Electric Cars To Make Noise By Law?

The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 was introduced in the US Senate several weeks ago. The intent is to require electric and hybrid vehicles to make a "minimum level of sound" that disabled pedestrians may hear them.

Here are the relevant bits:

... blind pedestrians cannot locate and evaluate traffic by sight and instead must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction, and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently;

... when operating on their electric engines, hybrid vehicles cannot be heard by blind people and others, rendering such vehicles extremely dangerous when driving on the street, emerging from driveways, moving through parking lots, and in other situations where pedestrians and vehicles come into proximity with each other;

... such accidents are preventable through vehicle designs which take into account the multi-sensory nature of traffic detection and avoidance, and require that vehicles emit a minimum level of sound designed to alert all pedestrians, especially blind pedestrians, to the presence of such vehicles.

Who would ever think to make a nice, silent vehicle more noisy - say with a nice, loud engine sound?

Robert Heinlein, that's who. In one of his last novels, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985), Heinlein write about a replica Model T that was powered by a silent Shipstone power source.

...with its Shipstone concealed and a sound tape to supply the noise of a soi-disant "IC" engine, the difference between a working replica and a real "automobile" was not readily apparent.

This one was the swankiest of all replicas, a Tin Lizzy, a "Ford touring car, Model T, 1914."

"Need a lift, folks?" Uncle Jock asked. Up close the racket was horrible...
(Read more about Heinlein's car sound tape)

I hope you'll note (if you click through) that Heinlein thought you should have a choice about whether or not your silent car sounded like an internal combustion car - or not.

For a lighter look at this topic (before I thought they were actually going to try to do it), see the earlier article What Should A Hybrid Sound Like? .

Read more about the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 .

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/12/2009)

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