Australians are being asked whether electric vehicles should be forced to make noise to prevent road accidents in the latest consultation on the next-generation transport technology.
Federal Transport Minister Catherine King launched the public consultation this week, seeking opinions on whether electric cars should feature acoustic vehicle alerting systems to warn other road users and bystanders of their presence.
Electric vehicles are almost silent when travelling at speeds of up to 20 kilometres an hour.
The technology, which is mandatory in Europe, the UK, Japan, Korea, China and the US, plays sound when electric and hybrid vehicles travel at low speeds to protect vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and those with low vision.
Groups including Blind Citizens Australia called for the introduction of the technology during the National Electric Vehicle Strategy consultation last year.
Ms King said the federal government was seeking feedback on whether to make the technology mandatory in electric cars as well as which vehicles should have it, when standards should be introduced, and whether audio alerts should be added to heavy vehicles in future.
“This consultation comes as we continue to shape our National Electric Vehicle Strategy, ensuring Australians can access world-class transport technologies as we support growing the supply and take-up of EVs,” she said.
“Any potential reform in this space is a small but important step as we transition towards a cleaner, greener future on our roads.”
Vision Australia government relations and advocacy manager Chris Edwards welcomed the opportunity to give the government feedback, saying near-silent cars could pose a particular risk to Australians who relied on hearing vehicles to avoid them.
“We’re pleased significant steps have been taken to address what is a serious safety issue for all pedestrians, not just those who are blind or have low vision and who rely on other sensory faculties, such as hearing and touch, for independence and safety,” he said.
“With electric vehicles predicted to make up 90 per cent of Australia’s vehicle fleet by 2050, this outcome is significant for everyone.”
Blind Citizens Australia president Fiona Woods said the issue could directly impact more than 500,000 Australians with low vision.
A survey from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre, released in 2019, found more than one in three blind or vision-impaired pedestrians reported a collision or near-miss with an electric or hybrid vehicle, and almost one in four said they were less confident navigating roads with quiet vehicles.
Some electric vehicles in Australia already employ acoustic alerting technology, including models from BYD and Hyundai, while others are equipped with it but have yet to activate it in Australia.
Public submissions into the electric vehicle technology will be accepted until May 26
(Australian Associated Press)