Electric cars may be required to make noises to let pedestrians know they are close under a U.S. proposed rule released today.

Although electric cars have soundless engines, the sounds they would be required to produce would need to be detectable when vehicles are traveling slower than 18 miles per hour (29 km/h). The reason for this is for electric and hybrid-electric cars to be heard by bicyclists and pedestrians, particularly those who are visually impaired.

The sounds would need to be detectable under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 18 miles per hour. At 18 miles per hour and above, vehicles make sufficient noise to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to detect them without added sound.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rule, also called quiet-car rule, is likely to save 35 lives over each model year of hybrid vehicles and prevent 2,800 injuries, the NHTSA said in a statement.

“Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in the statement.

NHTSA will send the proposal to the Federal Register today. Upon publication, the public will have 60 days to submit comments.


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