Drivers will get to choose their EV alert sounds

In 2018 the NHTSA finalized rules that require EVs and hybrid to emit alert sounds to warn pedestrians they are approaching. The deadline was extended to 2020 for full participation from automakers. The rules were first requested from Congress in 2010 and have been a decade coming.

The rules call for automakers to add sounds to quiet vehicles when they are moving at speeds up to 18.6 mph to prevent injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, and the blind who may not hear the vehicles coming. The NHTSA announced this week in response to a petition that it was amending the rules to eliminate the current limit of one sound per vehicle model. The proposal is to allow a variety of sound choices to warn pedestrians.

The agency is seeking public comment on whether there should be a limit to the number of compliant sounds that a manufacturer can use and what that limit should be. The NHTSA will require the alerts to be in all "quiet" vehicles by September 2020, and 50% of vehicles will have to have the sounds by September 1 of that year.

Regulators say that at higher speeds, the tire noise, wind resistance, and other factors eliminate the need for a separate alert. The NHTSA expects the finalized rule to prevent 2,400 injuries annually by 2020 and require the alert sounds on about 530,000 model 2020 vehicles.

The new rules will cost the auto industry about $40 million annually to add the external waterproof speaker. The savings in reduced injuries are estimated at $250 million to $320 million annually. The agency has estimated that the odds of a hybrid being involved in a pedestrian accident are 19% higher than a traditional vehicle.