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Hybrid Cars Too Quiet? Japan May Require Adding Noise

By • Jul 4th, 2009 • Category: Clean Car Talk Daily Snapshots

Hybrid cars are inherently quiet at low speed, when many can operate on silent electric motors. For some automobile users including the vision-impaired, these soundless vehicles humming along cities streets may be a hazard.

Many people, not just those with vision impairment, depend on hearing sounds when they walk. With quieter cars, walking in the city is becoming a different experience. And safety is one of those concerns.

Japan’s transport ministry is considering requiring car manufacturers to add noise-making devices to hybrids and other silent vehicles. The ministry has launched a panel of scholars, vision-impaired groups, consumers, automakers and law enforcement to look into the matter, hopefully coming up with a solution to this potential problem, as more hybrids are getting on the roads.

One of the requirements will be that the sound or sounds should induce a response of caution. We certainly don’t want more noise pollution in the city, and several issues will have to be worked out. They have to decide on the kind of sound hybrid cars should have, and if manufacturers can choose their own sounds, maybe even a different sound for different car models. In general people want less sound where they live and work, so it will be interesting to see where this is going.

The U.S. Congress is also looking into the matter. Here’s a clip from AP asking the question “Are Hybrids Cars Too Quiet?”

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Tagged as: electric cars, hybrid car noise, hybrid cars, noise pollution, quiet hybrids, vision impaired

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3 Responses »

  1. I’m pretty sure that people who have visual impairments that require them to rely so much on hearing shouldn’t be driving. Of course, if they’re pedestrians, that’s a different story, and I can understand that a visually impaired pedestrian might not hear a hybrid and start to cross the street, thinking that it’s safe to do so.

  2. Adam Snider: I agree. Personally I think it’s not a big problem, unless you’re a visually impaired pedestrian. People, drivers and pedestrians alike, should practice safe behaviors anyway, but it only takes one complain to start something. In such case the government will always take the safer, conservative approach.

  3. [...] to electric cars was posted on Bloomberg.com. If you remember a recent post on “Hybrid Cars Too Quiet? Japan May Require Adding Noise?,” there are efforts to add noises back into quiet hybrid and electric cars. Seems like [...]