For drivers, the sound of a car is an integral part of the experience behind the wheel.
But these days, car sounds are a lot more sophisticated than the “vroom” of an engine.
We spoke with the audio gurus at Harman International, who are working with Lotus Sports Cars on a sophisticated technology that can enhance a car’s sound, create a completely new sound, or cancel out noise altogether.
The Harman system, called HALOsonic, can effectively mimic everything from the high-pitched wail of a Ferrari 12-cylinder to the electronic hum of a flying saucer.
The HALOsonic system has been adopted by some of the world’s premiere automakers, like BMW, Jeffrey Poggi, Harman’s VP of sales, told Business Insider.
In addition to making for a more pleasant driving experience, the technology has a practical application as well. Last year, the federal government started requiring producers of super-quiet hybrid and electric cars to make their vehicles sound like conventional autos to alert pedestrians and cyclists of their approach.
For traditional gasoline and diesel powered vehicles, HALOsonic can help designers increase fuel economy and reduce CO2 output by cutting down on a car’s overall weight.
Here’s a look at how Harman’s HALOsonic works.
The first part of HALOsonic is called Engine Order Cancellation, or EOC.
Using microphones, the system detects the frequency of any undesirable noise in the car’s cabin and uses the car’s speakers to send out a series of counter waves to neutralize the noise. Essentially it acts like one giant pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
This technology gives occupants a more comfortable ride and saves weight on by reducing the amount of sound insulation required in each vehicle.
These days, automakers can tune their vehicle’s engines to match a specific sound. But the HALOsonic system’s External Electronic Sound Synthesis (eESS) takes it to a new level.
The system uses sensors to determine a vehicle’s speed and surroundings to create artificial sounds that play through an external speaker.
The practical application for this technology is to generate artificial noise so that pedestrians don’t inadvertently walk in front a silent electric or hybrid car.
The third component of the system, Internal Electronic Sound Synthesis (iESS) uses sensors and the car’s existing audio system to accentuate the sounds a car makes for its occupants.
The system basically works like a sound effects generator, accentuating everything from engine noise to the sound a door makes when it closes.
Harman says the system will ultimately increase fuel economy, pedestrian safety, and passenger comfort. And the prospect of making a boring old Prius sound like George Jetson’s spacecraft is pretty awesome.
Here is a video of Harmon and Lotus’ HALOsonic system in action: