Protection for vulnerable road users
The European Parliament has voted to introduce mandatory ‘acoustic vehicle alerting systems’ (AVAS) to all new electric and hybrid cars to protect vulnerable road users. Electric cars have been labelled as ‘silent but deadly’ due to the fact that blind and partially sighted pedestrians can not hear them coming.
Earlier proposals from the European Commission called for the installation of an artificial sound system to be done on a voluntary basis only, but Liberal Democrat MEPs successfully introduced an amendment making this a mandatory requirement for all electric and hybrid vehicles. Following the vote manufacturers in the EU will have five years to comply with the new rules.
Electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars such as the all-electric BMWi3 or the Toyota Prius currently emit very little sound when running on electric power only. Campaigners say this particularly dangerous for partially-sighted and blind pedestrians.
The European Parliament reported that ‘it is important to provide protection to blind and other vulnerable people through the installation of appropriate vehicle alerting systems in electric vehicles.’ It noted ’the Parliament and Council have agreed that such systems should be mandatory.’ The European Commission said ‘so-called "Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems" requirements shall ensure that only adequate sound generating devices are used.
Liberal Democrat European environment spokesman Chris Davies said “quiet electric cars could become a common sight on our roads in years to come but we have to ensure that this doesn't jeopardise the safety of blind and partially-sighted people. The acoustic warning devices will make a sound very similar to that of cars with a regular combustion engine so that people will be able to clearly hear these vehicles, allowing them to judge how safe a road is to cross. Installing sound generators will ensure that all pedestrians are able to hear these vehicles and cross the road safely. By working at an EU level we have been able to place this requirement on all car manufacturers and prevent needless accidents in future.”
The introduction of artificial engine noise to silent electric cars came as the European Parliament voted to decrease noise by four decibels for conventional passenger cars, vans, buses and coaches, and by three decibels for trucks. The European Commission said “altogether, these measures will reduce vehicle noise nuisance by some 25 per cent.”