Audible alert systems for electric vehicles – to signal their approach to cyclists, pedestrians and other road users – are being considered in a community consultation program announced bv the Federal Government.
The program is inviting public feedback on a potential mandate for “life-saving acoustic vehicle alerting systems” (AVAS) for electric cars (EVs) in Australia.
“This technology allows EVs to produce an external sound, alerting vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, to their approach – thereby decreasing the risk of a collision,” according to a statement from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.
The technology is already mandated across most major vehicle markets, including the EU, UK, Japan, Korea, China and the US.
The department has released an impact analysis consultation paper – including a cost and benefits analysis – and is inviting community feedback on the paper until 26th May.
That includes possibly extending the mandate to include larger electric vehicles.
The campaign comes as the number of EVs on Australian roads almost doubled over the past year, from 44,000 in 2022 to more than 83,000.
AVAS is particularly important for people with impaired vision, who rely on sound to negotiate the road network independently. according to the government.
The department’s statement cited a survey in 2018 by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and Vision Australia, that suggested people with impaired vision felt particularly vulnerable on roads because of EVs. Of the 246 eligible participants who responded to the survey, 35% of respondents reported they had experienced a collision or near-collision with an EV.
The study did not provide a comparison figured for all cars or ICE vehicles in particular. The survey did ask respondents if they had experienced a collision or near collision with a vehicle or bicycle within the past five years. Seventy-nine percent reported they had experienced a collision or near collision.
The government claims a cost-benefit analysis for mandating AVAS in electric cars in Australia, “supported by independent analysis by MUARC and advice from manufacturers, indicates that 65 lives could be saved and 5,000 injuries avoided over a 35-year period”.
According to the statement, an average of more than 160 pedestrians die and thousands more are injured on Australian roads each year.
“As this analysis only covers pedestrian trauma, the benefits for Australian communities will likely be far greater – given AVAS technology will also reduce the risk of crashes involving other road users, particularly cyclists,” it says.