A police car is usually associated with its trademark siren sound, and, on a secondary basis, with its roaring engine as police officers chase suspects down the road. Well, police vehicles could soon call to mind a different image: a silent hunter, creeping up the street, almost secretly, doing its best not to scare the suspect into hiding.
Electric cars are silent. The feature is both a blessing and a curse: while certainly better for letting people sleep at night, the cars are also hazardous for pedestrians, who might not hear them coming. In order to prevent road injuries, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a rule requiring all electric vehicles, starting in 2020, to emit a noise when travelling at speeds below 19 miles per hour (roughly 30 kilometers per hour). The final draft of the rule went into effect in February, though it had been drafted and discussed previously.
"Furthermore, regarding a petition request to allow vehicles to be manufactured with a suite of driver-selectable pedestrian alert sounds, the agency is neither granting nor denying that request in this document," the rule states. "Instead, NHTSA intends to issue a separate document at a later date to seek comment on the issue of driver-selectable sounds."
Curiously, Ford declined to comment on how police officers would benefit from such a switch, The Verge reports. However, it would be safe to assume that its purpose is to make cars silent, so that police officers won't give away their presence to suspects before arrests or during other operations. Besides that, a spokesperson for the car-maker insisted that the full text of its inquiry remain redacted because it contains "confidential and proprietary" information.
The proposal to make electric cars noisy stems from an NHTSA study that found electric vehicles are 1.18 times more likely to crash into pedestrians than cars with internal combustion engines. The agency calculated that artificial noise makers would help to prevent some 2,400 injuries every year, The Verge reports.