THE RUMBLE OF a car’s internal combustion engine is so pervasive few people even notice it anymore. Now consider what cities might sound like in the not-too-distant future when they teem with electric vehicles. The streets will be too quiet. And that presents a problem.
“Sound helps people be aware of cars,” says Kota Kobayashi, a designer at the studio Ustwo. “There’s a safety element to it.” Electric cars emit only a faint hum, a problem Kobayashi and his colleagues spent two months pondering.
They worked with the audio branding agency Man Made Music to develop a range of sounds electric vehicles can emit. The project, which is more of an experiment than a practical application of the technology, presents a smart hypothesis for how automakers might make their silent fleet of vehicles safer.