RISE ICT stories: Sound design for electrical vehicles

Illustration of Sound Design

Electrical vehicles can be hard for pedestrians to detect, making accidents more common. The European Parliament has ruled that, starting in 2019, all new electric vehicles must be equipped with an acoustic vehicle alerting system, called SAVAS.

One of the benefits of electrical vehicles, except for the ecological viewpoint, is the silence. The sound emitted by an electrical engine is very subtle, no more than a gentle hum. However, this can also be problematic. Electrical vehicles, driven at low speed, can be hard for pedestrians to detect, making accidents more common. Because of this, the European Parliament has ruled that, starting in 2019, all new electric vehicles must be equipped with an acoustic vehicle alerting system, called SAVAS.

The project Sound Design for Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems, SAVAS, led by RISE Interactive, examines how this impending legislation may affect people’s attitudes toward electric vehicles. Is there a risk that the new systems will become an obstacle to a wide-scale introduction of electric vehicles? If so, what should be done to minimize the negative effects and improve people’s attitudes towards electric vehicles?

The sounds need to be designed in such a way that these vehicles are perceived in a positive light by other road users: Otherwise, there is a risk that electrical vehicles will be associated with negativity, potentially negating the positive environmental aspects. The sounds also need to interact well with each other. A parking lot, where many vehicles are kept in close proximity, must be seen as an arena for positive interplay.

Anna Sirkka, project manager at RISE Interactive is leading the project. – The sounds will probably not just be an arbitrary choice, like a bird’s tweet. People need to understand that it is a vehicle making the sound. But personally, I would consider it to be a bit strange if electrical vehicles sounded just the same as vehicles with internal combustion engines.

In the project, a number of sound concepts will be designed that follow the forthcoming requirements. These concepts will be evaluated in laboratory facilities at Scania CV, and some concepts will also be assessed in actual traffic. Based on the results, recommendations will be presented for sound design and interventions.

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Sound design at RISE Interactive

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