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Hybrid and Electric Vehicles May Need Noisemakers Retrofitted

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is considering whether to act on a petition from last year and require noisemaking devices to be retrofitted to hybrid and electric vehicles dating back to 1997. These noisemakers are important because they alert pedestrians, including those with vision loss, to an otherwise silent hybrid or electric vehicle moving at low speed. The NHTSA can implement the requirement without additional approval from Congress or any other governing body. The relevant law, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 141, “requires that all hybrids and [electric vehicles] under 10,000 pounds produce sounds when traveling at speeds up to 18 mph.” NHTSA requires that all new models be fitted with noisemakers starting from 2021, but the NHTSA could extend them much farther back. The agency has prepared a list of some of the affected vehicles that includes models like the 1997 Saturn EV1, the 2001 Honda Insight, and the 2003 Toyota Prius. NHTSA acknowledges that some vehicles on its list may have already undergone the fitting procedure. Fitting should not be difficult, but the devices will require access to the vehicle’s speed to avoid the noisemakers being constantly active. If enacted, this initiative would follow in the footsteps of the European Union’s 2019 stipulation, among others. While this would be unusual in that the NHTSA did not require seatbelts to be retrofitted to previous vehicles, it would greatly improve the safety of all pedestrians around hybrid and electric vehicles and would be a major win for the vision loss community. You can find more information about this proposed change in this article from The Drive.