Blind people call for louder electric vehicles.

The European Blind Union (EBU) has called for legislation to be strengthened to protect vulnerable pedestrians from silent running vehicles at a time when car manufacturers are focusing on creating electric vehicles as part of the government’s plan to make electric vehicles the main source of transport.


The EBU’s silent vehicles case.

The organization warns that electric and hybrid vehicles could pose a risk to blind, partially sighted and other vulnerable pedestrians who rely on their hearing when crossing the road. They want electric car manufacturers to enable that drivers can not switch off alert systems warning vulnerable pedestrians that silent vehicles are approaching. Rodolfo Cattani, Head of EU relations at the EBU said up to 30million Europeans could be threatened as more of the low-emission vehicles hit the streets. The risk to vulnerable people’s safety is highest at speeds under 25mph as at higher speeds tyre friction makes the vehicle audible.

However, a 2011 study concluded that the quiet running of electric and hybrid vehicles would only pose a “very small” risk to visually impaired pedestrians and the threat is no higher than standard internal combustion engine (ICE) cars at the same speeds.


What will happen to the electric vehicles legislation?

A draft EU regulation approved by lawmakers would require car-makers to build in an alert system in all silent cars built in the future. The device will be called the ‘Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) following a similar decree in the US. The EBU believes this to still be inefficient as though automatically switched on when the vehicle is started, the AVAS system can be switched off by the driver. Cantanni commented, “The switch-off possibility is dangerous; drivers will use it too often. We want a ban on the pause system.”


Will the electric vehicles legislation be changed?

The EU Parliament is due to vote on the regulation early next year and, according to news agency EurActiv, there is little chance of changing it before then. To do so would require at least 40 MEPs to introduce an amendment, which could then by rejected by just one MEP.

Blind groups have also warned that allowing new types of cars a transition period of three years from the date of application and new registrations five years, will increase the risk. Mainly as government policies and a growing number of models on the market will ensure silent electric vehicles will be far more prevalent by then.