Minimum Sound Level Bill Introduced in House

By Brendan Moore


After years of enforcing maximum sound levels (straight pipes, anyone?) coming from cars, it looks like there is sentiment growing vis-à-vis the requirement for cars to have a minimum level of sound. A bill was introduced yesterday in the House of Representatives that would mandate that auto manufacturers produce cars that put out a minimum level of sound while they are in operation.

The bill is aimed at protecting blind pedestrians, who use the operating sounds of vehicles to determine when it is safe to cross the street, how far from the curb to walk, etc. The bill is being pushed as a result of the increasing popularity of hybrids and the future popularity of electric vehicles, both of which are silent while running on battery power, thus posing considerable danger to blind pedestrians.

If the law passes, it would require all vehicle manufacturers to adhere to a minimum decibel level (as yet undefined) by 2010, which is not very far away. The first requirement set forth in the bill mandates a study by the Department of Transportation regarding a study period concerning this issue, with input from various groups representing the interests of the blind.

We recently ran a piece on Fisker Automotive and their plans to provide artificial sound for their PHEV model, the Karma. For Fisker, though, it should be noted that their plans are directed at providing their drivers with the sound of their preferred mode of transportation, not as a preventative safety measure for pedestrians.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at

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  1. You have to wonder if the mainstream manufacturers of hybrids or electric cars will offer different types of sounds with their cars like Fisker is planning.

  2. What you have to wonder is if we’re going to start losing blind pedestrians left and right as hybrids become more and more popular.

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