Hear the idea of creating a car sound, and you might imagine a sound designer working on a video game or film. Imagining that person producing a sound for an actual car could sound like a joke. But as today’s vehicles go silent – whisper-quiet electric cars to human-powered bicycles – the problem of imagining noises for them to make becomes deadly serious.

Our brains are wired to respond quickly to sound, so when cars suddenly don’t make any noise, alerting us to their presence is a serious issue. Audi’s engineers are working on that problem in the video here (thanks to reader Vadim Nuniyants for the tip!):

Audi’s future e-tron models will cover long distances powered by practically silent electric motors. To ensure that pedestrians in urban settings will hear them, the brand has developed a synthetic solution: Audi e-sound.

Audi’s not alone, either; it’s a safe assumption that many electric makers are working on this problem. Cyclists may want to consider it, too, though mechanical solutions (letting the wheels produce a click) and the old-fashioned bell aren’t a bad start. Before the TV show Portlandia poked fun at Portland, readers chuckled at an open source synth out of PDX that produces sounds for a bike – but now, automaker Audi is basically doing just that with real cars. The video of that solution (which isn’t really such a bad idea – now we just need extra lights):

  • http://twitter.com/OutlandSound Travis Mercredi

    This is great stuff.  I would love to have a gig like that.  I’m looking forward to a future where vehicles all have unique designed sounds and potentially they could also fit into a sort of interactive sound network where vehicles get quieter when in a traffic jam or similar types of responsiveness say in bad weather or get silent while on the highway.

    • Brianstevens

      I wonder for what reasons they decided to NOT sample REAL motor sounds…

    • Miko

      or any scifi film for that matter…

    • http://twitter.com/OutlandSound Travis Mercredi

      @09f1a3fb98055de0543dfe5d99fc4de3:disqus  This is a chance to design the perfect sound and really reach for something unique.  @14fc47105d84160327bac2b10af4989e:disqus Thats exactly what they did on any sci fi film, so why would a company developing a multi million dollar prototype just go to some library sound.  For both of you, I imagine that when you need the sound to behave to a variety of conditions there would have to be a bunch of different processes the car would go through depending on what the car is doing.  Something like just sampling a car or taking someones premade sound probably wouldn’t be fill all their needs.  That’s why they got a sound designer for it.

    • Tesla3090

       I would totally hack that car and replace the sound with light-cycle noises…

  • Genjutsushi

    We only need noise to come from a car to warn pedestrians that the car is coming because pedestrians have got so used to cars making a noise. If ALL cars were silent, then pedestrians would use their other senses to warn them of impending carnage (arf). Thus… why not make cars quieter and let everyone that lives in a city enjoy being able to walk around without our iPods turned up to 11 to drown out traffic noise. Sure we may have to follow the green cross code more rigidly, but isn’t that a small price to pay for a more peaceful existence?

  • Zoopy

    Someone create a dubstep parody video….please

  • http://www.hollisterukmall.co.uk/ ROSE

    I wonder for what reasons they decided to NOT sample REAL motor sounds

    • Thinking

       Hmm, maybe the sounds are patented.

    • Andrea Doria

      Real car sounds are patented and the respective producers own all rights to use it. Audi of course, needed something different. With the e-tron model they clearly wanted an electronic feel and it sounds pretty good to me.

  • Aaron

    Theres a dramaedy movie that came out last year called The Dilemma with Kevin James and Vince Vaughn. The subplot is the creation of the perfect, fake, engine sound created for an electronic muscle car (dodge charger) for the commercial market. Alot of time in the movie is spent on this..

  • Tim MB

    The sound of tyres on a road is already plenty loud enough for pedestrians. For many modern cars it is already the main source of the noise you hear. I can see the need for auditory feedback for the driver but I seriously hope the electric car doesn’t herald an era of deliberate noise pollution as a means for car manufacturers to extend their branding.

    Noise pollution stresses everyone out and, as @80ce99b59c4a245e0f2a4f3b972bd876:disqus said, when combined with iPods is probably doing a fair bit of hearing damage too. I’ve noticed here in London the birds start singing around 3am – I’m pretty sure it’s because that’s the only time they’re able to hear each other.

  • http://www.coopers-driving-school.com/driving_school_pershore.html Driving School Pershore

    The video says it all. Excellent brand and the speed is great!