Switzerland is to follow the European Union’s lead and bring in laws requiring all new electric, hybrid and fuel cell cars to be installed with artificial sound from the middle of next year.
Under the safety regime, which is to be introduced in stages, all of these vehicle types will eventually have to be installed with a so-called Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) which provides noise-based information to pedestrians and other vehicles on the road.
The move comes after pressure from the World Blind Union and the European Blind Union over concerns silent cars represent a serious threat to the safety and freedom of movement of blind and partially-sighted people.
The Swiss Association for the Blind (SBV) has welcomed the move, according to Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag.
“Our ears are our eyes. If we can’t hear cars then our freedom of movement is seriously reduced,” SBV spokesperson Joel Favre told the newspaper.
But Favre said the association was disappointed Switzerland hadn’t gone further than EU rules by mandating stationary electric cars – at traffic lights or before pulling out of parking spots, for example– must emit noise, or by ruling AVAS systems cannot be turned off.
Under the new EU rules, drivers will initially be able to switch off noise-emitting systems, although this option will eventually disappear.
Meanwhile, the Swiss federal roads office (Astra) has noted that out of the 4.5 million passenger cars on the country's roads, just 15,000 are electric and 67,000 are hybrid.
“These [types of vehicles] don’t stand out particularly in the accident statistics,” an Astra spokesperson told the NZZ am Sonntag.
The Swiss government is pushing for 15 percent of all vehicles on the roads to be electric by 2020 to hit green energy targets.