[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 105 (Friday, May 30, 2008)]
[Pages 31187-31190]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-12041]



National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2008-0108]

Quiet Cars Notice of Public Meeting and Request for Comments

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice of public meeting, request for information.


SUMMARY: NHTSA is having a public meeting to bring together government 
policymakers, stakeholders from the blind community, industry 
representatives and public interest groups to discuss the safety of 
blind pedestrians encountering quiet cars including hybrids, all-
electric vehicles and quiet internal combustion engine vehicles. This 
public meeting and the request for information, is an opportunity for 
an exchange among interested parties, as well as the public, on the 
technical and safety policy issues related to increasingly quieter cars 
and blind pedestrians. The date, time, location, and framework for this 
public meeting are announced in this notice.

DATES: Public Meeting: The public meeting will be held on June 23, 
2008, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt Washington, Washington, 
    Comments: Written comments may be submitted to the agency and must 
be received no later than August 1, 2008.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mrs. Debbie Ascone, Office of the 
Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety, NHTSA, telephone 
202-366-4383, e-mail [email protected]. She may also be reached at 
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590.

ADDRESSES: Public meeting: The public meeting will be held at the Grand 

[[Page 31188]]

Washington, 1000 H Street, NW., Washington, DC 20001, telephone: 202-
    Written comments: Written comments on this meeting and topic must 
refer to the docket number of this notice and be submitted by any of 
the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting 
     Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, M-30, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Rm. W12-140, 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590.
     Hand Delivery: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., between 9 am and 5 pm Eastern Time, Monday 
through Friday, except Federal holidays.
    Regardless of how you submit your comments, you should mention the 
docket number of this document.
    You may call the Docket Management Facility at 202-366-9826.
    Instructions: For detailed instructions on submitting comments, see 
the Procedural Matters section of this document. Note that all comments 
received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, 
including any personal information provided.



    According to R.L. Polk & Co, registration for new hybrid vehicles 
rose to 350,289 registrations in 2007.\1\ While hybrid vehicles remain 
a small portion of new registered vehicles, registrations of hybrids 
increased 38% from 2006 to 2007. A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is 
more commonly defined as a vehicle which combines a conventional 
propulsion system (such as a gasoline or diesel engine) with an 
electric motor and has an on-board rechargeable energy storage system 
(such as batteries) to achieve better fuel economy than a conventional 
vehicle. HEVs prolong the charge on their batteries by capturing 
kinetic energy via regenerative braking, and some HEVs can use the 
combustion engine to generate electricity by spinning an electrical 
generator (often a motor-generator) to either recharge the battery or 
directly feed power to an electric motor that drives the vehicle. All 
HEVs have a start/stop system which can turn off the engine at idle and 
restart it when needed. Some hybrids are capable of being driven by 
only the electric motor at lower speeds (generally up to 25 mph). As 
such, these vehicles can be significantly quieter than conventional 
gasoline powered vehicles.

    \1\ http://usa.polk.com/news/latestnews/news_2008_0421_hybrids.htm.

    Deborah Kent Stein discusses an emerging problem with HEVs in the 

    ``When the hybrid is traveling at low speeds, the electric motor 
is very quiet. The problem arises when a hybrid car, powered by its 
electric motor, is traveling at slow to moderate speeds--as when it 
moves along a side street, emerges from a driveway or parking lot, 
or starts up after a red light or stop sign. Under these 
circumstances the engine is silent, and there is little or no sound 
from tire friction or wind resistance. In addition nearly all 
hybrids come to a full stop at red lights or stop signs, shutting 
off the engine completely. The engine does not idle, emitting a low, 
telltale purr. It makes no sound at all. A blind traveler has no 
indication that a car is present and preparing to move forward at 
any moment.'' \2\

    \2\ Stop, Look, and Listen: Quiet Vehicles and Pedestrian Safety 
by Deborah Kent Stein; from: The Braille Monitor, June 2005.

    Mrs. Stein, chairman for the National Federation of the Blind 
(NFB), Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety/Quiet Cars made 
this statement in the article ``Stop, Look and Listen: Quiet Vehicles 
and Pedestrian Safety,'' in the June 2005 issue of The Braille Monitor. 
NHTSA recognizes this is a potential safety problem and is responding 
to the concern and investigating the hazard of quieter vehicles to 
pedestrians, cyclists and others who need to be aware of approaching 
cars that are out of their line of sight.
    While the size of the specific problem is currently unknown, the 
total number of pedestrian crashes in 2006 was 65,404 resulting in 
4,784 fatalities and an estimated 61,000 injuries.
    Since August 2007, NHTSA has been working through the Society of 
Automotive Engineers International (SAE) to identify effective ways to 
address the safety issue with quieter vehicles. The Alliance of 
Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International 
Automobile Manufacturers, along with the SAE have formed the Vehicle 
Sound for Pedestrians Subcommittee under the SAE Safety and Human 
Factors Committee.\3\ This subcommittee, Vehicle Sounds for Pedestrians 
(VSP), created the three following Task Forces to gather information to 
assist in determining the technical approaches to address the problem: 
Audience for specification, target sound level, and type of sound and 
driving conditions for the sound. The VSP subcommittee is currently 
working to both define the issue and understand the conditions in which 
these types of incidents occur and expects to propose and evaluate 
different methods to address the issues as these factors are better 

    \3\ http://www.sae.org/servlets/works/committeeHome.do?comtID=TEITSSHF.

    Further work of the VSP subcommittee will explore: who will benefit 
from the establishment of a minimum sound level for motor vehicles, 
what that sound level should be and the type of sound that will be 
necessary to have the desired effect, and under what vehicle and 
ambient conditions the sound is required to be heard and measured. The 
subcommittee is currently in the data gathering stage: what incidents 
have happened, where, and under what conditions. Different data sources 
have been identified and approached. Concurrently, the task force on 
sound measurement is preparing an outline for a test procedure to 
measure vehicle operating sounds.
    Thus far, this group of human factors experts also includes a 
member of the American Council for the Blind and a representative of 
NHTSA. The group is regularly meeting at four-week intervals to study 
possible ways of improving the detection of quiet cars by pedestrians 
and to explore the feasibility of proposing an SAE Recommended 
Practice. In addition to the SAE initiative, NFB has commissioned Dr. 
Lawrence Rosenblum at the University of California-Riverside to 
investigate the sound made by hybrids and people's ability to detect 
them. At Stanford University, with financial help from the NFB, 
researchers have developed a prototype sound generating device that 
receives information about the vehicle function and transmits the 
information to speakers placed on the vehicle. While this vehicle-based 
system is one potential countermeasure for quieter vehicles, NHTSA, the 
automotive industry and the SAE subcommittee will continue their 
efforts to identify the most appropriate and effective countermeasures. 
In the United States House of Representatives, a bill has been 
introduced entitled the ``Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2008,'' 
which, if enacted, requires the Secretary of Transportation to study 
and establish a motor vehicle safety standard that provides for a means 
of alerting blind and other pedestrians of motor vehicle operation.\4\ 
Additionally, in December 2007, NHTSA met with representatives of the 
NFB to discuss this issue.

    \4\ http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c110:1:./temp/


[[Page 31189]]

Public Meeting

    NHTSA is having this public meeting to discuss the technical and 
safety policy issues associated with the increasing presence of quieter 
cars and the risks to blind pedestrians. The meeting will bring 
together State and local government policy makers, stakeholders in the 
blind community, industry representatives and public interest groups.
    The meeting will be open to the public, but presentations will be 
by invitation only. Time will be designated for open floor discussion 
by the general audience. Meeting participants and the public are also 
invited to submit comments on this issue to the docket. All materials 
to be presented are asked to be submitted to NHTSA in advance for 
appropriate dissemination to visually impaired attendees.
    The sections below describe the discussion of topics for the 

Statement of Problem

    Representatives of the blind community will discuss the problem 
facing blind pedestrians around quieter vehicles. The discussion should 
include the explanation and known size of the problem. The 
presentations should identify specific situations in which vehicles are 
hard to hear, the sound cues that are necessary in detecting a vehicle 
and which of those cues are absent in those problematic locations. To 
gain a better understanding of the desired outcome to this problem, 
representatives of the blind community should discuss general ways to 
increase the safety of blind pedestrians and potential solutions--both 
desirable and undesirable to the blind community.

Pedestrian Safety

    Pedestrian safety is a difficult but important issue both 
nationally and internationally. Presentations should discuss pedestrian 
safety in general as well as specifically related to the blind 
community. Any known incidents with pedestrians, in general and 
involving the blind, and quieter vehicles will be detailed. Data 
collection challenges should also be discussed as well as the needs to 
improve this data collection. There will also be discussion of current 
technologies to aide the blind community in safer pedestrian travel. A 
NHTSA representative will discuss ongoing and planned activities for 
pedestrian safety, identifying potential activities that could be 
enhanced for the blind. A representative from the international vehicle 
safety community will present information about the problem globally as 
well as work in other nations to address pedestrians and quieter 
vehicles. The discussion should also include international standards 
for pedestrian safety and any potential solutions for this problem that 
have been researched internationally.

Sound Measurement and Mobility

    In developing a solution to assist blind pedestrians around quieter 
cars, a few fundamental questions must be addressed. Presentations on 
this topic should include discussions of which sounds of a vehicle 
should be measured and the means by which to measure that sound. Any 
studies into this area should also be included. Sound experts should 
also describe average noise levels as reference points for the audience 
as well as extreme noise levels--both low and high extremes. A mobility 
expert should discuss sound cues for blind individuals and any 
measurement studies related to the field. There should also be 
discussion on mobility in rural areas and locations that lack the 
infrastructure for technology.

Automotive Industry Perspective

    A representative from the automobile industry should speak about 
how the industry is addressing the problem. The discussion should 
include information on what current and future vehicles would qualify 
as quiet cars as well as what features of the car cause the reduction 
in sound. The automobile industry representative should also discuss 
what the industry is willing to commit to, product development and lead 
time for vehicle-based solutions.

SAE Work and Status

    As was discussed previously, SAE has a subcommittee dedicated to 
this topic and has active working groups looking at specific details. 
An SAE spokesperson will discuss the process in general and the current 
status of this work. Additional details of the working groups should be 
laid out at the meeting and the representative should describe the 
needs of the subcommittee to continue work and expedite both the work 
and the process.

Potential Solutions

    Research into potential ways to address this issue should include 
vehicle-, person-, and infrastructure-based approaches. Presentations 
should include current and past research into each of these areas, 
literature and conclusions from such. Product development, 
effectiveness, lead time, cost and public acceptance of solutions 
should also be discussed. Any potential solution that is currently 
marketed or planned for market would be included in this discussion as 
well as the history of the development of the product.

Noise Abatement

    While the lower sound of vehicles presents a safety concern for 
blind pedestrians, it also provides a solution to the health concern 
arising from noise pollution. Presentations on this topic should 
include federal and local perspective on noise pollution as well as the 
jurisdiction of noise pollution laws. The discussion should also 
include studies about what levels of sound are dangerous to health and 
studies into the magnification of sound presented by large numbers of 
vehicles or vehicles in confined spaces. Current or planned efforts to 
reduce the sound emitted by vehicles should also be discussed along 
with supporting research into determination of said maximum levels.

Procedural Matters

    The meeting will be open to the public with advanced registration 
for seating on a space-available basis. Individuals wishing to register 
to assure a seat in the public seating area should provide their name, 
affiliation, phone number and e-mail address to Mrs. Debbie Ascone 
using the contact information at the beginning of this notice. Should 
it be necessary to cancel the meeting due to an emergency or some other 
reason, NHTSA will take all available means to notify registered 
participants by e-mail or telephone.
    The meeting will be held at a site accessible to individuals with 
disabilities. Individuals who require accommodations such as sign 
language interpreters should contact Ms. Debbie Ascone by June 16, 
2008. All written materials to be presented at the meeting will be 
available electronically on the day of the meeting to accommodate the 
needs of the visually impaired. A transcript of the meeting and other 
information received by NHTSA at the meeting will be placed in the 
docket for this notice at a later date.

How can I submit comments on this subject?

    It is not necessary to attend or to speak at the public meeting to 
be able to comment on the issues. NHTSA invites readers to submit 
written comments which the agency will consider in its research and 
proceedings with the safety of quiet cars and pedestrians.

How do I prepare and submit comments?

    Your comments must be written and in English. To ensure that your

[[Page 31190]]

comments are correctly filed in the Docket, please include the docket 
number of this document in your comments.
    Your primary comments must not be more than 15 pages long (49 CFR 
553.21). However, you may attach additional documents to your primary 
comments. There is no limit on the length of the attachments.
    Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all comments 
received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual 
submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf 
of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may review DOT's 
complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal Register published on 
April 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 70; Pages 19477-78) or you may visit 

How can I be sure that my comments were received?

    If you wish Docket Management to notify you upon its receipt of 
your comments, enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard in the 
envelope containing your comments. Upon receiving your comments, Docket 
Management will return the postcard by mail.

How do I submit confidential business information?

    If you wish to submit any information under a claim of 
confidentiality, send three copies of your complete submission, 
including the information you claim to be confidential business 
information, to the Chief Counsel, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., Washington, DC 20590. 
Include a cover letter supplying the information specified in our 
confidential business information regulation (49 CFR part 512).
    In addition, send two copies from which you have deleted the 
claimed confidential business information to Docket Management, 1200 
New Jersey Ave., SE., West Building, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 
20590, or submit them electronically, in the manner described at the 
beginning of this notice.

Will the agency consider late comments?

    We will consider all comments that Docket Management receives 
before the close of business on the comment closing date indicated 
above under DATES. To the extent possible, we will also consider 
comments that Docket Management receives after that date.
    Please note that even after the comment closing date, we will 
continue to file relevant information in the docket as it becomes 
available. Further, some people may submit late comments. Accordingly, 
we recommend that you periodically check the docket for new material.

How can I read the comments submitted by other people?

    You may read the materials placed in the docket for this document 
(e.g., the comments submitted in response to this document by other 
interested persons) at any time by going to http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the online instructions for accessing the dockets. You may also 
read the materials at the Docket Management Facility by going to the 
street address given above under ADDRESSES. The Docket Management 
Facility is open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30111, 30168; delegation of authority at 49 
CFR 1.50 and 501.8.

Ronald L. Medford,
Senior Associate Administrator, Vehicle Safety.
[FR Doc. E8-12041 Filed 5-29-08; 8:45 am]