When I was growing up in the 1970’s, muscle cars were all the rage and there was nothing better than a fresh paint job, fat tires, chrome wheels and that bellowing sound of the engine and exhaust. There was just something about the increasing thunder of sound when you accelerated from zero to sixty that made you feel free. As gas prices have increased, and preserving the environment has become a major concern, the muscle car only remains in classic car shows and our memories.
With the proliferation of hybrid and electric cars on the road, not only has the cool sound of muscle cars exhaust systems disappeared, but all noise emitting from automobiles seems to be gone. Green cars like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf don’t make noise because they don’t have combustion engines, and this is starting to cause a safety concern at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A piece of legislation that has recently passed the Senate and now sits in the House of Representatives looks to require green automobiles to make noise.
Of particular concern was the potential danger to blind pedestrians, but in reality, applies to all pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers. As a cyclist myself, who has logged up to 3000 miles in a calendar year, I can attest that the sound of automobiles plays a major part in the sport and keeping you safe while riding. It is very difficult to turn around while on your bicycle, and sound plays a big part in how you keep yourself safe. You can’t always see the cars, but hearing them was always just as good. Green vehicles make it increasingly difficult for people who navigate our streets and neighborhoods outside of cars stay safe.
Many automakers have implemented their cures for the noiseless issue, but there is no standard to be followed. For example, the Chevrolet Volt implements a “quieter horn”, when you pull the turn signal towards you it emits a softer honk to warn pedestrians. The Nissan Leaf will automatically make noise when exceeding twelve miles per hour. These are all noble solutions, but the legislation would put forth a common set of standards all manufacturers would adhere to thus taking out the guess work.
As more green vehicles make their way onto our streets and highways it will be very interesting to see what other challenges need to be ironed out with the environmentally friendly technology.
Do you see the silence of green vehicles as an issue that needs to be addressed, or do you think it’s just the government meddling? What other issues could arise from the silence of green vehicles?