[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 133 (Tuesday, July 12, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 40860-40868]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-17341]



National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. NHTSA-2011-0100]

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Assessment for 
Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 Rulemaking

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

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for scoping comments.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 
NHTSA plans to analyze the potential environmental impacts of the 
agency's rulemaking to implement the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act 
of 2010. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act mandates a rulemaking to 
establish a standard requiring electric and hybrid vehicles to be 
equipped with a pedestrian alert sound system that would activate in 
certain vehicle operating conditions to aid visually-impaired and other 
pedestrians in detecting the presence, direction, location, and 
operation of those vehicles.
    Under NEPA, once an agency determines the purpose and need of the 
proposed federal action, it engages in scoping. This is the process by 
which the scope of the issues and the alternatives to be examined are 
determined. This notice initiates the scoping process by inviting 
comments from Federal, State, and local agencies, Indian Tribes, and 
the public to help identify the environmental issues and reasonable 
alternatives to be examined under NEPA. This notice also provides 
guidance for participating in the scoping process and additional 
information about the alternatives NHTSA expects to consider in its 
NEPA analysis.

DATES: The scoping process will culminate in the preparation and 
issuance of an Environmental Assessment (EA), which will be made 
available for public comment. To ensure that NHTSA has an opportunity 
to consider scoping comments fully and to

[[Page 40861]]

facilitate NHTSA's prompt preparation of the EA, scoping comments 
should be submitted in time to ensure that they will be received on or 
before August 11, 2011. NHTSA will try to consider comments received 
after that date to the extent the rulemaking schedule allows.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments to the docket number identified in 
the heading of this document by any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting 
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, M-30, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: U.S. Department of 
Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern 
time, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: 202-493-2251.
    Regardless of how you submit your comments, you should mention the 
docket number of this document.
    You may call the Docket at 202-366-9324.
    Note that all comments received, including any personal information 
provided, will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical issues, contact Gayle 
Dalrymple, Office of Crash Avoidance Standards, National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, 
DC 20590. Telephone: 202-366-1810. For legal issues, contact Thomas 
Healy, Office of the Chief Counsel, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590. 
Telephone: 202-366-2992.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In a forthcoming notice of proposed 
rulemaking, NHTSA intends to propose a Federal motor vehicle safety 
standard requiring electric and hybrid vehicles to be equipped with a 
pedestrian safety (PEDSAFE) sound system that emits a sound in certain 
operating conditions to aid visually-impaired and other pedestrians in 
detecting the presence and operation of those vehicles. The issuance of 
a PEDSAFE standard is mandated by the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act 
of 2010 (``Pedestrian Safety Act'').\1\

    \1\ The Pedestrian Safety Act is Public Law 111-373, 124 Stat. 
4086 (January 4, 2011). 49 U.S.C. 30111 note.

    In connection with this action, NHTSA intends to prepare an EA 
analyzing the potential environmental impacts of the proposed safety 
standard and reasonable alternative standards pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and implementing regulations issued by 
the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and NHTSA.\2\ NEPA requires 
Federal agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of 
their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives in their 
decisionmaking. To inform decisionmakers and the public, the NEPA 
analysis will compare the potential environmental impacts of the 
agency's preferred alternative and reasonable alternatives, including a 
``no action'' alternative. As required by NEPA, the agency will 
consider direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts and discuss impacts 
in proportion to their significance.

    \2\ NEPA is codified at 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347. CEQ's NEPA 
implementing regulations are codified at 40 CFR parts 1500-1508, and 
NHTSA's NEPA implementing regulations are codified at 49 CFR part 

I. Background

A. 2008 NHTSA Public Meeting

    On May 30, 2008, NHTSA published a notice \3\ in the Federal 
Register announcing the holding of a public meeting on June 23, 2008 to 
bring together government policymakers, stakeholders from the visually-
impaired community, industry representatives and public interest groups 
to discuss the technical and safety policy issues associated with 
hybrids, all-electric vehicles and quiet internal combustion engine 
vehicles, and the resultant risks to visually-impaired pedestrians. The 
prepared presentations submitted at the meeting and a transcript of the 
meeting can be found in Docket No. NHTSA-2008-0108 on http://www.regulations.gov.\4\

    \3\ 73 FR 31187; May 30, 2008.
    \4\ The presentations are in document  0012 and the 
transcript is in document  0023 (Docket No. NHTSA-2008-
0108-0012 and Docket No. NHTSA-2008-0108-0023, respectively).

B. 2009 and 2010 NHTSA Reports

    In the two years following the public meeting, NHTSA issued two 
reports, one in October 2009 and the other in April 2010. The earlier 
report was entitled ``Research on Quieter Cars and the Safety of Blind 
Pedestrians, A Report to Congress.\5\ The report briefly discussed the 
quieter cars issue, how NHTSA's research plan addresses the issue, and 
the status of the agency's research in following that plan. In an 
effort to quantify the problem of hybrid crashes with pedestrians, 
NHTSA examined the incidence rates for crashes involving hybrid 
electric vehicles and pedestrians under different circumstances, using 
data from 12 states, and compared the results to those for internal 
combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. This study, which was based on a 
small sample size, found an increased rate of pedestrian crashes for 
hybrid vehicles compared to their peer ICE vehicles.

    \5\ Research on Quieter Cars and the Safety of Blind 
Pedestrians, A Report to Congress, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 
October 2009, available at http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/NVS/Crash%20Avoidance/Technical%20Publications/2010/RptToCongress091709.pdf.

    In the April 2010 report,\6\ NHTSA said that it recognized that 
quieter cars, such as hybrid-electric vehicles in low-speed operation 
using their electric motors, may introduce a safety issue for 
pedestrians who are visually-impaired. This study documented the 
overall sound levels and general spectral content (i.e., the 
characteristics of the sound such as frequency, phase, and amplitude 
values of the sound) for a selection of hybrid-electric and internal 
combustion vehicles in different operating conditions, evaluated 
vehicle detectability for two surrounding (or ambient) sound levels, 
and considered countermeasure concepts that are categorized as vehicle-
based, infrastructure-based, and systems requiring vehicle-pedestrian 

    \6\ Garay-Vega, Lisandra; Hastings, Aaron; Pollard, John K.; 
Zuschlag, Michael; and Stearns, Mary D., Quieter Cars and the Safety 
of Blind Pedestrians: Phase I, John A. Volpe National Transportation 
Systems Center, DOT HS 811 304 April 2010, available at http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/NVS/Crash%20Avoidance/Technical%20Publications/2010/811304rev.pdf.

    Some of the main findings were that overall sound levels for the 
hybrid-electric vehicles tested were lower at low speeds than for the 
internal combustion engine vehicles tested. There were also significant 
differences in human subjects' response time depending on whether 
electric or internal combustion propulsion was used at both the lower 
and higher levels of ambient sound. Candidate countermeasures were 
discussed in terms of types of information provided (direction, vehicle 
speed, and rate of speed change, etc); useful range of detection of 
vehicles by pedestrians, warning time, user acceptability, and barriers 
to implementation. This study provided baseline data on the acoustic 
characteristics and auditory

[[Page 40862]]

detectability of a vehicle when a single vehicle is tested at a time.

C. 2011 Pedestrian Safety Act

    The Pedestrian Safety Act requires NHTSA to conduct a rulemaking to 
establish a Federal motor vehicle safety standard \7\ requiring an 
alert sound for pedestrians to be emitted by all types of motor 
vehicles \8\ that are electric vehicles \9\ or hybrid vehicles \10\ 
(EVs and HVs). Thus, the covered types of vehicles include not only 
light vehicles (passenger cars, vans, sport utility vehicles and pickup 
trucks), but also low speed vehicles, motorcycles, medium and heavy 
trucks and buses.

    \7\ NHTSA is delegated authority by the Secretary of 
Transportation to carry out Chapter 301 of Title 49 of the United 
States Code. See 49 CFR Sec.  501.2. This includes the authority to 
issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards. 49 U.S.C. 30111.
    \8\ Section 2(4) of the Pedestrian Safety Act defines the term 
``motor vehicle'' as having the meaning given such term in section 
30102(a)(6) of title 49, United States Code, except that such term 
shall not include a trailer (as such term is defined in section 
571.3 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations). Section 30102(a)(6) 
defines ``motor vehicle'' as meaning a vehicle driven or drawn by 
mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on public 
streets, roads, and highways, but does not include a vehicle 
operated only on a rail line.
    \9\ Section 2(10) of the Pedestrian Safety Act defines 
``electric vehicle'' as a motor vehicle with an electric motor as 
its sole means of propulsion.
    \10\ Section 2(9) of the Pedestrian Safety Act defines ``hybrid 
vehicle'' as a motor vehicle which has more than one means of 
propulsion. As a practical matter, this term is currently 
essentially synonymous with ``hybrid electric vehicle.''

    The rulemaking must be initiated not later than 18 months after the 
date of enactment of the Pedestrian Safety Act. Given that the date of 
enactment was January 4, 2011, rulemaking must be initiated by July 4, 
    The PEDSAFE standard must specify performance requirements for an 
alert sound that enables visually-impaired and other pedestrians to 
reasonably detect EVs and HVs operating below their cross-over 
speed.\11\ The Pedestrian Safety Act defines ``alert sound'' as a 
vehicle-emitted sound that enables pedestrians to discern the presence, 
direction,\12\ location, and operation of the vehicle.\13\

    \11\ Section 2(3) of the Pedestrian Safety Act defines ``cross-
over speed'' as the speed at which tire noise, wind resistance, or 
other factors make an EV or HV detectable by pedestrians without the 
aid of an alert sound. The definition requires NHTSA to determine 
the speed at which an alert sound is no longer necessary.
    \12\ The Pedestrian Safety Act does not specify whether vehicle 
``direction'' is to be defined with reference to the vehicle itself 
(thus meaning forward or backward) or the pedestrian.
    \13\ Section 2(2) of the Pedestrian Safety Act.

    The Pedestrian Safety Act specifies several requirements regarding 
the performance of the alert sound to enable pedestrians to discern the 
operation of motor vehicles. First, the alert sound must be sufficient 
to allow a pedestrian to reasonably detect a nearby EV or HV operating 
at constant speed, accelerating, decelerating and operating in any 
other scenarios that NHTSA deems appropriate.\14\ Second, it must 
reflect the agency's determination of the minimum sound level emitted 
by a motor vehicle that is necessary to allow visually-impaired and 
other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby EV or HV operating 
below the cross-over speed.\15\ Third, it must reflect the agency's 
determination of the performance requirements necessary to ensure that 
each vehicle's alert sound is recognizable to pedestrians as that of a 
motor vehicle in operation.\16\

    \14\ Section 3(a) of the Pedestrian Safety Act.
    \15\ Section 3(b) of the Pedestrian Safety Act.
    \16\ Section 3(b)(2) of the Pedestrian Safety Act.

    The Pedestrian Safety Act mandates that the PEDSAFE standard shall 
not require the alert sound to be dependent on either driver or 
pedestrian activation. It also requires that the safety standard allow 
manufacturers to provide each vehicle with one or more alert sounds 
that comply, at the time of manufacture, with the safety standard. Each 
vehicle of the same make and model must emit the same alert sound or 
set of sounds. The standard is required to prohibit manufacturers from 
providing anyone, other than the manufacturer or dealers, with a device 
designed to disable, alter, replace or modify the alert sound or set of 
sounds emitted from the vehicle. A manufacturer or a dealer, however, 
is allowed to alter, replace, or modify the alert sound or set of 
sounds in order to remedy a defect or non-compliance with the safety 
    Because the Pedestrian Safety Act directs NHTSA to issue these 
requirements as a motor vehicle safety standard under the National 
Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Vehicle Safety Act),\17\ the 
requirements must comply with that Act as well as the Pedestrian Safety 
Act. The Vehicle Safety Act requires each safety standard to be 
performance-oriented, practicable,\18\ and objective \19\ and meet the 
need for safety. In addition, in developing and issuing a standard, 
NHTSA must consider whether the standard is reasonable, practicable, 
and appropriate for each type of motor vehicle covered by the standard.

    \17\ 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301.
    \18\ In a case involving passive occupant restraints, the U.S. 
Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. said that the agency must consider 
public reaction in assessing the practicability of required safety 
equipment like an ignition interlock for seat belts. Pacific Legal 
Foundation v. Department of Transportation, 593 F.2d 1338 (D.C. Cir. 
1978). cert. denied, 444 U.S. 830 (1979).
    \19\ In a case involving passive occupant restraints, the U.S. 
Circuit Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said, quoting the House 
Report (H.R. 1776, 89th Cong. 2d Sess.1966, p. 16) for the original 
Vehicle Safety Act, that ``objective criteria are absolutely 
necessary so that `the question of whether there is compliance with 
the standard can be answered by objective measurement and without 
recourse to any subjective determination.' '' Chrysler v. Department 
of Transportation, 472 F.2d 659 (6th Cir. 1972).

    As a federal motor vehicle safety standard, the pedestrian alert 
sound system standard would be enforced in the same fashion as any 
other safety standard issued under the Safety Act. Thus, violators of 
the standard would be subject to civil penalties.\20\ A vehicle 
manufacturer would be required to conduct a recall and provide remedy 
without charge if its vehicles were determined to fail to comply with 
the standard or if the alert sound system were determined to contain a 
safety related defect.\21\ Further, vehicle manufacturers, 
distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses would be 
prohibited from rendering the sound system inoperative.\22\

    \20\ 49 U.S.C. 30112 and 30165.
    \21\ 49 U.S.C. 30118-30120.
    \22\ 49 U.S.C. 30122.

    The Pedestrian Safety Act requires NHTSA to consider the overall 
community noise impact of any alert sound required by the safety 
standard. In addition, NHTSA will consider the environmental analysis 
prepared under NEPA when setting the standard.
    As part of the rulemaking process, NHTSA is expressly required by 
the Pedestrian Safety Act to consult with:
     The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assure that 
any alert sound required by the rulemaking is consistent with noise 
regulations issued by that agency;
     Consumer groups representing visually-impaired 
     Automobile manufacturers and trade associations 
representing them;
     Technical standardization organizations responsible for 
measurement methods such as
    [cir] The Society of Automotive Engineers,
    [cir] The International Organization for Standardization, and
    [cir] The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, World 
Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations.\23\

    \23\ NHTSA officials have been participating in the meetings of 
the World Forum informal working group charged with addressing the 
problem of quiet cars. NHTSA is sending copies of this notice to 
that group and to each of the other organizations with which it is 
required to consult.

    Under the Act, NHTSA must publish a final rule establishing the 
standard requiring an alert sound for EVs and HVs by January 4, 2014. 
The Pedestrian

[[Page 40863]]

Safety Act requires that the agency provide a phase-in period, as 
determined by NHTSA. However, full compliance with the standard must be 
achieved for all vehicles manufactured on or after September 1st of the 
calendar year beginning three years after the date of publication of 
the final rule. Thus, if the final rule were promulgated sometime in 
2013, the three-year period after the date of publication of the final 
rule would end sometime in 2016. The first calendar year that would 
begin after that date in 2016 would be calendar year 2017. Thus, under 
that time scenario, full compliance would be required not later than 
September 1, 2017.
    Finally, the Pedestrian Safety Act requires NHTSA to conduct a 
study and report to Congress whether the agency believes that there is 
a safety need to require alert sounds for motor vehicles with internal 
combustion engines. The report must be submitted to Congress by January 
4, 2015. If NHTSA determines that there is a safety need to require 
alert sounds for those motor vehicles the agency must initiate a 
rulemaking to require alert sounds for them.

D. Related Activities

    Other national regulatory bodies, international standards 
organizations, and automotive manufacturers are considering the 
possibility of adding alert sounds to EVs and HVs to aid pedestrian 
detection of these vehicles.
    The Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and 
Tourism (MLIT), after studying the feasibility of alert sounds for EVs 
and HVs, issued guidelines for pedestrian alert sounds in 2010. MLIT 
concluded that pedestrian alert sounds should be required only on HVs 
that can run exclusively on an electric motor, EVs, and fuel-cell 
vehicles.\24\ MLIT guidelines require that EVs and HVs generate a 
pedestrian alert sound whenever the vehicle is moving forward at any 
speed less than 20 km/h and when the vehicle is operating in reverse. 
MLIT guidelines do not require vehicles to produce an alert sound when 
the vehicle is operating, but stopped, such as at a traffic light.\25\ 
The manufacturer is allowed to equip the vehicle with a switch to 
deactivate the alert sound temporarily.

    \24\ Guidelines for Measure against Quietness Problem of HV, 
[sic] MLIT and JASIC (2010). GRB Informal Group on Quiet Road 
Transport Vehicles (QRTV) Working papers of the 3rd informal 
meeting. Tokyo, 13-15 July 2010. Available at: http://www.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/wp29wgs/wp29grb/QRTV_3.html.
    \25\ The MLIT guidelines do not require that an EV or HV emit an 
alert sound when the vehicle is idling. Idling and stopped refer to 
the same operating scenario.

    The MLIT includes the following guidelines for the type and volume 
of sounds emitted by EVs and HVs:
     The sound shall be a continuous sound associated with a 
motor vehicle in operation.
     The sound is not allowed to sound like sirens, chimes, 
bells, a melody, or a horn. The sound of animals, insects, and natural 
phenomena such as waves, wind, and river currents, are also prohibited.
     The sound shall be automatically altered in volume or 
tone, depending on the vehicle's speed for easier recognition of the 
movement of the vehicle.
     The volume of the sound shall not exceed the level of the 
sound generated by ICE vehicles operating at the speed of 20 km/h.
    During its March 2011 session, the World Forum for Harmonization of 
Vehicle Regulation of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe 
(UNECE) adopted guidelines covering alert sounds for EVs and HVs that 
are closely based on the Japanese guidelines.\26\ The guidelines will 
be published as an annex to the UNECE Consolidated Resolution on the 
Construction of Vehicles (R.E.3). The guidelines developed by the UNECE 
recommend that EVs and HVs emit pedestrian alert sounds beginning when 
the vehicle starts moving and continuing until the speed of the vehicle 
reaches 20 km/h. The guidelines do not specify that a vehicle emit an 
alert sound when the vehicle is stopped or when a HV's ICE is engaged 
and thus emitting sound. As under the Japanese guidelines, 
manufacturers would be allowed to equip vehicles with an on-off switch 
that the driver can use to silence the alert sound. The UNECE 
guidelines also contain the same provisions for the type and volume of 
alert sounds emitted by EVs and HVs as do the Japanese guidelines.

    \26\ The guidelines were developed by the Informal Group on 
Quiet Road Transport Vehicles (QRTV), which operates under the 
auspices of the Working Party on Noise (GRB). Papers relating to the 
informal group's six periodic meetings may be found at http://live.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/wp29wgs/wp29grb/qrtv_1.html, http://live.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/wp29wgs/wp29grb/qrtv_2.html, http://live.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/wp29wgs/wp29grb/qrtv_3.html, http://live.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/wp29wgs/wp29grb/qrtv_4.html, http://live.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/wp29wgs/wp29grb/qrtv_5.html, and 

    The Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians (VSP) subcommittee of the Society 
of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is working to develop a test procedure to 
measure sound emitted by ICE vehicles and sound systems that procedure 
alert sounds for use on EVs and HVs.\27\ SAE has developed a draft 
version of standard J2889-1, Measurement of Minimum Noise Emitted by 
Road Vehicles. The purpose of J2889-1 is to provide an objective, 
technology neutral test to measure the sound emitted by a vehicle in a 
specified ambient noise condition.\28\ J2889-1 does not account for 
psychoacoustic factors such as annoyance, recognizability, or 
detectability. J2889-1 specifies the test site conditions, 
meteorological conditions, and ambient noise level under which the 
sound should be recorded. The test contains procedures for measuring 
the sound pressure level (loudness) in decibels and frequency content 
\29\ and changes in sound pressure level and frequency content of 
sounds emitted by a vehicle in order to measure how the sounds relate 
to vehicle speed.

    \27\ A late 2010 status report on this work can be found at 
    \28\ http://standards.sae.org/wip/j2889/1/.
    \29\ Low frequency sounds have a low pitch like the notes on the 
lower end of a musical scale and high frequency sounds have a high 
pitch like the notes on the upper end of such a scale.

    The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is 
cooperating with SAE in its efforts to develop a vehicle minimum noise 
measurement standard. The ISO document (ISO/NP 16254 Measurement of 
minimum noise emitted by road vehicles) \30\ and SAE document are 
reportedly technically identical. The standard will provide procedures 
for assessing the performance of countermeasure systems, including, for 
example, a pitch shift measurement procedure.

    \30\ http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=56019.

    Automotive manufacturers that produce EVs for the U.S. market have 
developed various pedestrian alert sounds, recognizing that those 
vehicles, when operating at low speeds, pose a risk to pedestrians. For 
example, the pedestrian alert system for the Nissan Leaf produces a 
sound that could be described as a high-pitched whirring sound that 
increases in volume as the vehicle accelerates forward. The pedestrian 
alert sound deactivates once the vehicle reaches 32 km/h (20 mph). The 
Leaf produces a beeping sound when operating in reverse. The vehicle is 
equipped with a switch that allows the driver to turn off the alert 
sound. The Leaf does not produce a sound when the vehicle is operating, 
but stopped.

[[Page 40864]]

    The Chevrolet Volt, produced by General Motors, is equipped with a 
driver activated pedestrian alert system. The system, which is 
activated when the driver pulls back on the turn signal handle, emits a 
short horn pulse.
    Automotive equipment manufacturers have begun developing speaker 
systems designed to produce alert sounds to install on EVs and HVs. 
Most of the systems have a single speaker that projects sound forward. 
The same speaker is used to provide an alert sound both when the 
vehicle is moving forward and when the vehicle is moving backward. 
Other systems currently under development would allow the pedestrian 
alert sound to be projected only in the direction of travel of the 
vehicle. Manufacturers of these systems indicate that the directional 
projection of warning sounds will reduce the amount of noise that the 
system must produce to provide acoustic cues to pedestrians of the 
presence of a nearby vehicle.

II. Purpose and Need for Rulemaking

    The purpose of the rulemaking mandated by the Pedestrian Safety Act 
is to require EVs and HVs, which tend to be quieter than the ICE 
vehicles, to be equipped with a pedestrian alert sound system that 
would activate in certain vehicle operating conditions to aid visually-
impaired and other pedestrians in detecting the presence, direction, 
location, and operation of those vehicles. Taking this action is 
expected to reduce the number of incidents in which EVs and HVs strike 

III. The Alternatives

    This notice briefly describes a variety of possible alternatives 
that are currently under consideration by the agency, and seeks input 
from the public about these alternatives and about whether other 
alternatives should be considered as we proceed with the rulemaking and 
the EA. In developing Alternatives 2 through 5, NHTSA considered, as it 
is required to do so, the Pedestrian Safety Act's requirements for 
establishing a PEDSAFE standard. Those requirements are set out above 
in section I of this notice.
    These alternatives are based on agency research seeking to 
determine, with due concern for environmental considerations, what type 
or types of sound will be most appropriate and effective for aiding 
pedestrians in detecting, identifying and localizing \31\ the sound of 
EVs and HVs both in the near future and in the more distant future as 
the percentage of EVs and HVs in the vehicle fleet increases. The 
agency notes that its research is ongoing and that outcome of that 
research could affect the array of alternatives from which a preferred 
alternative is selected for the notice of proposed rulemaking.

    \31\ Sound localization refers to determining the distance and 
direction of a detected sound.

    The alternatives currently under consideration are:

A. Alternative 1: ``No Action'' Alternative

    This alternative assumes, strictly for purposes of NEPA analysis, 
that NHTSA would not issue a rule requiring pedestrian alert sounds for 
any electric or hybrid motor vehicles.\32\ NEPA requires agencies to 
consider a ``no action'' alternative in their NEPA analyses and to 
compare the effects of not taking action with the effects of the 
reasonable action alternatives to demonstrate the different 
environmental effects of the action alternatives. In defining this 
baseline alternative, the agency would consider what actions might be 
taken by other parties in the absence of action by this agency. In 
other words, the agency would consider what the world would be like if 
a Federal rule were not adopted. In this regard, the agency notes that 
manufacturers of electric vehicles have generally been equipping their 
vehicles with various types of pedestrian warning sounds,\33\ but 
manufacturers of hybrid vehicles have generally not been doing so. 
NHTSA notes further that since the Pedestrian Safety Act directs the 
agency to issue a PEDSAFE standard for electric and hybrid vehicles, 
the statute does not permit the agency to take no action on this 

    \32\ See 40 CFR 1502.2(e), 1502.14(d).
    \33\ Until NHTSA completes its rulemaking under the Pedestrian 
Safety Act, the agency cannot fully determine the extent to which 
any of those systems might be compliant.
    \34\ CEQ has explained that ``[T]he regulations require the 
analysis of the no action alternative even if the agency is under a 
court order or legislative command to act. This analysis provides a 
benchmark, enabling decision makers to compare the magnitude of 
environmental effects of the action alternatives. [See 40 CFR 
1502.14(c).] * * * Inclusion of such an analysis in the EIS is 
necessary to inform Congress, the public, and the President as 
intended by NEPA. [See 40 CFR 1500.1(a).] ``Forty Most Asked 
Questions Concerning CEQ's National Environmental Policy Act 
Regulations,'' 46 FR 18026 (1981)(emphasis added).

B. Alternative 2: Recordings of Actual Internal Combustion Engine 

    Under this regulatory alternative, recordings of sounds produced by 
ICE vehicles would be used to create the pedestrian alert sound. The 
sounds produced by an ICE vehicle would be recorded when the vehicle is 
operating at constant speeds, forward from 0 potentially up to 32 km/h 
(0 to 20 mph) and in reverse potentially up to 10 km/h (6 mph). Other 
components of a vehicle's noise output such as tire noise, aerodynamic 
noise, and air conditioning fan noise would not be included in the 
recording used for the alert sound because these sounds are also 
emitted by EVs and HVs. The sound system would be programmed so that 
the pedestrian alert sound would vary based on the speed and operating 
mode of the vehicle in which the system was installed. Regulatory 
compliance with this alternative might be determined by an objective 
test that measured the overall decibel level and the average one-third 
octave band level \35\ of the sound to ensure that the sound mimics as 
nearly as possible that of the ICE vehicle from which it was 
recorded.\36\ The results from the sound recordings would be compared 
to the sound profile of an ICE reference.

    \35\ An octave refers to the interval between one frequency and 
its double or its half. An octave relates exponential increases in 
the frequency spectrum to how humans perceive sound. A one-third 
octave band is an octave divided into thirds with the upper 
frequency limit being 2* (1.26) times the lower frequency. A one-
third octave band roughly corresponds to a human's ability to 
analyze different frequencies of sound separately. A measure of the 
one-third octave level captures the sound pressure level, also 
referred to as decibel level, of the different frequencies that make 
up the frequency spectrum that is audible to humans.
    \36\ As noted elsewhere in this document, given the limitations 
of the speakers that are likely to be used to comply with the 
standard to be issued by this agency, the sound as broadcasted will 
differ from the sound as recorded.

    The advantage of a pedestrian warning sound consisting of a 
recording of an ICE vehicle is that the sound would have the same sound 
characteristics and volume levels of ICE vehicles currently in use. 
Further, ICE sounds are known and accepted by pedestrians. The agency 
anticipates that ICE-based and ICE-like synthetic sounds (i.e., sounds 
that are representative of an ICE vehicle, but are not from a recording 
of an ICE vehicle) played at current vehicle sound levels would not 
significantly change the overall sound profile of urban (low-speed) 
traffic noise, except for some loss of lower frequencies. The overall 
sound of traffic noise would be similar for ICE sounds if ICEs were 
replaced one-to-one with HVs/EVs.
    An ICE vehicle recording would be reasonably recognizable to 
pedestrians as the sound of a motor vehicle. However, if the recording 
were played through low-fidelity speakers, it would tend to sound 
somewhat higher, thinner, and more metallic than an ICE

[[Page 40865]]

vehicle.\37\ This is because this type of speaker cannot reproduce the 
low frequency components of ICE sounds, but can effectively project 
non-ICE vehicle sounds that are comprised of components in the higher 
frequency ranges. On the other hand, a pedestrian alert sound based on 
an ICE vehicle recording would also limit acoustic variation among 
alert sounds, thereby reducing the possibility that a multitude of 
different alert sounds from different vehicle models would annoy or 
confuse pedestrians.

    \37\ This problem would also affect all of the other action 

    In view of its similarity to ICE vehicle sounds, an ICE vehicle 
recording is presumed to be recognizable at the same distance as ICE 
vehicles are recognizable. The drawback to using an ICE vehicle 
recording as a pedestrian alert sound is that non-ICE vehicle sounds 
could possibly be designed so as to provide better detectability for 
pedestrians, presumably at lower decibel levels.

C. Alternative 3: Synthesized ICE-Equivalent Sounds

    In this alternative, simulated ICE vehicle sounds would be 
synthesized directly by a digital-signal processor programmed to create 
ICE vehicle-like alert sounds that would vary pitch and loudness in 
relation to the speed and operating mode of the vehicle. The synthetic 
sounds would be based on actual ICE vehicle sounds.
    The resulting synthesized sounds would resemble those of 
Alternative 2, and thus have advantages and disadvantages similar to 
those of that alternative.
    The synthesized sounds would have an additional advantage as a 
result of having fewer components along the frequency spectrum. This 
could allow for better detectability in ambient noise environments in 
which those frequency components are not present. To the extent that 
detectability was aided, the decibel level could be commensurately 
lowered to reduce the potential for any environmental impact.\38\ This 
adjustment would be intended to ensure that the sound impact of EVs and 
HVs would be no greater than that of existing ICE vehicles.

    \38\ The same step would be taken for Alternatives 4 and 5.

    The compliance test method for alternative 3 would be the same as 
the method used in alternative 2.

D. Alternative 4: Combination of Synthesized Non-ICE Sounds and ICE 
Components to Aid Recognition

    This regulatory alternative would consist of a pedestrian alert 
sound combining some of the acoustic characteristics of sounds produced 
by ICE vehicles and some characteristics of non-ICE vehicle sounds 
engineered for enhanced detectability.
    These types of sounds share some of same advantages and 
disadvantages of the sounds discussed in some of the other 
alternatives, especially Alternative 5.
    One advantage of the combination of a synthesized sound and 
components of an ICE sound is that there is a greater likelihood that a 
pedestrian will recognize the sound as one coming from a motor vehicle.
    Because this sound would not have a comparable ICE vehicle profile 
for which a safe detection distance at a given decibel level has been 
established, detectability of these sounds would likely need to be 
assessed through human subject testing. These combination ICE and non-
ICE sounds would also vary pitch and loudness in relation to the speed 
and operating mode of the vehicle. Further, in addition to the issue of 
detectability, the agency must consider the issue of recognizability. 
It too likely could be assessed only through human-subject testing.
    To the extent that the non-ICE elements permitted detection at 
lower decibel levels than the alternatives based on ICE sounds, the 
agency could specify such a lower decibel level in an effort to ensure 
that the potential for environmental impact would not be any greater 
than that for Alternatives 2 and 3. Because the sound for this 
alternative would contain acoustic characteristics of an ICE sound, it 
might prove more acceptable to the public than that for Alternative 5.

E. Alternative 5: Synthesized Non-ICE Sounds Developed To Enhance 

    Under this alternative, pedestrian alert sounds would be created 
based on psychoacoustic principles \39\ using a digital-signal 
processor. Some characteristics common to these non-ICE vehicle sounds 
would include:

    \39\ Psychoacoustics is the field of science that studies how 
humans perceive and react to sounds.

     Pitch shifting denoting vehicle speed change (in order to 
replicate a vehicle accelerating from 0 to 32 km/h (0 to 20 mph), a 
linear pitch change of approximately 40% is necessary, based on changes 
in vehicle speed);
     Pulsating quality, with pulse widths of 100 to 200 msec 
and about three to ten pulses per second interval;
     Inter-pulse intervals of no more than 150 msec;
     A fundamental tonal component in the 150 to 1000 Hz 
frequency range;
     At least three prominent harmonics in the 1 to 4 kHz 
frequency range;
     Four or more frequencies with average sound pressure 
exceeding 50 dB(A).
    Sounds having the characteristics listed above might not resemble 
the sound of an ICE vehicle, although recordings of ICE vehicle noise 
can be processed through a digital signal processor to conform to the 
characteristics above while retaining a quality that would allow 
pedestrians to identify the sound as coming from a motor vehicle. 
Although the alert sound would not sound like an ICE vehicle, it would 
still vary pitch and loudness in relation to the speed and operating 
mode of the vehicle, which would enable pedestrians to identify the 
sound as that of a motor vehicle in operation.
    An advantage to some synthetically developed alert sounds with no 
ICE vehicle references is that the sounds appear to offer a detection 
distance comparable to that of an ICE vehicle sound at a lower decibel 
level. If this alternative were selected, the agency would specify such 
a lower decibel level in an effort to ensure that the potential for 
environmental impact would not be any greater than that for 
Alternatives 2 and 3.
    The detectability of a specific non-ICE sound, however, likely 
could be assessed only through human-subject testing because these non-
ICE vehicle sounds do not have an ICE vehicle reference for which a 
decibel level corresponding to a safe detection distance has been 
measured. Further, in addition to the issue of detectability, the 
agency must consider the issue of recognizability. It too likely could 
be assessed only through human-subject testing.
    Using non-ICE vehicle sounds as pedestrian alert sounds, however, 
could entail some disadvantages. If the open-endedness of this approach 
resulted in a wide variety of different alert sounds for different 
vehicle models, it could complicate the learning and recognizing of 
alert sounds and thereby confuse pedestrians. Further, there are 
questions as to whether all non-ICE vehicle sounds would be 
recognizable as those of a motor vehicle. Multiple different alert 
sounds with no common acoustic characteristics might have a negative 
impact on community noise levels.

[[Page 40866]]

F. The Alternatives in General

    Each of the alternatives set forth above by NHTSA represents a 
different way in which NHTSA conceivably could balance the potentially 
competing considerations of recognizability, detectability, 
effectiveness, environmental noise impact and cost. For example, 
Alternative 2 places more weight on the recognizability of the alert 
sound as that of an ICE motor vehicle and minimization of any risk of 
an adverse noise impact on the community than Alternative 5 does. 
Conversely, the latter alternative places more weight on detectability 
than the former alternative does.
    The agency may select one of the above-identified alternatives as 
its preferred alternative. Under NEPA, the purpose of and need for an 
agency's action inform the range of reasonable alternatives to be 
considered in its NEPA analysis. The above alternatives represent a 
broad range of approaches under consideration for setting the proposed 
PEDSAFE standard and whose environmental impacts we plan to evaluate 
under NEPA.
    As detailed below, NHTSA invites comments to ensure that the agency 
considers a range of reasonable alternatives in setting a PEDSAFE 
standard and that the agency identifies the environmental impacts 
associated with each alternative. Comments may go beyond the approaches 
and information that NHTSA used in developing the above. The agency may 
modify the alternatives and environmental effects that will be analyzed 
in depth based upon the comments received during the scoping process 
and upon further agency analysis.

IV. Scoping and Public Participation

    The scoping process initiated by this notice seeks public comment 
on the range of alternatives and impacts to be considered in the EA and 
to identify the most important issues for in-depth analysis involving 
the potential environmental impacts of NHTSA's PEDSAFE standard.\40\ 
NHTSA's NEPA analysis for the PEDSAFE standard will consider the 
direct, indirect and cumulative environmental impacts of the proposed 
standards and those of reasonable alternatives.

    \40\ See 40 CFR 1500.5(d), 1501.7, 1508.25.

    In preparing this notice of public scoping, NHTSA has consulted 
with agencies, including CEQ, Department of Energy, EPA, and the 
Department of Interior. Through this notice, NHTSA invites 
participation by the public and all Federal agencies, and by Indian 
Tribes, State and local agencies with jurisdiction by law or special 
expertise with respect to potential environmental impacts of the 
proposed PEDSAFE standard, and the public to participate in the scoping 

    \41\ Consistent with NEPA and implementing regulations, NHTSA is 
sending this notice directly to: (1) Federal agencies having 
jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to the 
environmental impacts involved or authorized to develop and enforce 
environmental standards; (2) the Governors of every State, to share 
with the appropriate agencies and offices within their 
administrations and with the local jurisdictions within their 
States; (3) organizations representing state and local governments 
and Indian Tribes; and (4) other stakeholders that NHTSA reasonably 
expects to be interested in the NEPA analysis for the proposed 
pedestrian alert sound standards. See 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C); 49 CFR 
520.21(g); 40 CFR 1501.7, 1506.6.

    Specifically, NHTSA invites all stakeholders to participate in the 
scoping process by submitting written comments concerning the 
appropriate scope of NHTSA's NEPA analysis for the proposed PEDSAFE 
standard to the docket number identified in the heading of this notice, 
using any of the methods described in the ADDRESSES section of this 
notice. NHTSA does not plan to hold a public scoping meeting, because 
written comments will be effective in identifying and narrowing the 
issues for analysis.
    NHTSA is especially interested in comments concerning the 
evaluation of community noise impacts. Information on some of the basic 
elements of evaluating those impacts can be found in ``Technology for a 
Quieter America,'' a 2010 report by the National Academy of Engineering 
(NEA) of the National Academies.\42\ For example, chapter 2 of the 
report addresses community noise and chapter 3 addresses metrics for 
assessing environmental noise.

    \42\ The report can be found at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12928&page=R1. See also World Health 
Organization, Guidelines for Community Noise, edited by B. Berglund, 
T. Lindvall, and D. H. Schuela, Cluster of Sustainable Development 
and Healthy Environment, Department of the Protection of the Human 
Environment, Occupational and Environmental Health. Geneva, 
Switzerland, 1999.

    Specifically, NHTSA requests:
     Peer-reviewed scientific studies relevant to any 
environmental issues associated with this rulemaking.
     Reports analyzing the potential impacts within the United 
States, in particular geographic areas of the United States or in 
special habitats and environments like those in the National Park 

    \43\ In these areas, there may be a special need to use quiet 
vehicles for purposes such as wildlife tours. See, for example, the 
brochure of the National Park Service on its program, the Natural 
Sounds Program, for protecting the acoustic environment of the areas 
in the National Park System. The brochure can be found at http://www.nature.nps.gov/naturalsounds/PDF_docs/NSP_standard_brochure_final_10_1_08.pdf.

     Suggestions on how to assess the potential for this 
rulemaking to result in the emission of sound which, either because of 
its volume or nature, causes annoyance, as well as suggestions for how 
to limit that potential while achieving the safety purposes of the 
Pedestrian Safety Act. While the issue of volume could be addressed by 
placing a limit on the maximum volume of the alert noise, what steps 
could be taken to address the nature of the sound emitted?
    To aid commenters in understanding the differing sound levels in 
different environments, we have set out below two tables from the 
introduction to NEA's report ``Technology for a Quieter America:'' \44\ 
a 2010 report by the National Academy of Engineering (NEA):

    \44\ See page 6 of the report.

                      Comparison of A-Weighted Sound Levels in Common Outdoor Environments
   A-weighted sound level
         (decibels)                          Typical outdoor setting
                              Noisy Urban Area (daytime)
                              Commercial Retail Area
60                                                                                   Non-Park
                              Suburban Area (daytime)

[[Page 40867]]

                              Suburban Area (nighttime)
                              Hawaiian volcanoes (crater overlook)                   Park
                              Haleakala (in crater, no wind)

        Sound Pressure Levels Generated by Various Noise Sources
                  Sound pressure level                         dB(A)
Quiet library, soft whispers............................              30
Living room, refrigerator...............................              40
Light traffic, normal conversation, quiet office........              50
Air conditioner at 20 feet, sewing machine..............              60
Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, noisy restaurant............              70
Average city traffic, garbage disposals, alarm clock at               80
 2 feet.................................................
Subway, motorcycle, truck traffic, lawn mower...........              90
Garbage truck, chain saw, pneumatic drill...............             100
Rock band concert in front of speakers, thunderclap.....             120
Gunshot blast, jet plane................................             140
Rocket launching pad....................................             180

    NHTSA understands that there are a variety of potential 
alternatives that could be considered that fit within the purpose and 
need for the proposed rulemaking, as set forth in the Pedestrian Safety 
Act. Therefore, NHTSA seeks comments on how best to structure a 
reasonable alternative for purposes of evaluating it under NEPA. 
Specifically, NHTSA seeks comments on what criteria should be used to 
structure such alternative. When suggesting a possible alternative, 
please explain how it would satisfy the Pedestrian Safety Act's 
requirements and other provisions.
    Two important purposes of scoping are identifying the issues that 
merit in-depth analysis and identifying and eliminating from detailed 
analysis minor issues that need only a brief discussion.\45\ In light 
of these purposes, written comments should include an Internet citation 
(with a date last visited) to each study or report you cite in your 
comments if one is available. If a document you cite is not available 
to the public on-line, you should attach a copy to your comments. Your 
comments should indicate how each document you cite or attach to your 
comments is relevant to the NEPA analysis and indicate the specific 
pages and passages in the attachment that are most informative.

    \45\ 40 CFR 1500.4(g), 1501.7(a).

    The more specific your comments are, and the more support you can 
provide by directing the agency to peer-reviewed scientific studies and 
reports as requested above, the more useful your comments will be to 
the agency. For example, if you identify an additional area of impact 
or environmental concern you believe NHTSA should analyze, or an 
analytical tool or model that you believe NHTSA should use to evaluate 
these environmental impacts, you should clearly describe it and support 
your comments with a reference to a specific peer-reviewed scientific 
study, report, tool or model. Specific, well-supported comments will 
help the agency prepare a NEPA analysis that is focused and relevant, 
and that will serve NEPA's overarching aims of making high quality 
information available to decisionmakers and the public by concentrating 
on important issues, ``rather than amassing needless detail.'' \46\ By 
contrast, mere assertions that the agency should evaluate broad lists 
or categories of concerns, without support, will not assist the scoping 
process for the proposed standard.

    \46\ 40 CFR 1500.1(b).

    Please be sure to reference the docket number identified in the 
heading of this notice in your comments. In addition to meeting the 
notice requirements in the implementing regulations issued by CEQ, 
NHTSA intends to provide notice to interested parties by e-mail. Thus, 
please also provide an e-mail address (or a mailing address if you 
decline e-mail communications).\47\ These steps will help NHTSA to 
manage a large volume of material during the NEPA process. All comments 
and materials received, including the names and addresses of the 
commenters who submit them, will become part of the administrative 
record and will be posted on the Web at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    \47\ If you prefer to receive NHTSA's NEPA correspondence by 
U.S. mail, NHTSA intends to provide its NEPA publications via a CD 
readable on a personal computer.

    Based on comments received during scoping, NHTSA expects to prepare 
an EA for public comment in conjunction with the proposal, which is to 
be issued by July 4, 2012, and a final EA to accompany the final rule, 
which is to be issued by January 4, 2014.
    Separate Federal Register notices will announce the availability of 
the EA, which will be available for public comment, and the final NEPA 
document, which will be available for public inspection. NHTSA also 
plans to continue to post information about the pedestrian safety 
rulemaking, including information relating to the NEPA

[[Page 40868]]

process, on its Web site (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov).

    Issued: July 6, 2011.
Christopher J. Bonanti,
Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.
[FR Doc. 2011-17341 Filed 7-7-11; 11:15 am]