WASHINGTON - Automakers on May 19 agreed to support legislation that would require them to add warning sounds to hybrid and electric vehicle models in order to help blind pedestrians detect the presence of a nearby vehicle. 

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers joined the National Federation of the Blind, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers and the American Council of the Blind in signing a letter of support for legislation that would also consider "the overall community noise impact," by taking into account concerns over general noise levels. 

"Good policy is a collaborative effort, and this is a good approach for pedestrians and automakers," said Alliance President and CEO Dave McCurdy. "This encourages an innovative solution." 

The language is expected to be offered as an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010, currently under consideration by Congress. The language proposes that, within 18 months, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) begin crafting standards for an alert sound that allows the blind and other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle. The rule must then be finalized within three years. 

The letter, signed by the four groups, says the amendment "will help to ensure the safety of pedestrians, especially those who are blind, as an increasing number of hybrid and electric vehicles are sold and manufactured in the United States." 

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a trade association of 11 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen. 

"The National Federation of the Blind commends the automobile industry for its leadership on this issue and for its genuine concern for the safety of blind Americans, cyclists, runners, small children, and other pedestrians," said National Federation of the Blind President Marc Maurer. "We look forward to working with the parties to this agreement."