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Japan could pass laws to make noise-making devices compulsory

Japan is to launch a government review on whether to add a noise-making device to hybrid and electric cars after they were declared dangerous by some users and visually-impaired people.

After the recent sales successes of petrol-electric hybrids such as the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, a Japanese transport ministry official said they had received complaints about the lack of noise such cars emit when they switch from fuel to battery mode.

See all the latest Toyota Prius reviews, news and video

The official said: “We have received opinions from automobile users and vision-impaired people that they feel hybrid vehicles are dangerous.

“Blind people depend on sounds when they walk, but there are no engine sounds from hybrid vehicles when running at low speed."

The ministry has launched an advisory panel consisting of scholars, vision-impaired groups, consumers, police and the automobile industry to look into the issue.

See all the latest Honda Insight reviews, news and video

At the group’s first meeting last week, it was agreed that a sound-making function should be introduced into the cars, although what the noise would be wasn’t decided. It was agreed “only that it should induce a response of caution” said the official.

The panel also agreed that hybrid cars have a role to play in reducing noise on the roads for local residents and whatever solution is reached will be a compromise for all parties.

The group is set to meet again by the end of the year and its proposals could be drafted into Japanese legislation.

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Mark Tisshaw

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