One of the initial major selling points of the hybrid or electric car was how quiet they were. But these "sounds of silence" may have been too good to be true. The Associated Press reports on July 5 that Congress is considering an auto safety bill that would likely require car companies to develop artificial sounds that would be emitted from hybrids and electric cars to increase safety and awareness in pedestrians and the community. John Pare, Executive Director for the National Federation of the Blind favors the changes being considered by Congress: " Cars got quieter, that was good. Suddenly, they got to be so quiet that it added an element of danger."
In a research report last year, the auto safety agency of the Government said that hybrid vehicles were twice as likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes at low speeds compared with cars with conventional engines. More than 4,300 pedestrians were killed in 2008 in auto collisions. To date, no research has been developed to determine what percentage of those accidents involved hybrid vehicles, or were caused by the quiet creep phenomenon.
Interestingly, at least one car company intends to respond to this concern by developing an artificial sound that is appropriate but not disturbing. Nissan has worked with acoustic psychologists (who knew?) to find a sound for their hybrid vehicles.