Draft EU Regulation on Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems (AVAS) Published
Although pure electric and hybrid electric vehicles offer significant environmental benefits in terms of reduced air pollution, noise pollution and fossil fuel usage, their almost silent operation at low speeds has created a potential safety issue. In urban situations, the lack of noise generated by pure electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles operating without their internal combustion engine running has removed an important acoustic signal used by pedestrians, especially blind or visually impaired pedestrians, and other vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, to determine the presence, position and direction of motion of such vehicles.
To address this situation, some years ago, it was proposed that all pure electric vehicles and all hybrid electric vehicles capable of operating without their internal combustion engine running be fitted with some form of sound generating device that would emit sound whenever the vehicle was operating at low speeds to warn pedestrians and other vulnerable road users of the vehicle's presence. In 2010, work began within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) to develop the requirements and specifications for such sound generating devices, which became known as acoustic vehicle alerting systems (AVAS). The new UN ECE Regulation which was created as a result of this work, UN ECE Regulation No. 138, was adopted by the World Forum for the Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) in March 2016 and is expected to be formally published in October 2016.
From a European Union (EU) perspective, the European Commission actively participated in the drafting of ECE 138 with a view to adopting it into EU legislation once it was finalised and published. However, in 2014, when the EU published their new Regulation on the sound levels produced by motor vehicles, EU Regulation No. 540/2014, they took the opportunity to include some requirements on AVAS into it. At that stage, the requirements of ECE 138 had not been finalised and only the basic requirements for AVAS had been agreed. Therefore, only those basic requirements were included into EU Regulation No. 540/2014 along with a commitment to include more detailed requirements on AVAS once the UN ECE had concluded their work on AVAS.
Now that the requirements of ECE 138 have been finalised and agreed, the European Commission have begun the process to introduce the detailed requirements from ECE 138 into EU Regulation No. 540/2014 and a draft EU Regulation to achieve this was presented by the European Commission at a Motor Vehicles Working Group (MVWG) meeting on 5th July 2016. This draft EU Regulation basically aligns the AVAS requirements in (EU) No. 540/2014 with those specified in ECE 138 by introducing specific references to the ECE 138 requirements in (EU) No. 540/2014.
With regard to introduction dates, it is proposed that requirements introduced by this new EU Regulation would enter into force three days after the Regulation is published in the Official Journal. However, the introduction dates for the mandatory fitment of AVAS would remain as originally specified in (EU) No. 540/2014, i.e. the fitment of AVAS to pure electric and hybrid electric vehicles becomes mandatory from 1st July 2019 for new types of vehicle and from 1st July 2021 for all new vehicles, and any AVAS systems that are fitted voluntarily ahead of these dates must comply with the applicable requirements.