The U.S. Senate unanimously passed an act to direct the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, to study and establish a motor vehicle safety standard that provides for a means of alerting the blind and other pedestrians of motor vehicle operation, known as the “Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010.” The act involves allowing pedestrians to detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle in “critical operating scenarios including, but not limited to, constant speed, accelerating or decelerating.”
The legislation’s author, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., stated the following in regard to the legislation: “I’m a major advocate of hybrids—I own one, I drive one, and I’ve seen firsthand their environmental and economic benefits … This legislation will allow us to continue to promote our energy independence and technological innovation while safeguarding those who use senses other than sight to navigate the roads.”
The act includes the following:
● Establishes performance requirements for an alert sound that allows blind and other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating below the crossover speed,
● Allows manufacturers to provide each vehicle with one or more sounds that comply with the motor vehicle safety standard at the time of manufacture.
● Requires manufacturers to provide, within reasonable manufacturing tolerances, the same sound or set of sounds for all vehicles of the same make and model, and shall prohibit manufacturers from providing any mechanism for anyone other than the manufacturer or the dealer to disable, alter, replace or modify the sound or set of sounds, except that the manufacturer or dealer may alter, replace or modify the sound or set of sounds to remedy a defect or non-compliance with the motor vehicle safety standard,
● Promulgation of the required motor vehicle safety standard pursuant to this subsection not later than 36 months after the date of enactment of the act.
● When conducting the required rulemaking, the U.S. Department of Transportation will carry out the following:
● Determine the minimum level of sound emitted from a motor vehicle that is necessary to provide blind and other pedestrians with the information needed to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating at or below the cross-over speed, if any,
● Determine the performance requirements for an alert sound that is recognizable to a pedestrian as a motor vehicle in operation; and consider the overall community noise impact.
The act also includes that when conducting the required study and rulemaking the secretary should also:
● Consult with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that the motor vehicle safety standard is consistent with existing noise requirements overseen by the agency,
● Consult consumer groups representing individuals who are blind,
● Consult with automobile manufacturers and professional organizations representing them,
● Consult technical standardization organizations responsible for measurement methods such as the Society of Automotive Engineers, the International Organization for Standardization, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations.
The act will now move to the House for consideration.