Automakers seek delay on pedestrian-alert systems for hybrids, EVs

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Automakers have asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to postpone rules that would require hybrids and electric vehicles to be equipped with pedestrian-alert systems.

With the agency already behind in approving a final regulation, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers wrote a letter to NHTSA last week, urging it to waive a proposed phase-in period starting in 2016.

The two groups want the agency to target full implementation beginning in September 2018.

NHTSA missed a Jan. 4 deadline set by Congress to issue a final rule. The agency noted in a Department of Transportation status report on pending rules this month that it may not decide upon the pedestrian-alert rules until April 29, 2015.

“Manufacturers will have very little time to develop and put into production compliant systems in time to meet a Sept. 1, 2018 deadline,” the two trade groups wrote in the letter.

The groups said that if NHTSA is “unable or unwilling” to establish a September 2018 effective date without a phase-in, they recommend the phase-in not start before Sept. 1, 2017.

“NHTSA is working to complete the final rule and as part of that process, is considering comments received from the Alliance and others regarding our proposed rule,” an agency spokesperson said.

The letter from the two groups also noted that automakers are not the only interested parties concerned about the short period between adoption of a final rule and the phase-in period.

It cited concerns from supplier Denso International America Inc., which said it would need at least three years to properly develop pedestrian-alert systems that comply with federal requirements.

“Because the systems will also be subject to NHTSA’s recall and remedy requirements, they must be engineered to withstand harsh operating environments for many years of operation,” the letter said. “A careful and thorough development is a necessity if the components are going to not only be compliant but also durable.”

In 2013, NHTSA proposed rules that would require and regulate minimum sound emitted by EVs, hybrids and other quiet cars to alert pedestrians of approaching vehicles.

Automakers said the regulations would annoy occupants and create unnecessary costs.

NHTSA estimated the proposal would cost the auto industry about $23 million in the first year of implementation. The cost of adding a speaker system would be about $35 per vehicle, according to the agency.

You can reach Nora Naughton at nnaughton@crain.com.

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