Mike Stevens | Apr 17, 2009

If you’ve become concerned over the past few years that more electric cars on the road means less engine rumble to light your day, and to alert you when you're about to be skittled, you’re in luck.

As reported last August, Lotus and Harman have teamed up to develop a sound system to help pedestrians who rely as much on noise as sight to know when a vehicle is approaching (which, according to the team’s studies, is most of us).

With the near-silent running of many hybrid vehicles – with future versions likely to be even quieter – distracted or otherwise occupied pedestrians stand to get themselves bowled over by the environmentally-conscious (but not quite human-conscious) vehicles.

"The Active Noise Control technologies are part of a steady stream of ground-breaking innovations that Lotus has brought to the automotive industry and we are committed to pursuing further developments in vehicle refinement and environmentally friendly transport solutions," said Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus plc.

Through a system that detects throttle position and vehicle speed, Lotus’ synthesis controller sends sounds through an amplifier and a set of 300W speakers at the front of the car, behind the bumper. (So, no, you won’t be driving around with a big pair of 6x9s hanging off your grille.)

lotus-sound-system_2

Lotus and Harman say the sound is a realistic motor sound, chosen because we’ve become used to expecting that sound, rather than the synthetic beeps and electronic sounds the team had also trialled.

“We are privileged to team up with Lotus for this new development initiative, which will reinforce our mission to deliver exceptional audio and infotainment experiences for automotive customers,” said Dinesh C. Paliwal, Harman’s Chairman and CEO. “The rich sounds of our in-car systems will be complemented by this technology, opening new opportunities for deployment and enjoyment.”

“The utilisation of the Lotus suite of ANC technologies within our extensive product portfolio reinforces our commitment to support the increasing market demand for environmentally conscientious technologies,” said Dr. Klaus Blickle, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Harman International Automotive Division.

The second part of the project, of course, is the Sound Synthesis system. Lotus and Harman say the system actively cancels road and engine noise as it passes into the cabin, supplementing the physical sound deadening materials already in place.

The system’s computer determines the signal needed to provided cancellation, which is seamlessly generated through the vehicle’s own in-car entertainment system.

Combined with this is the Internal Electronic Sound Synthesis system, which ‘contours’ sound in the cabin, creating engine speed and throttle sounds through the car’s stereo, reacting to the throttle position and speed of the car. Short version: if you drive a Volkswagen Beetle, you can shut your eyes (well, maybe not) and pretend your driving a Porsche 911 GT3.

[source: Lotus and Harman]

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