What should electric cars sound like? | Renzo Vitale

What should electric cars sound like? | Renzo Vitale


Let’s start with silence. Silence is one of the most
precious conditions for humans, because it allows us to feel
the depth of our presence. This is one of the reasons
why the advent of electric cars has generated lots
of enthusiasm among people. For the first time, we could associate
the concept of cars with the experience of silence. Cars can finally be quiet: peace in the streets, a silent revolution in the cities. (Hum) But silence can also be a problem. The absence of sound, in fact,
when it comes to cars, it can be quite dangerous. Think of blind people, who can’t see a car which is approaching. And now, if it’s electric,
they can’t even hear it. Or think of every one of us
as we are walking around the city, we are absorbed in our thoughts,
and we detach from the surroundings. In these situations, sound can become
our precious companion. Sound is one of the most
wonderful gifts of our universe. Sound is emotion and sound is sublime, and when it comes to cars,
sound is also information. In order to protect pedestrians and to give acoustic
feedback to the drivers, governments around the world
have introduced several regulations which prescribe the presence of a sound
for electric vehicles. In particular, they require
minimum sound levels at specific frequency bands up to the speed of 30 kilometers per hour. Besides this speed, the natural noise of the car
is considered as sufficient. These regulations
have generated different reactions among those who favor sounds
and those who fear the presence of too much noise in the city. However, I don’t see it
as the noise of the car. I rather see it as the voice of the car. And this is one of my biggest challenges,
and privileges, at the same time. I design the voice of electric cars. We all know how a combustion
engine sounds like, and we do actually also know
how an electric engine sounds like. Think of the electric tramway. As soon as it moves, it creates this ascending
high-frequency pitch sound, which we called “whistling” sound. However, if we would
just amplify this sound, we would still not be able to fulfill
the legal requirements. That’s also why we need
to compose new sound. So how do we go after it? In many cities, the traffic
is already very chaotic, and we don’t need more chaos. But the streets of the 21st century
are a great case study teeming with transience,
cross purposes and disarray. And this landscape
offers a great opportunity for developing new solutions
on how to reduce this chaos. I have conceived a new approach
that tries to reduce the chaos by introducing harmony. Since many people don’t know
how an electric car could sound like, I have to define, first of all,
a new sound world, something that doesn’t belong
to our previous experience but creates a reference for the future. Together with a small team,
we create lots of sonic textures that are able to transmit emotion. Just like a painter with colors, we are able to connect
feelings and frequencies so that whenever one is approaching a car, we can feel an emotion which, besides fulfilling
the legal requirements, speaks also about the character
and the identity of the car. I call this paradigm “sound genetics.” With sound genetics, I define,
first of all, an aesthetic space of sound, and at the same time,
I search for new, innovative methods for generating soundscapes
that we don’t know, soundscapes that allow us
to envision abstract worlds, to make them tangible and audible. Sound genetics is based on three steps. The first one is the definition
of a sonic organism, the second one is a description
of sonic variations, and the third one
is the composition of sound genes. The description of a sonic organism
is based on a cluster of properties that every sound
that I compose should have. [Sound is moving.] I transfer to a small sound entity,
such as the sound of a car, the power of the motion of music, so that sound can move so. [Sound is acting.] And just like a dancer on a stage, sound will project trajectories
of sound in the air. [Sound is memory.] And it’s not just about
the sound of a car. It’s the memory of my father
coming back home. [Sound is hypnotizing.] And sound has the power to create
an unexpected sense of wonder, which hypnotizes. And ultimately, [Sound is superhuman.] sound goes beyond the human condition, because it allows us to transcend. As a second step,
we define the sonic variations. [Identity prism] Just like humans, where different bodies
generate different voices, also different car shapes
have a different acoustic behavior which depends on
the geometry and the materials. So we have to know, first of all,
how this car propagates the sound outside by means of acoustic measurements. And just like a single voice is able
to produce different tones and timbres, at the same time, we produce
different sonic variations within a space
of eight words that I defined. And some of them are,
to me, really important, such as the concept of “visionary,” of “elegance,”
of “dynamic,” of “embracing.” And once we have defined
these two aspects, we have what I call the identity prism, which is something like
the sonic identity card of a car. And as a third step,
we enter the world of the sound design, where the sound genes are composed and a new archetype is conceived. Now let me show you another example of how I transform
a sound field into a melody. Think that I am a violin player on stage. If I would start to play the violin, I would generate a sound field
which would propagate in this hall, and at some point, the sound field
would hit the side walls and would be scattered all over the place. And this is how it looked like. Some time ago, I captured
several ways of sound to hit side walls. And last year, I was asked
by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra to compose ringtones
that they were going to play. So one of them, I had the idea
to start from this sound field. I took a section, I superimposed the section
over the distribution of the musicians onstage, and then I followed
the blooming of the sound field by means of three parameters: time, intensity and frequency. Then I wrote down all the gradients
for each instrument, and as you can see, for instance, the piece will start with
the string section playing very softly, and then it’s going to have a crescendo
as the brasses, the woods will jump in, and the melody will end
with a harp and a piano playing on the highest range. Let’s listen how it sounded like. (Ethereal music) (Music ends) So this is the sound of my alarm clock,
actually, in the morning. (Laughter) And now let’s go back to electric cars. And let’s listen to the first example
that I showed you. (Hum) And now I would like to show you
how a potential sound, based on the sound genetics
for electric cars, could sound like. (Ethereal music) (Pitch rises with acceleration) Cars are a metaphor of time,
distance and journey, of setting out and returning, of anticipation and adventure, but, at the same time,
of intelligence and complexity, of human intuition and accomplishment. And the sound has to glorify all that. I see cars both as living creatures and as highly complex
performative art installations. The sounds that we envision
through sound genetics allow us not only
to celebrate this complexity but also to make the world
a more elegant and safe space. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “What should electric cars sound like? | Renzo Vitale

  • No, I like the quiet. His arguments are one sided. Why not help blind people be able to see their surroundings better with Lidar and infrared lasers? Also make it so distracted people don't text while driving and walking? Why make something beautiful, like silence, have to bend to those who would benefit more from being empowered and enabled?

  • The real choice is whether Electric Cars should even exist! I will never buy an Electric Car… even if it sounds like the New World Symphony!

  • If you are here for the sound it's at 10:30 , the rest is just a glorified sales pitch, how amazing sound is and how he makes his sound

  • The way a car sounds is one of the major selling points. Ford went through five different exhaust systems to get the sound they wanted from the Mustang 5.0. We need electric cars that have throaty muscle sounding exhaust sounding noises other than something that sounds like Tinkerbell just flew by. Of course nothing against those people that like the sound of Tinkerbell but I would like my truck to sound like it will eat you if you get in its way even if it is electric.

  • some say not paying attention when walking is a problem…

    I call it natural selection 😉

    sry but if you cant look both ways as your parents/guardians told you growing up.

    thats Darwinism :p

  • I'm not sure if you can understand this but there is no sound a woman can make to rival the sound of a Lamborghini revving its engine or the Dodge Hellcat.

  • Three remarks for Renzo Vitale.
    1. The sound should only be projected forwards, not backwards of upwards. This is already possible.
    2.When there are no pedestrians around, for example on a motorway, the sound should be turned off.
    3. This demo only shows one car. Having multiple cars around you would completely disturb the melody.

  • As a legally blind girl (refer to videos on my y.t. channel for more info). I almost got wacked by a very quiet electric car in a hosp. parking garage when my service dog was at home. It is a real and big issue and I am so glad you brought this up. Please keep designing with us all in mind. God bless 💖

  • Can i presume you never use bicycles? Nearly every week I do and I have to avoid accidents because people crosses roads without looking if I am coming or not, just because I don't create any perceptible sound. In that case it is the pedestrian's fault when an accident occurs. When a blind person wants to cross a street and the car's driver desn't stop it's he's fault, just beacause you have to pay attention to what is happening. So, if any accident happens with an electric car, it is not because of the quite vehicle,but because someone didn't pay enough attention.

    Stop blaming only the subject of accidents, but look also at the victim's fault.

  • i get it, i really do. as a very enthusiastic car enthusiast it is honestly really hard to not have the sound of an ICE. it just is music, harmonic and different. Different cars with different sounds.Sound is emotion he said. Well in all honesty, a great sounding ice car(like a lamborghini) gives me goosebumps. Electric car just feels soulless and empty, sad. Not easy to be a car enthusiast nowadays, i was born in the wrong century..

  • As if any energy put into artificially customising sounds weren't a complete waste already; physics is pretty awesome by itself so the sound produced by moving objects can't be improve in any way, designed to "feel" more natural and in touch with "emotions", douchebag. Stick to music.

  • This has to be the most pointless ted talk I've ever watched. can i have my 12 mins back pls? I get he thinks he's making a huge impact, but 99% of people can't even hear the difference between the examples.

  • Or… how about we just make the technology in the cars better so they don't hit pedestrians! My Toyota has pedestrian detention, it will automatically stop for me. Yes it works. I took a USA Army cardboard cutout and drove into it at 35mph. My Toyota stopped perfectly fine.

  • Although this is cool, I personally don’t think we will ever get to the levels of emotion that something like a combustion engine can get. All of this would just be artificial sound and I feel the real mechanical acoustics of a combustion engine will always remain as the most emotive way of expressing a cars character. Nothing beats the orchestra of a Naturally aspirated V10 screaming by.

  • I think differently 🕵️‍♂️I think of designed Cities
    Maglev + automated car and road systems
    Entire organism 🤔You will learn to respect Sol
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nclwDqwXaPA&t=519s

  • I've encountered a Tesla in a pedestrian zone once driving slowly, the lack of noise created a cognitive dissonance in my head leading me to be convinced that there must be a large shop window in front of me with the reflection of a car, it literally took me several seconds to realize that there was a car right in front of me. Experiencing this really makes you appreciate that people are working on logical sound design for electric cars

  • think outside the box dude, why you stick to sounds? why don't you search for other signals for people who lost their sight, use wind or something like pulsing waves for example!

  • The CCP doesn't care about the bounds of their authority and neither about borders. They will use any legal or illegal methods they can get on their hands.
    The CCP uses chips to render the people here in a permanent state and play them like a violin by using ML to generate deceitful behaviors to fool the West and to manage the Taiwanese and their own people like a herd.

  • Western people are so weird. Like you make something so efficient and quiet and now you want noise from it. Amazing.

  • Modern day cars can't be heard either really. It's the tires on the road and the wind noise that make the noise "of a car". People act like all gas powered cars sound like massive burbeling muscle cars that are rumbling all the time.

  • Relax. We won't need it. Elon Musk is gonna create a super intelligent system to quickly break/avoid impact with pedestrians. And yes indeed, at high speed, the tire noise is enough. At low speed, the driver can hit the break in time.

    And on highways this would make a difference, especially if all trucks are electric.

  • Stress, hearing damage, massive sound pollution vs a few careless pedestrians hit per year… You do the math. Yes, the sound thing will be implemented, but it's not gonna last 🙂

  • Everyone should be able to choose whether they want to hear a noise or not. An artificial noise should not be imposed. My brain belongs to me, why should you have the right to write what you want inside? It's up to me to judge what should affect my thinking, it's not up to you, not to another.

  • This current obsession with the lack of sound conveniently forgets the existence of hearing disabilities and common distractions such as headphones – especially the noise-canceling ones, which are gaining popularity these days. If we must build some kind of an alarm/warning system for electric vehicles, it should not rely on one sense only.

  • Deaf people live perfectly happy in cities. These laws are just plain stupidity from lawmakers that dread their own irrelevance. No wonder they attract loonies like that guy…

  • Just put a lamborghini V12 in electronic cars to generate sound 😄 but in all seriousness if electric cars are the future people better make them sound exciting

  • This is nonsense, cars don't have to play music except for hipsters who get 10 minutes of fame on TED… besides, in the near futur electric cars will have to, by law and regulation, generate the same sounds no matter what. Why ? For obvious security reasons when pedestrians cross the street. One car playing Mozart and the other Beethoven would be disasters waiting to happen

  • NO. No no no, he's missed the point. The sound isn't about the car and its emotional sphere. This sound is a signal to other road users (cyclists, pedestrians) that there's a car approaching. It needs to be loud, simple, and as recognisable and functional as any other sign on the road.

  • It's a nice idea to add some pretty sound/melody to each EV when they move slow for safety reason. But it will become a new chaos, a noise, when each of the cars on the street makes it's own melody. Just imagine yourself in a traffic jam with such cars around…

  • There’s so much wrong about all this that I don’t even know where to start. Let me have a go at just one aspect: if electric car sound is regulated in terms of pedestrian safety, shouldn’t considerations such as level and ease of localisation be well above any ‘harmonious’ ones? This talk is mainly a description of how artists might sonify a car. Without the involvement of other expertise such as acoustical engineering this would turn out into a disaster.

  • If a blind man cannot hear the sound of car and this is a problem for you, then whats the driver for he is also responsible to be careful on the road!

  • why would I want a quiet car? ill tell you exactly what i want

    I want the car to sound like it's ripping out someone's fucking organs compressing them down into a electric guitar and then shredding abrasively angry hungry as its plugged directly into the collective rage of man

  • I think they should sound like those Machines from F-Zero, or the Arwings from Star Fox. Both originals from the SNES.

  • If all Evs on the planet will be electric, we will learn how to listen to them, so no need for anything artificial.

  • I think there is nothing the sound has to glorified. The wavelength should be chosen so that it travels only very short distances and is easy to cancel out

  • blablabla emotions, blabla artifically created problem where there is none. IT is all just question of getting used to new levels of noise, and claming that electric cars are too silent is utterly retarded, you can hear them perfectly fine especially when as blind person you have way more sensitive hearing than other people. Next thing we gonna claim that what? Trams should make even more noise, cause they are also electric? Or cyclists? FFS get real – solve real problems for once. Instead of searching for holes to make money out of, based on pseudo compassion. TED talks are joke, now days. Overtaken by hipseters doivorced from reality.

  • they want to kill the electric car market before it is born. I imagine what will happen to a blind man when in the city traffic there will be many noises like this, a background cacophony that anyway won't allow him to understand if a car arrives or not …. much better to have a guide dog that sees us.

    Unnecessary and expensive EU bureaucrats.

  • If my worlds ugliest and super nerdy leaf sounded like a monster truck or drag car I be all over it! Something about hearing loss appeals to me I mean it will be hard to hear the car over my train horn or 10,000 watt stereo system if I’m limited to a musical instrument it’s getting pulled out and replaced with something powerful like a v12 with no exhaust if you want my money give me this! Is it illegal well my tint try horn my stereo breaks the safe volume by a thousand times so give me an illegal loud sound and I will deal with fines as they come or I guess I can do it myself……

  • Hey maybe they could just use the sounds cars already make with combustion engines, just replicate the sound for electric and hybrid vehicles, too much change too fast is not great, people dislike change, who wants a car that sound like an alarm clock on your iPhone, we don’t need all this self driving rubbish neither taking away people’s jobs. The future is not so great, can you also imagine the noise of increased drones traffic over head dropping of deliveries on top of planes and traffic noise not looking forward to that either.

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