The relative quiet of the electric cars can be dangerous. Source: The Week

Electric cars are the vehicles of the future. As the world struggles with the threat of global warming, sustainable, eco-friendly electric cars are now becoming a real solution and production is moving at a fast pace. Electric cars do have many advantages depending on who you ask. One of these benefits is the fact that they actually don’t have internal combustion engines. This makes them quieter compared to the traditional gas-powered vehicles. Electric cars, therefore, will reduce noise pollution the same way they are reducing air pollution.

You’d think that this is a good thing, right? Well, there’s a downside to it though. The relative quiet of the electric cars can be dangerous. At low speeds, it is in fact very difficult to hear the cars coming. This can pose major risks for distracted pedestrians along the road. In addition to this, the quiet of the electric cars can also be a problem in driveways and parking lots. This is because the ability to hear a car coming is very important for the overall safety. But with electric cars, you have to see them to know they are there, and sometimes this can happen when it’s already too late.

U.S. regulators have also recognized the danger of having cars be too quiet. Source: GLB Brain

U.S. regulators have also recognized this problem. In 2010, the US Congress passed new legislation that compelled the National Highway Traffic Administration to find new rules that would require electric cars to make some kind of sound at low speeds by January 2014. However, the US transport safety agency didn’t announce any new rule regarding this until late in 2016. The regulations made it mandatory for all hybrid and electric cars to emit a sound when moving at speeds of up to 18.6 mph.

The rule also added that all electric car companies had until September 2019 to fully comply with this regulation. However, the NHTSA extended this compliance deadline until September 2020. Nonetheless, auto companies would still need to reach 50% compliance by the earlier September 2019 deadline. According to estimates from the safety agency, the new rules could prevent up to 2,400 pedestrian injuries every year.

Automakers are still debating what kind of sound would be needed in order to comply. Source: Digital Trends

Automakers are still debating what kind of sound would be needed in order to comply. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a shareholder meeting that the ideal solution would be to have proximity sensors. The sensors would then direct a pleasant sound towards the direction of the pedestrian to notify them that a car is near. According to Musk, the aim of this system would actually be simple. The noise won’t be too loud or too annoying for the pedestrian.

But this would be very problematic. First, electric car makers will need to develop distinctive software that makes the proximity sensors work. This would increase production costs, something that many automakers don’t want. Many experts though believe that the matter is actually quite simple - just a simple noise will do. After all, the aim here is to ensure pedestrians hear the car coming.