UN mulls noisier hybrid, electric cars as safety measure

Kenneth Feith, who is from a UN group trying cut vehicle noise for over 30 years, admitted it was quite a surprise when he got a request for electric and hybrid cars to make more noise.

"My response was, 'you're crazy'," he recounted.

But as he was taken through the issue of cars so silent that they creep up unnoticed on the visually impaired, elderly and cyclists, the chairman of the UN working group on quiet road transport vehicles acknowledged: "Clearly, there is a problem."

To combat this safety issue, Feith and his team began in March 2009 to work towards creating a new noise standard for electric and hybrid vehicles, which hum almost soundlessly compared to regular petrol or diesel cars.

A US Department of Transportation study found that the rate of accidents involving hybrid electric vehicles was twice as high as normal cars in certain situations, such as when reversing and entering or leaving a parking space.

"Cars have become dangerously quiet," said John Pare Junior, executive director for strategic initiatives at the US National Federation of the Blind.

"This is a big concern for all pedestrians throughout the world, particularly blind people, who can't see cars but can hear cars. We rely on the sound of the vehicles to travel safely," he added.

The UN group is now trying to establish the volume of sound needed, whether a reversing car should emit a different sound, or if a particular sound is necessary when the vehicle is stationary even if its engine is on.

This does not necessary mean creating more noise, said Feith, noting that what is required is a distinctive sound signalling the arrival or a presence of a vehicle.

"We think we can do that without increasing the noise impact overall," he said, noting for example that a ticking sound could be introduced when a vehicle is accelerating.

As hybrid vehicles gain traction with the public, a global norm is needed urgently, said Feith.

Japanese car manufacturers, including Mitsubishi and Nissan, are working on developing systems to make their hybrid cars a little noisier. Toyota is already offering such a system to customers.

To avoid a situation in which each brand comes up with their own types of sounds to signal different situations, the UN working group, which includes major car manufacturing countries - the United States, European Union and Japan, is aiming to come up with a global standard in coming months.

It expects to complete its work in the next one and a half years.

The finalised standard should include specifications on areas such as sound spectrum, sound limits and the detectability of the vehicle over a certain distance.

"We had a car that makes a certain sound and we had to make it quiet. That's a lot harder. Here is a vehicle that starts out being quiet and we just have to make it detectable," said Feith.

hmn/at/ach

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Creative Director / Head of Creative

    £65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful IT reseller bas...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Engineer / Technical Sales Representative - OTE £35k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the Country's leading di...

    Recruitment Genius: Logistics Coordinator - Part-Time

    £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence