Anybody who’s been anywhere near a moving electric car has probably been astounded by the stealth of it’s silent approach, but this became a safety concern for some special interest groups, who felt that industry standards were needed for everyone’s greater safety. The question isn’t so much ‘why’, as much as it is ‘how’ this noise will be made, and ‘what’ will it sound like? So, back in 2008, the experts at the Geneva-based United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the body responsible for harmonizing global vehicle regulations, started working on a set of minimum noise standards designed to prevent the uber-quiet Electric Vehicles (EV’s) from becoming a safety risk to Pedestrians – particularly young children and the blind. The results of this initiative are the Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians (VSP) standards, which we can already see (uhm ‘hear’) demonstrated in the new Nissan Leaf.
On a pragmatic note…
Obviously, the underlying and universal ideal that’s being pursued in this initiative is to help both Drivers and Pedestrians avoid the risk of collision, of course. Yet, isn’t this need already governed by the regulation of ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ it’s actually safe to step out onto a roadway to begin with? If traffic lights and crosswalks aren’t amenable or audibly functional for those at risk, then it seems abit superfluous to try and make vehicles louder to compensate for any (alleged?) safety shortcomings in the existing infrastructure and crossing points. Surely this isn’t about making it easier for those at risk to jaywalk, or play out in the middle of streets to begin with! This initiative seems to be more about assuring some peace of mind for leisurely behavior on quieter streets (and certainly in driveways), by forcing cars to remain as audible as they’ve always been, rather than everyone benefiting from one more of the pleasant side effects of silent EV technology.
As it turns out, there are those who wish to balance these objectives by making sure that these new standards only get applied below a minimum speed, and even most importantly when EV’s are moving in reverse…Which is where the greatest safety benefits to all can be realized. As it stands though, any global regulation standards won’t likely be put into place before 2013, although Japanese manufacturers are already moved ahead with voluntary noise guidelines of their own, which have resulted in a wide variety of different sounds being produced by EV’s. This leaves the door wide open to finally offering the world a futuristic car that at least sounds like something that we were promised in the Jetson’s so long ago now…So we can at least we can look forward to a facsimile of the future finally arriving here in the 21st century.
Meet George Jetson…
Developing the Nissan Leaf VSP Vechicle Sound for Pedestrians
Critics of this initiative are calling this a license to emit noise pollution, rather than requiring Pedestrians to adhere to existing traffic rules, and of course requiring EV motorists to drive safely to begin with. One can’t help but wonder how many millions were spent to develop what basically amounts to a sound effect for electric cars. Ironically, even after we’ve considered ways to make bikes more politely audible in our look at Bike Bell Protocols, there’s no requirement (as yet) to make the swarms of new E-Bikes any more inaudible than they already are, even though they already make less sound than either a bike (coasting with the sound of it’s hub ratchet clicking), or of EV’s that at least emit tire noise.
Hmnn…Surely it’s nothing that a few more studies and research grants couldn’t fix.
In the meantime we could always just figure out how to attach a modern version of baseball cards to our spokes again…As we’ve been discussing over in “Ringing Around the World”