Safer Electric Vehicles For Australia With AVAS

Electric vehicle AVAS

It’s official – an Australian design rule to make new electric vehicles safer will come into play from November 2025.

One of the many great things about EVs is how quiet they are. But this also poses a safety issue, particularly for pedestrians in our community with vision issues who rely on sound to get around our streets.

Some electric vehicles are fitted with an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS). This is a sound emitted while an EV is travelling at low speeds when tyre noise may not be loud enough to alert pedestrians. To this point (and for a little while longer), inclusion of AVAS on new electric vehicles hasn’t been compulsory. But a new Australian Design Rule (ADR) will make AVAS mandatory for new electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell cars, trucks and buses from November 2025.

“As more and more Australians choose to drive EVs, we are committed to ensuring that they are safe for both driver and others using the road,” said Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King. “This is a significant win for those [in] the blind and low-vision community who have long been advocating for alert systems like this to be introduced in Australia.”

The decision follows consultation on a draft Impact Analysis proposing compulsory AVAS, which was strongly supported not only by the blind and low-vision community, but also state and territory governments and vehicle manufacturers. Australia is playing catch-up here, with AVAS already mandated in the EU, UK, Japan, Korea and the USA.

Vision Australia has been advocating for AVAS to be introduced in Australia since 2018.

“We are ecstatic and congratulate the current federal government for listening to our concerns and acting on this very important issue as pedestrians who are blind or have low vision will be able to navigate public spaces with more confidence,” said Vision Australia’s Chris Edwards.

Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule 113/00 – Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems for Quiet Road Transport Vehicles) 2024 can be found here.

BYD Atto AVAS Update

On a related note, we’ve had our BYD Atto 3 for around a year now. So far, it’s generally been a great vehicle and we’ve spent very little on EV charging at home thanks to our 10kW solar system and Fronius WattPilot. Among my few gripes was the Atto’s AVAS system. There were a couple of sounds to choose from – the less problematic (IMO) being a Jetsons-type spaceship sound I could hear from the other end of the house when my better half arrived home.

The sound raised a few eyebrows in our street, which is already home to way too many unnecessarily loud internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. While the Atto AVAS sound wasn’t anywhere as near as loud as these vehicles, I don’t think it was doing the EV’s quietness street cred any favours.

The AVAS sound choice was a fairly common gripe among Atto owners, some of whom went as far as physically disconnecting the system as it couldn’t be switched off through software options. While the sound annoyed me, I didn’t interfere with the system as it was doing the job it was designed to do. Additionally, I figured it wouldn’t have been a good look in the courts or with our insurer if there was an accident with a pedestrian and it was discovered the safety device was purposely interfered with in a way the manufacturer didn’t intend.

BYD appeared to take feedback on board in an over-the-air (OTA) update released late last year. One of the tone options changed to something quieter that didn’t sound like an alien invasion was nigh. Whether it’s in harmony with the new ADR I don’t know – it seems a bit too quiet now. But one of the wonderful things about OTA updates is it won’t take much effort for BYD to bring it into line if need be.

But there’s now also an option to turn it off altogether. And while the new ADR only applies to new cars manufactured on or after 1 November 2025, AVAS is a really valuable feature on existing cars that have it. It could literally save a life.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Tim Chirgwin says

    These modern vehicles have all sorts of visual aids and proximity sensors, maybe the vehicles should have a sensor to indicate nearby pedestrian and so only activate a louder noise in that scenario while the rest of the time modestly quiet.

    Anybody who works on work sites with earthmoving or reversing vehicles becomes desensitized by everything in the yard beeping and squeaking and honking, to the point where its hard to decipher the noise from the danger itself.

  2. George Kaplan says

    How will this play with those hearing impaired or who don’t recognise the sound for what it’s supposed to be?

    And why would hybrid and hydrogen vehicles need an AVAS but not regular ICEVs? Is the difference in noise that substantial? Or is it a bid to complicate life for EV competitors?

    • I wish my Tesla’s “UFO” reversing sound wasn’t so loud, or thar it could be changed to something less obnoxious. I don’t reverse into my garage when I get home late because it’s absurd

  3. This irritates me. Here we have the chance to have quiet traffic at last and we blew it. How about supplying hand held sonar or lidar proximity motion detectors to blind people? At the very least orchestrate the sounds to avoid cacophony: give the job to Brian Eno. Will my bicycle now be required to have a continuous bell? Noise pollution is a disaster and part of the tragic ill health of modern life.

    • I had an incidents last week where I was walking through an outdoor car park aware of my surroundings and an EV pulled out of a car spot and drove at me I did not hear the car at all. The driver indicated it was my fault that I nearly got run over , these cars are a danger and some driver’s attitudes are pure arrogance

  4. I'm Old Gregg! says

    The problem of continually putting the onus on pedestrians (a trend commenced when Ford Motor Company and others lobbied the USA governments to invent “jaywalking” and then ban it, thereby making more car crash fatalities mere “accidents” or minor infringements) is that it continues to make drivers even worse at using their attention, brakes and steering to avoid banging their cars into things.

  5. Arno Schaaf says

    I have recently worked on an AVAS-related proposal. I also have a BYD Atto 3 and I am hearing impaired.

    In terms of traffic quieting, AVAS only needs to work at speeds up to 20km/h. Above that tyre noise will be sufficient to indicate the approach of a vehicle. I have the experience of almost stepping in the path of a reversing Tesla at a fast charger – AVAS would have prevented that from happening.

    Whilst I agree that vision-impaired people need an indication of an approaching vehicle, hearing impaired and what I would call the “perpetually distracted” also benefit. Part of the specification is that one of the two frequency bands must be below 1,600Hz – a band where most hearing-impaired people will still be able to hear. I could certainly hear the AVAS of the Atto 3.

    London buses have implemented AVAS on their electric buses – I appreciate the intent but I am not too taken by the sound they have designed. It includes a sound when the bus is stationary – again aimed at vision-impaired people. That then raises issues with buses at stops near houses at night. I think care should be taken to engage the right people in designing a sound – a lot of sound design currently goes into advertising and I doubt such agencies would be well suited for what essentially is an environmental sound.

    In the BYD Facebook group, there was quite a bit of discussion about the AVAS. It included people who just wanted silent transport, but also those who were fans of Star Wars, Dr Who, or Mission Impossible. Any AVAS should not be able to be hacked and result in a cacophony of different favorite tunes, along the lines of ring tones in early GSM phones. Apart from being very confusing, that would definitely negate the quiet nature of electric vehicles.

  6. John Mitchell says

    What a nanny state we live in. A modern ICE car produces about the same amount of noise as an EV when coasting. Not hearing it being proposed for them – though it wouldn’t surprise me.

    Last time I checked it was the driver’s responsibility not to hit a pedestrian and I haven’t heard a single case of an EV hitting a pedestrian because it was too quiet. Vision impaired or not.

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Hi John

      I’ve personally scared the p!ss out of pedestrians at carpark speeds because they’re sauntering into the shop and not paying attention. “Low speed” in a car is still plenty enough to knock people down and injure them.

      • Stephen Hortle says

        In ice cars? I can personaly understand that. My hearing is not that bad and I’ve had an ice car role up behind me in a car park and it’s only when he hit the horn I became aware he was there. Modern Ice cars only make noise when the throttle is increased. At Idle an automatic will move along at 5km hour or better and most modern cars at idle are pretty much silent unless you are realy listening hard…..Requesting Electric cars to make noise is reminiscent of the early days of cars requiring a flag bearer to walk in front of cars to warn pedestrian and horse owners of the danger..

      • I'm Old Gregg! says

        I understand. But I trust you to use your attention, brakes and steering in order to avoid banging into them, at least.

        BTW there’s no need to beep your horn. If you’re only 10 feet away, a gentle “Coming through!” out the window is enough to catch the attention of most (not all) people.

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