The age of the electric car deserves its own sound

The noise, or lack thereof, for EVs has led to a fascinating area of development: what sound should they make?

Design and engineering services company Semcon had an installation at the Frankfurt Motor show explaining the concept, and have now published a website; a really great website – especially if you have good sound on your PC/Tablet/phone to watch and listen.

I guess we are at the dawn of a new age – a complete revolution in personal transport, as big as the change from horses to cars over 100 years ago. The reduction noise pollution that EVs will deliver is a benefit that isn’t always mentioned; as someone who has lived in London since 1994, I can fully appreciate the negative aspects of road noise, but I also appreciate the positive aspect of vehicle noise: we rely on noise to navigate urban areas – the sound the vehicles makes warns us before we cross the road as a pedestrian, or change lanes as a cyclist.

As a London cyclist I often have near misses with pedestrians who didn’t hear me, and I had the same experience driving EVs in the city – people have become accustomed to using their ears instead of, and as well as their eyes, and others have no choice and are more dependent on sound than vision.

Here is a chance to change the sound of our urban landscape – to engineer the sounds that vehicles make and to design the future sound of our urban spaces – it’s a cool concept.

Hear’s what Semcon have to say…

Imagine the core sound, if you will, as the vehicles heartbeat, breath or consciousness. Quiet, unobtrusive, yet giving an audible indication that this vehicle is switched on and poised to traffic.

The likeness of the core sound to a form of consciousness, is more than just a descriptive metaphor, it signifies that this car is sensitive to its environment, and can process it’s acoustic surroundings to make sure it’s own sound adapts, so that in quiet conditions its sound is audible to a minimum. In a harsh, spiky sonic setting, it adapts to soften the harsh sounds while achieving maximum audibility.

This responsiveness augments an added level of inclusion of the vehicle into the city, offering relevance and purpose to an otherwise bothersome object. And considering the much discussed urbanization trends that currently influence the automotive industry, we believe a vehicle that does not dictate a global soundscape but can rather adapt to, and positively influence, the sonic conditions of either São Paulo, London, Jakarta or Mexico City; stands for our interest in creating an enriched interaction between cars and their surrounding environment.

The age of the electric car deserves its own sound

While our cities are in continuous visual and tactile evolution, our sonic landscape is primitive and disordered. With the dawn of silent electric vehicles comes a need for pedestrian warning sounds. This represents an opportunity to reflect upon the noise of our streets today and fantasize on what the future of our cities could sound like.

Semcon, in a unique collaboration between its Design and Acoustics divisions, with pioneering music/art duo Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst, invite you to experience the project initially premiered as an installation during Frankfurt Motorshow 2013.

The result of this innovative fusion, SONIC MOVEMENT imagines a new paradigm in the audible character of the city.

Visit the website here: Sonic Movement – Rethinking the sound of the cities

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