DEAR CAR TALK: I drive a two-year-old 2017 Chevy Volt. It has a beeping noise coming from the front end. Any ideas what that may indicate?

No message pops up on the dashboard or on the navigation system. None of the warning lights or other dashboard icons come on. Can you explain? – Louise

RAY: I have excellent news for you, Louise. You don’t need to take a hearing test this year.

The Chevy Volt, as I’m sure you know, is a plug-in hybrid that runs primarily on battery power. When hybrids and electric cars first came out, public safety officials discovered a serious problem. They were so quiet that pedestrians didn’t hear them coming, which is dangerous.

If I’m passing through an intersection in my 1997 Honda Odyssey with the belts squealing and the exhaust rattling, no one’s going to fail to hear me coming. But if I’m driving a Volt, a Prius or a Nissan Leaf, the only noise that’s heard is the rubber tires rolling on the road. And that’s pretty quiet at low speeds.

Apparently, it’s not enough noise to cause pedestrians to look up from their Tinder apps in time to avoid getting run over. So the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now requiring vehicles that run on electric power to have an audible pedestrian warning.

That’s a warning sound specifically for pedestrians. Carmakers can choose the sound, but it has to be loud enough for pedestrians, bicyclists or blind people to be able to hear it when the vehicle is going slower than about 20 mph. My late brother would have programmed his car to broadcast the sound of flatulence.

Anyway, that faint beeping sound you hear is that pedestrian warning broadcasting from the front of your Volt. It’s there to prevent pedestrian injuries, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your car, Louise.

Got a question about cars? Email Car Talk’s Ray Magliozzi by visiting the Car Talk website, www.cartalk.com.


Comments are not available on this story.