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The “noise” of the electric car is created by artificial intelligence

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Electric cars are known to be dangerous for pedestrians. To the point that today they are forced to ” make noise ”: the intensity must be in the range between 56 and 75 decibels (a traditional car emits, on average, 75 decibels). The system is called AVAS and is the horn which, by reproducing an artificial sound, allows electric and hybrid vehicles to be perceived at a sound level. The legal obligation began on 1 July 2019. And here the manufacturers went wild. Who has come up with strange whistles like Renault who – probably to arouse some marketing hype – has enlisted famous musicians to compose the noise of an electric motor. For example, Hans Zimmer created the Blade Runner-style sound concept for BMW’s i4 electric sedan, but there are those who have gone further.

Such as sound designer Yuri Suzuki, partner of Pentagram design consultancy, who recently conducted a research project on the crucial role electric car sound plays on safety, enjoyment, communication and brand recognition. of a user. From these premises a range of car sounds has been developed, however, disputing the choice of many car manufacturers who have chosen “design” of only beautiful sounds, often in pursuit of fashion.

“We really need to design carefully based on the psychological effects on a human being,” Suzuki told TechCrunch. “It’s about the relationship between the human being and the machine itself.” According to Suzuki’s theory, intelligent “noise” can help alleviate the difference between man and car by providing a kind of “shared language”. And based on the surveys it has conducted, Suzuki has produced two new electric motor sounds and adaptive sounds that reflect the time of day and the position of the unit.

For example, its engine sounds are reminiscent of the revolutions of the internal combustion engine, providing both drivers and pedestrians with an accurate and recognizable indication of the increase and decrease in speed. The sounds are placed at different heights: one rather low, like a spaceship taking off; the other a little higher, like a hovercraft climbing vertically. And it’s a choice that Audi, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover have also made with futuristic copies of gasoline engines for some of their new electric vehicles.

But that’s not all: Suzuki’s sound design also includes car sounds, such as the ignition, turn signals or horn, which use artificial intelligence to adapt to the time of day. In the morning, for example, the pitch is higher and the sounds then gradually become progressively lower as the day passes. And to make car sounds customizable, Suzuki uses machine learning to help integrate an individual’s calendar with car use, so that the sound can adapt to the type of activity the user is doing. from going to work, from errands to outings. Sounds similar to those of a video game are activated every time the driver arrives at their destination.

And Suzuki also disputes another choice of car manufacturers: that of giving the customer the possibility to choose the sounds that their vehicle will make: “It’s not a good idea – he explains – because people will probably choose what they like best, not necessarily. what is most useful. Not to mention what cities would be like, invaded by a strange cacophony of noises if everyone could choose the sounds of their electric car ”.

Plus, Suzuki’s AI-powered car noises are designed to be non-repetitive. So, if you are on a long journey, rather than constantly listening to the same “noise”, with Yuri’s project the motorist can have always different sounds generated in real time by the algorithm. Impossible thing for a human being to do.

Everything, however, is still at the studio level: Pentagram has not yet produced a commercial application for Suzuki’s sounds, but it is a matter of months. And the electric car will finally have an intelligent “voice”.


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