[nfbmi-talk] obama signs quiet car legislation

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Wed Jan 5 06:54:58 CST 2011

Obama signs law to require 'quiet' cars to get noisier


David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau


Washington — President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday a bill that will require automakers to add sounds to quiet cars that would help alert the blind

and other pedestrians.


Last month, Congress voted to require federal safety regulators to set minimum sound levels from electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. It's the

first piece of auto safety legislation to become law since Obama took office in 2009.


Several other safety bills proposed in the wake of Toyota Motor Corp.'s recalls over sudden acceleration have been stalled.


Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said the bill will "preserve the right to safe and independent travel for the blind."


Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate and a hybrid owner, said last month it "will allow us to continue to promote our energy

independence and technological innovation while safeguarding those who use senses other than sight to navigate the roads."


Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., who sponsored the bill in the House, praised its passage.


"The trend toward putting more environmentally friendly, quiet vehicles on the road has unintentionally jeopardized the safety and independence of the blind

and other pedestrians," he said.


The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers backed the measure, as did the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.


The new law requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to establish "performance requirements for an alert sound that allows blind and

other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating" at low speeds.


Automakers in May agreed to voluntarily add chirps or other sounds under a deal announced to warn pedestrians of "quiet cars."


Blind pedestrians may not hear hybrids that shut off engines as vehicles come to a stop. New plug-in electric vehicles will be quieter still; some will

have no internal combustion engine and will run only on battery power.


Under the law, drivers won't have to activate sounds; vehicles will do it automatically. The sounds must allow a blind pedestrian "to reasonably detect

a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle."


Automakers will be unable to allow drivers to deactivate the sounds.


NHTSA chief David Strickland said last year that quiet hybrid vehicles pose risks to pedestrians.


"A quieter fleet could potentially put pedestrians at risk, especially blind pedestrians," Strickland said.


He said NHTSA's review of data from 12 states shows that hybrid electric vehicles do have a significantly higher rate of crashes with pedestrians "than

internal combustion engines for certain maneuvers — like slowing or stopping, backing up, entering or leaving a parking space and making a turn."


Nissan Motor Co. has outfitted its Leaf electric car to automatically alert pedestrians when the car is operating at low speeds.


General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Volt, powered by a battery and a small internal combustion engine, has a chirping sound the driver can activate. dshepardson at detnews.com(202)





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