This story comes up again and again in the microcosm I inhabit. People are worried about being run over by electric cars ‘because they are silent.’ I’m not saying for a moment there isn’t a problem but I am suggesting it’s a problem we already live with and electric cars aren’t going to make any difference.
A low speed traffic accident is a tragedy regardless of what powers the car. In the USA (according to a recent National Public Radio show in the USA) there are over 300 fatalities every year in ‘backing up accidents.’
Out of the entire yearly death count caused by motor vehicles in the USA, 300 is a fairly small fraction but none the less it’s terrible for those involved. I just want to point out that we can be pretty certain that if one of those accidents had been caused by a reversing electric vehicle which killed someone we would have heard about it.
It will happen eventually and we will hear about it, but will that person have died because the vehicle was silent? Who knows. Possibly. But how are the 300 people killed every year now by vehicles with internal combustion engines which make a noise. The answer has to be ‘it was an accident.’ The driver didn’t check carefully enough, the person behind the car was too small to see, i.e. a child. The number of children killed by their own parents reversing a three ton SUV is heartbreakingly high, now there’s a Daily Mail headline if ever there was one.
So these accidents happen when the driver and/or the pedestrian were not concentrating for a split second and boom, end of story.
My point is, the motive power of the vehicle has nothing to do with it. Cars are dangerous, we use them every day and we get complacent, we walk among them all the time and we don’t take enough care. We drive them every day and we get distracted. In effect, the silent electric car menace is a scare story, but why would anyone want to scare people about the impact of a new technology?
I really wouldn’t like to say.
One last thing, if we stop driving cars especially at low speeds, there would be a reduction of these sorts of accident. When I say stop driving, I mean literally that, let the car do the low speed, urban driving. They are already capable of doing so, cars can already park themselves (my Prius has autopark) and it's only a small step to have them 'unpark' and safely join the traffic flow.
Also cameras instead of mirrors. I would never reverse anywhere without first chedcking the brilliant reversing camera on the Nissan Leaf. It gives a very clear image of what is directly behind you, day or night.