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WTF: eVgo publishes Facebook Post claiming electric cars are dangerous

; Date: July 21, 2017

Tags: Electric Car Noise »»»» Electric Car Safety

Back in 2010-2011 an association for blind folk began a push for electric cars to make noise, because quiet cars are dangerous to blind people who use sounds to navigate the world around them. While it's obvious that blind folks need to hear things to avoid risks, it's only part of the story. What about the pedestrian/bicyclist deaths due to gasoline cars and even big trucks? Obviously it's not about the noise emitted by the vehicle. What about noise pollution in our cities? When will we solve for noise pollution?

Instead, doesn't it seem possible the "quiet electric cars are dangerous" idea might be pushed by organizations seeking to delay electric car adoption?

By that measure why is an electric car charging network like eVgo publishing a note saying electric cars are dangerous? What the ____, as they say! I think I'm speaking for all of eVgo's customers when I beg them to please please please work on improving your back-end services.

The above image was posted to (www.facebook.com) eVgo's Facebook feed on July 21, 2017. It links to a Wired article discussing the danger of quiet electric cars, and how that can be fixed by having them emit some noise.

This issue started being raised back in the 2010-2011 time-frame when lobbying groups representing blind people pushed for regulations that electric cars must make some noise. That push did result in some regulations. After several years of study, including a report about the incidence of pedestrian/bicyclist deaths due to Hybrid and Battery EV cars, that US Federal Regulations have started to require some noise emissions from electric cars.

Can one cleanly say that EV's are dangerous because they're quiet? No. Let's consider several facets to this, including a question of whether eVgo is applying their corporate resources wisely.

Too Quiet? Dangerous?

The NHTSA published a study claiming that Hybrid and Electric cars caused a greater incidence of pedestrian or bicyclist death or injury. Therefore it would seem clear as day that there's a risk, and that perhaps having these cars emit some noise would solve the problem. It's not just blind folk who respond to warning sounds, everyone does. But ...

It's a shocking exercise to go to a News search engine (e.g. (news.google.com) news.google.com) and type in "pedestrian death" or "bicyclist death". I just did that and just typing in "pedestrian" gives me suggestions of not only "pedestrian death" but "pedestrian hit", "pedestrian hit by car", "pedestrian killed", "pedestrian safety", "pedestrian hit by train", "pedestrian struck", "pedestrian accident". Nothing about any of the positive anythings about being a pedestrian, just all these painful things. Clearly its dangerous to be a pedestrian. A similar result occurs with just the word "bicyclist", that all the suggestions circle around bicyclists struck by other vehicles and possibly killed.

The vast majority of those accidents involve gasoline or diesel powered vehicles. That includes TRAIN's, that by law are very noisy and have loud horns, and crossing guards, and on and on.

How, then, can you conclude that the noise emitted by the vehicle is the primary determiner of danger?

Pedestrian/bicyclist deaths are so common they're part of the routine noise of the daily news. It's very sad that this is happening. It's sad that our roads are so dangerous for anybody but car drivers. Why aren't our roads being designed for all users of the road, and not just car drivers?

How much noise should a car make?

Back in 2011 I'd seen a claim that "electric cars should sound like cars" and therefore blind folk would be safe.

That raises a big question of what should a car sound like? Obviously there's a big mix of opinion given the kinds of vehicles on the road. Some people tweak their vehicles so they make much more noise than necessary. Maybe they think it's powerful, I think it's obnoxious.

I don't have a good answer for what sound a car "should" emit. Instead I have this next point to make ...

The plague of noise pollution

Noise pollution is a serious health problem. It's well known that high noise pollution causes a range of illnesses. How much is high noise pollution? Try, any typical urban street.

We have a plague of noisy noisy noisy vehicles all around us. And it's not just the vehicles, it's the leaf blowers and much more.

I live near a major airport, and am constantly serenaded by the sound of airplanes taking off and landing. Nearby is a major train station, and the corresponding sound of trains coming and going. And the major street a block away has bus's and trucks and much more going by all day long. This is just a suburb setting, the noise situation in cities is far worse. Our apartment in Bucharest overlooks a major transit hub with several bus lines, streetcar lines, and major roads all converging at one intersection. The traffic noise is really bad.

Wouldn't we all be better off if all vehicles were to emit a lot less noise?

One day nearly 20 years ago I had an epiphanette (little epiphany) in San Francisco. That city has both diesel-powered bus's and electric bus's powered by overhead wires. I happened to watch an electric bus, and then a diesel bus, pass by me, and the difference in noise was astonishing.

Our streets and cities could be lots more livable if we had lots more electric vehicles.

Personal responsibility

My experience of "traffic accidents" is that someone wasn't paying enough attention.

The operator of a big heavy vehicle like a car should absolutely be paying attention to what they're doing and taking responsibility for safely operating their big heavy vehicle. Why? These cars can and do cause lots of damage when they hit a bicycle or pedestrian.

Likewise bicyclists and pedestrians should be paying more attention to what's around them.

In motorcycle safety training courses there's a corresponding point made. Motorcycles (and pedestrians and bicyclists) have a very small visible presence and it's easy for a car driver to not see a motorcyclist. Motorcyclists are therefore urged to take lots of caution, presume they're not being seen, to ride in ways that make them more visible, to constantly scan for risks and plan for responses.

Pedestrians and bicyclists should do the same. Unfortunately they're being encouraged by their smart phones to focus on the phone rather than on the streets around them.

The "EV's are dangerous" meme is itself dangerous to EV's

The situation results in articles with titles claiming electric vehicles are dangerous. Doesn't this spread an unwanted notion? Does this cause part of the fear-uncertainty-doubt cycle causing some to shy away from buying electric vehicles?

eVgo's back-end services are really bad, we'd like them to focus on that

That eVgo pushed this news article -- titled "EVS ARE DANGEROUSLY QUIET. HERE'S WHAT THEY COULD SOUND LIKE" -- is itself very strange. As the operator of a large electric car charging network, shouldn't eVgo be pushing the idea that electric vehicles are good for us, that we should like electric vehicles?

This is a good action for eVgo to have taken? To spend its corporate resources saying that EV's are dangerous?

And talking about use of corporate resources, there's something we all want eVgo to do --- FIX UP YOUR BACK-END SERVICES.

Why can't we log into a user reporting area and see information about our account and our usage?

What about updating our billing information? Currently you go to a stupid web form -- not a protected "Billing" area in the back end, but just a form on the main part of the website, fill in information, and then they get around to updating your billing information when they get to it.

I could go on -- but -- eVgo's service at the charging station is excellent. Usually eVgo's charging stations are working fine and are well maintained, unlike Blink's. It's their back-end service that need a lot of work.

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.
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