I rented a Toyota Prius some years ago and sat in it for 10 minutes before asking the rental agency how to start the damn thing. His reply of “You have started it sir” was frankly embarrassing.
The thing is so quiet on several occasions I thought it had stalled. We all have an idea of how something should sound, a metaphysical expectation, and bombing down a motorway at 70mph in near silence is just disconcerting.
Which is why Audi has spent the last three years developing the right sound for its new electric supercar, the R8 E-tron. And not only does audio improve the overall the driving experience (especially when it sounds like the UUS Enterprise gearing up for Warp Speed), but more fundamentally it is enshrined in law – the US Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act calls for all electronic vehicles to provide a:
minimum level of sound emitted from a motor vehicle that is necessary to provide blind and other pedestrians with the information needed to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating at or below the cross-over speed.
In this video from Audi, the company describes how their acoustic engineers came up with an appropriate noise to blast out of their silent, supercharged speed demon.
We like that the new Audi sounds like something from the Jetsons – it’s like our childhood dreams have all come true – but apart from the obvious safety issues, what should our cars of the future sound like? The question is not just related to car manufacturers. Here are some more thoughts from the University of Warwick in the UK.
Whatever happens, the soundscape of our roads is going to change. What would you like to hear?