It looks like automakers will be required by law to add audible alerts to silent-running electric vehicles to keep sight-impaired pedestrians safe.
President Barack Obama this week signed into law the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (S. 841), which will protect the blind and other pedestrians from injury as a result of silent-vehicle technology, said the National Federation of the Blind.
The new bill, sponsored by Senator John Kerry, and 29 other co-sponsors, allows the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) begin crafting standards for an alert sound.
"The National Federation of the Blind is pleased that this critical legislation has been signed into law, preserving the right to safe and independent travel for the blind," said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "The blind, like all pedestrians, must be able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our communities, and we must be able to hear vehicles in order to do so. This law, which is the result of collaboration among blind Americans, automobile manufacturers, and legislators, will benefit all pedestrians for generations to come as new vehicle technologies become more prevalent. We look forward to working with the Department of Transportation throughout the regulatory process."
The The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers last year issued a statement in favor of the bill.
"Good policy is a collaborative effort, and this is a good approach for pedestrians and automakers," said Alliance President and CEO Dave McCurdy. "This encourages an innovative solution."
Not waiting around for the NHTS standard, GM has already added driver activated alert to the Chevy Volt, Toyota has added an alert sound to its Prius and upcoming plug-in Prius, and Nissan has also announced adding sounds to the Leaf.