Mike Stevens | Jul 4, 2009

RISING CONCERNS ABOUT the risks near-silent hybrid vehicles pose to pedestrians, in particular the vision-impaired, has prompted Japan’s Transport Ministry to seek views on how to best remedy the problem.

With hybrid vehicles now the top sellers in Japan, the Ministry has called on consumers, police, vision-impaired groups, and automakers to discuss adding a mandatory sound-generating function to hybrid cars.

The near-silent operation of a hybrid vehicle running in its battery-only state may be an impressive feature for some. For pedestrians however, particularly the vision-impaired who rely on audible cues, the lack of noise can pose a genuine safety risk.

An official from the Transport Ministry revealed that a 13-member panel had met this week to discuss the issue.

" (The panel) decided to consider introducing a sound-making function," the official said, adding that the type of noise was still under consideration and “that it should induce a response of caution".

“On the other hand, we should pay attention to residents (along roads) as hybrids are excellent in reducing noise."

A report is expected by the end of the year. The panel’s proposal will then be discussed by the Transport Ministry’s Committee on Automobile Safety before any changes can be made to legislation.

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