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Electric car owners could choose what false sounds their cars make under a new proposal



The federal government requires car manufacturers to include artificial engine sounds in electric and hybrid cars when traveling at low speeds to alert pedestrians, but it wants to give car owners the choice to choose which sounds they use.

In a proposed regulatory notice, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says drivers should be able to "select the sound they prefer from the set of sound installed in the vehicle." But NHTSA is also seeking feedback on whether it should limit the number of false sounds that manufacturers should be allowed to install.

The proposed rule implementation would be a change to rules finalized in February 2018 requiring EVs and hybrid vehicles to emit low-speed sounds to prevent pedestrian injuries, especially people who are blind or visually impaired. NHTSA recently extended the deadline to 2020 for full compliance, while vehicles sold in the EU have until 2021.

Electric cars are quieter than their internal combustion engine-having counterparts. The only noise that EVs usually generate is caused by wind resistance or tire noise, and it is only at moderate to higher speeds.

The new rule requires all newly manufactured electric vehicles weighing 10,000 kilos or less to be heard when traveling forwards or backwards at speeds of 19 km / h. NHTSA says that the sound alert is not necessary at higher speeds because other factors, for such as tire and wind noise, "provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians." Initially, NHTSA did not decide what kind of noise manufacturers chose to install in the vehicles.

Some carmakers have already chosen their sounds. Mercedes-Benz has an artificial humming sound chosen for its electric EQC series, while VW has said that their compact ID.3 electric vehicles will be installed with a false low-speed sound when they hit showroom floors in 2020. Mercedes-AMG, the car manufacturer's performance mark, is working with the rock band Linkin Park to find a more bass-sounding sound for the vehicles.

Some automakers are already investigating ways to make money from the absence of noise in EVs. Porsche offers an interior $ 500 "Electric Sport Sound" in the configurator for its recently unveiled electric Taycan sports car, according to Electrek .

Other automakers, however, are looking for solutions. Last year, The Verge reported that Ford was seeking partial exemption for its range of police cars. The company is asking if it could include an "off switch" – presumably so law enforcement officials can use their EVs to sneak up on suspected criminals.


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