 12... Sure, we have pavement bumps here in the US. -Thump-bump- Oops sorry, I guess it was just a blind guy, never mind. Most of our bumps are in the middle and I'm not sure they're on purpose...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just curious - unrelated to discussion thread.

    @Craig28 - Which text to speech converter are you using?

  32. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    The white noise siren was someone's bright idea on the "Tomorrow's World" TV show,

    But has it really caught on?

    The theory is that you can't tell where a single tone is coming from, but a white noise hiss can be placed.

    That must be what they mean by "location information".

    But is this harder or easier if you're blind and with normal hearing?

    As for the right and wrong of the proposal: I don't know.

  33. Damien Thorn


    What if the person is deaf/blind or a child.

    Why not just use the brakes like every other car driver does?

    Or perhaps they would impose a 4mph speed limit with a gent holding a red flag 10 feet in front of the car?

    An electric car makes quite a noise, and you can tell the difference between speed humps and guide dogs.

    What they really need to do is tell these suicidal pooches to take the person to the traffic lights, where all cars are STOPPED.

    And if the person is using a stick tell them to use the lights, or ask for assistance. (although add the other safety tip too - when asking for assistance check person is not hoodie with can of drink)

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Utter Bollo

    What a complete load of horse shit.

    Invent them a nice white iStik that vibrates the nearer they are to a silent car. Then upgrade it to iStik Pro Radar that can be aimed up and down the road with a typical blind persons wrist action.

    iStik Pro both alerts the user that a silent danger approaches and signals the silent danger that a blind person or jobsian has stepped out into the road. Hell it can even take pictures and facebook them.

    Its up to you people. Get yourself an electric car and run over only the non blind iStik users.

    Assuming the battery hasn't died & Itunes didn't wipe out the settings.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019