Eco-friendly cars' silent but deadly problem solved with sound rules

Eco-friendly cars' silent but deadly problem solved with sound rules

The visually-impaired are welcoming news that all automakers will be required to use sound-emitting devices in their hybrid, electric and fuel-cell cars sold from March 2018 under transport ministry rules.

Concerns have been raised by people with vision impairments that they cannot hear such vehicles approaching, especially if they are traveling at slow speeds.

The transport ministry issued guidelines in 2010 that encouraged automakers to install sound-emitting devices. They were effective, and all such cars now sold by Japanese automakers have the devices installed, but it is possible to manually turn them off.

With so many vehicles not emitting any sound upon approach, those with vision impairments have said they have often had close calls when cars have suddenly passed by.

Under new regulations to be applied to vehicles sold after March 2018, the sound-emitting devices will not be allowed to be switched off. The regulations will also not only require that a louder sound be emitted, but will also for the first time establish an audio frequency standard to make it easier for the devices to be heard.

Vehicle safety standards based on the Road Transport Vehicles Law will be revised by the end of October.

The new regulations will require that cars emit sound from when they are started until they reach a speed of 20 kph. That is meant to overcome the issue that hybrid and electric vehicles emit a lower level of sound the slower they are traveling.

Sound levels will also be established for different speeds. Sound of more than 50 decibels will have to be emitted when the vehicle is traveling at 10 kph, while the sound will have to exceed 56 decibels when the vehicle reaches a speed of 20 kph.

Sound of 56 decibels will be greater than what is now emitted from any of the devices installed and would be close to the sound of an air conditioner’s outdoor unit.

There were about 5.739 million hybrid vehicles on the road according to fiscal 2015 estimates compiled by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, accounting for about 7 percent of all cars.

Electric vehicles accounted for about 0.1 percent, with about 84,000 being used, while there were about 900 fuel-cell vehicles.

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Published at Tue, 11 Oct 2016 03:22:30 +0000

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