Electric vehicles that are “silent” pose a hidden threat

Electric as well as hybrid electric vehicle sales are expanding gradually over the world, and their presence in cities is increasing as well. Low levels of noise created by these cars could represent a new risk issue for road users when traveling at low speeds. The risk’s size, on the other hand, has yet to be identified precisely.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are not required to emit a sound when traveling at reduced speeds in Australia, which activists argue puts pedestrians at risk. Those who are blind or have impaired vision and depend on their ability to hear to navigate their environment are especially vulnerable to silent EVs, which include vehicles, bikes, and scooters.

When traveling at low speeds, the US, the EU, and Japan all need EVs to make noise. There are concerns that Australia may become a “dumping site” for unsuitable models. Chris Edwards, Vision Australia’s head of government relations, said it was nearly hard to spot EVs by hearing alone when they were moving slowly.

“Obviously, that has an influence on safety because someone might walk out in front of a vehicle,” he said. “It’s not about taking on a lot of responsibility. It’s all about catching up with the remaining part of the world in terms of technology.” According to a recent survey, 35% of respondents have been hit or had a close call with a silent EV, a statistic that is sure to rise as the number of them on the road increases.

Mr. Edwards, who is blind and utilizes a guide dog, claimed he was nearly hit by an Electric Vehicle in a parking lot because the driver was distracted. He added that not being able to properly identify automobiles by sound harmed people’s confidence in their daily lives.

“People who are blind or have low vision don’t drive, so they rely largely on walking and also being capable of crossing roads and other activities that are intrinsically risky if you can’t hear vehicles approaching,” he added.

Since at least 2019, when then-transport minister Michael McCormack launched a regulatory review, Vision Australia has pushed the government to make changes.

“Really, the previous government dragged their feet on getting it done,” Mr. Edwards said, “and as a result, it hasn’t moved anywhere close as far as projected.” He encouraged the Labor government to act quickly to pass the regulation adjustments before the proportion of non-compliant EVs on the road grew much more.

“We know it’s unlikely that old cars will be retrofitted, so we ought to have this passed and completed as soon as possible,” Mr. Edwards said. “By the year 2050, 90% of automobiles will be electric, and the longer we delay, the more vehicles will be on the road which will fail to fulfill our requirements.”

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