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The new Jaguar cars sound like spaceships, thanks to Richard Devine (cdm.link)
68 points by glitcher 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

I've heard that sound before.

Compare: Jaguar "designed sound"[1] with a U.S. Army M1A2 turbine powered tank starting up.[2]

(I once considered using that sound as a boot-up sound, but decided it would get annoying after a while.)

[1] https://youtu.be/1tbHA7smkjU [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZfVP19mDm4

Some of the sounds coming from the tank sounded to me like a vacuum cleaner. I guess a Vulcan would be overkill:


One of the reasons I was excited for an EV future was the prospect of quieter cities and towns, as the noise pollution from legions of internal combustion engines gave way to the quieter sound of electric cars.

The pedestrian safety argument makes some sense, but I can't help wondering if there could be a better way than to add to the noise pollution.

I can live with it if all the cars sound like spaceships from the movies.

In fact, that would be a hell of a business prospect - custom ship sounds for your whip. That alone would convince me to go electric.

Except for that one guy who's car would make a screaming sound as it passes by.

The sound of engines is not much compared to honking. Sadly, that will not go away with EVs

Car horns are much louder than these "introduced" noises. Interestingly, at low speeds the internal combustion noises are sufficient to alert pedestrians and bikers, but at high speeds, it's the tire noise that is loudest.

I've been seeing this talking point around a lot. I'm not sure where it started but it seems to resonate with people and so get repeated. But let me rephrase it: "We can only reduce the noise by 49% by changing the engine, then we'd need to look at tires, which EVs already tend towards low rolling resistance versions of".

Which has a different tone than the "let's just not bother" vibe I get from the original version.

The safety argument makes no sense. Especially once all cars are quieter.

Except that's not true, it does make sense. Electric vehicles are apparently 40% more likely to hit a pedestrian than a conventionally engined car.

There's been research going on for at least the last 10 years into both the risk and effective sounds that don't simply prove annoying (like a beep would), or lose directionality.



Annoyingly that 40% figure is almost impossible to find, it's from a survey done by a Guide Dogs charity in the UK but their own page on it [0] now just refers to it and doesn't link to the original report.

[0]: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/how-you-can-help/campaigning/sa...

So it is. Can find lots of references to the report, even from gov.uk, but no actual links to it.

I was being followed on my bicycle by an almost entirely silent hybrid driving on electric power. It really is quite freaky when you know it's behind you and can see it in your peripheral vision when you turn your head but can't hear it.

It makes plenty of sense, at low speeds wind and tire noise aren't loud enough by themselves.

My Volt makes a somewhat annoying tone below 25 mph, but I'm glad it does because almost immediately after getting it I noticed an increase in close-calls in parking lots when pedestrians would walk into the path of the car.

The noise isn't too car-like so it's less effective than the engine noise people are used too, but it's also probably more effective than nothing.

I walk my dogs in the morning and for a while I had trouble with EVs and hybrids but now I am used to it and haven't had any problems. It's just learning.

The lower the sound level, the closer the car needs to be for you to hear it.

Except if you get hit and seriously injured or die, you will have decreased opportunities to continue your "learning"

One thing I have learned is that relying on hearing is very dangerous. You may have a car coming in your direction and if you don't look the other way you may not notice a car coming from the other direction.

Blind and visually impaired people still sometimes need to cross roads.

To which a seeing-eye dog is often employed.

Given that there is increased lack of "looking while you walk" from many people (due in part to the use of smartphones) noise from vehicles becomes a crucial indicator.

Do they really rely on car noise? Based on wind and other noise you can't be sure that you are hearing all cars.

It depends on the situation, of course, and in many cases for situational awareness, you can imagine folks want to have as much information/affordances available to them as possible. Car/traffic noise is one bit of situational awareness that is often used. Whether or not there are other affordances, losing any affordance can be a safety problem/hazard.

We have a few of these Renault ZOE [1] around here with that feature and they sound very "spaceshippey" as well.

Also, anybody else finds it funny the self-fulfilling prophecy where we're now actually projecting "hums" and "whooshes" on the outside of our cars that sound like what, in our minds, is what "future vehicles" should sound like?

And can we have 3rd party sounds? I'll make mine constantly say the "Move it, move it!" from Police Academy [2]. It'll be fine.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jO1F1ssr-LI

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBFMB6F6nms

In related news, newer Audis have mics in the engine compartment to relay the engine sound to the cabin, and you can adjust the volume between preset levels. This exists A8 and in S models.

The Jag's sound effect is cool, but there'll always be a nagging thought that it's an empty embellishment, like those aftermarket turbo valve sound emulators and blue-tinted pseudo-xenons so popular in certain... erm... modding circles.

Every newer sport-focused car on the planet has this. All of them. Its how many companies still make low-displacement turboed engines sound good enough to back up their performance; for example, here's an article about a 2012 Focus ST [1]

[1] https://www.autoevolution.com/news/ford-focus-st-sound-sympo...

VW calls the system Soundaktor, as another example. You'll see it implemented one of a few ways (or a combination): fake sound being piped through the speakers, real sound being piped through the speakers, a physical breach in the engine firewall to allow sound through, additional speakers in the firewall-area specially tuned for engine noises... etc.

They're very common. Startlingly common. I'd bet that you, the person reading this, has one in your car and you don't even know it.

> Its how many companies still make low-displacement turboed > engines sound good enough to back up their performance

Turbo'd engines inherently produce fun sounds and (most) manufactures silence them with overly restrictive intakes and exhausts. Why fake it when they can actually make it?

Probably because anything engine- and exhaust-related is heavily regulated, while some „auxiliary noises” less so.

I grant you Ford and VWAG may do it, and I'm aware that BMW does on some models, but I don't believe that literally every "sport focused" car does it. That sounds like something a salesperson reflexively says when a prospective buyer expresses distaste for the idea.

[1] 2018 Honda Accord

[2] 2017 Mercedes CLA250

[3] Ford Mustang, F-150

[4] Porsche, Lexus LFA

The list goes on. Ford and VW are the worst, but every ICE auto manufacturer does it to some degree.

There's nothing funnier than hearing someone act so smug with the sound of revving their A3 2.0T, then telling them to get out of the car and listen to it from the outside, watching the look on their face when they realize it sounds like a V6 on the inside and a lawnmower on the outside.

Basically, if your car has a turbo'd 4 cyl engine made recently, you almost definitely have fake engine noise. As displacement goes up, the need for it goes down, but even the most popular V8 engines have it (everything Ford makes, Audi does it as well). The only manufacturer in this class that I can't find any evidence deploying fake engine noise is Mazda, but given their close relationship with Ford it wouldn't surprise me.

[1] https://www.driveaccord.net/forums/249-audio-electronics-lig...

[2] https://www.mercedescla.org/forum/5-cla-general-discussion/2...

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/americas-bes...

[4] https://www.caranddriver.com/features/faking-it-engine-sound...

I understand you're saying it's common across several manufacturers, but you overstated it, perhaps for effect, when you said every sporty car.

I remember reading about how the Mazda Miata was tuned to have a nice exhaust note when it first came out, but that isn't what I would call fake engine noise. Conducting sound where and how desired doesn't make it fake.

I also note some of your citations appear to involve random and possibly confused people making guesses on enthusiast forums which are less than an authoritative source.

I feel ya I wish ford wouldnt do it, but as a silver lining it took me 30 seconds to disable it on my 2017 focus rs, so at least it's easy to turn off.

How does it sound without it?

Much quieter than before but it's much more authentic then before and you hear the crackles and pops better. Also its not like the car is quiet it's certainly louder then most cars on the road especially in sport or track mode. Finally I was planning on getting an intake and exhaust anyway so it will be much louder in the future.

I got 4 good speakers and 4 dead speakers and none of them play engine sounds thanks. (now that vw with a ground loop on the sub amp that my buddy had was a different story...)

I could never figure out why car manurfactures do this. I just disabled the artificial engine sound on my 2017 focus rs and it's so much better. Also music sounds better and louder when accelerating because the sound system is not mixing in engine noise anymore.

Harley will definitely need to do something acoustic for its e-bikes. Half the reason people ride those is the sound they make.

I mean, this just sounds super annoying : https://youtu.be/vuhPZTrSmBw?t=20

I can see engine noise design becoming a thing. Reminds me of that old game "Full Throttle". To make the engine noise there they sampled a lion roar, a bengal tiger, and a jet engine: https://youtu.be/rf9xqsmO9m4?t=107

They'll just make you say "potato" to start the bike, then keep playing it back as you drive.

This is news to me, I didn't know we _had_ to have engine noise and now I'm sad that we have to have it at all. I was hoping highways of the future would carry only the sound of tires raggedly rolling along the surface. That was my interpretation of the promise of EVs

I don't buy the safety argument either really, additionally it's incredibly wasteful. Part of the issue with ICE engines was that they were constantly trying to reduce engine noise because if it's making too much noise/heat then that's energy that's being wasted in transfer. Now we're emulating that?

I considered motorcycle engines to be excessive too, but people always defended the ear-deafening sound as being "for safety" (when really, they just liked making noise and having the vibrations rumble through their bodies)

I didn't know we had to have engine noise.

Only at slow speeds, up to 19mph.[2] Above that, the external noisemaker is supposed to turn off. It's so pedestrians will notice a car making a turn through a crosswalk.

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/16/13651106/electric-car-no...

An easier and quiter solution is to ban turns-on-red, as in most of Europe.

If self driving vehicles end up being safe in the future when they are eventually able to get all human drivers off the road, then that’ll probably happen

Blind/visually-impaired pedestrians would likely still need audio warnings, regardless of self-driving vehicles.

Once autonomous car sensors get advanced enough cars will be able to play the safety sound only if necessary

its in cabin, you can turn it off

My ideal car is silent but I'm afraid that's impossible due to wheels rolling. However with electric engines it could become almost silent inside.

A silent car is a bad idea unless you like running over people.

On a tangent: Will it be better for safety if motor whine in a EV is amplified (of course at an user-adjustable level) in similar ways? They've always sounded so quiet to me I find myself more prone to driving too fast than I wanted...

That's included in what Jaguar are doing here. In this Fully Charged video you can see the hosts' continued amusement and enjoyment of the in-car acceleration noises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jj_w1PfSqk

Did not know Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf) was now a car reviewer.

There's a guy who would know a lot about sci-fi spaceship sounds.

Thanks for the link!

Yeah, it's a great show. It's also fascinating because Robert is such an accidental car reviewer. His previous podcast show was something closer to Seinfeld's podcast show (before it was a Netflix series), where he'd ask someone to ride with him in his car for a mini-interview and then maybe lunch. Once he started doing the interviews in his Prius some of the shows ended up being more about electric cars than anything else and Robert realized he had a bit of a passion for the topic, leading to Fully Charged.

Along the way he picked up Johnny Smith as a co-host, who is a more traditional "car geek", though also hugely exuberant for electric cars, by first interviewing Johnny for his Flux Capacitor project [1] (Johnny rebuilt a classic Enfield British electric car with modern electric car parts). Between the two of them Fully Charged has definitely become one of the most interesting and informative electric car shows in the world.

[1] http://www.flux-capacitor.co.uk/

Why not just emit the sound when going below a certain speed AND ONLY IF there are pedestrians closer than a certain distance? That would be more expensive for sure but doesn't cause unnecessary sound pollution.

How do you detect that with certainty?

why not just save on the extra electronics and just manually honk the horn if you think people don't see you?

> below a certain speed

Sure, easy thresholding on speedometer data. Gimme a few hours.

> ... and check if there are pedestrians closer than a certain distance

I'll need a research team and five years. [1]

[1] https://xkcd.com/1425

That is genuinely funny!! Might be an accurate estimate too!

i still can't comprehend how can be all those noisy motorbikes legal, I am not really interested to hear your loud motorbike, use headphones with motorbike sound if you enjoy it so much, but don't bother rest of the people. pretty sure they could be silenced to car volumes

Quiet cars and robots that do your work for you are not threats. Too bad all that sci-fi only prepared us for laser battles with aliens.

As we are starting from redesigning the experience - why at low speeds instead of sounds the cars wouldn't produce smells?

I'm a fan of the engage sound but I'd definitely like to hear the sound when it's going slowly in real life.

In China some cities require cars that belch out pollution to have expensive permits to use the roads. This has provided quite an incentive for people to go electric as there is no permit to pay. Consequently there are places in China where lots of people have already gone electric.

These Chinese market electric cars are not as fancy inside as your plush Jaguar or Tesla, they have bits of hard plastic everywhere rather than an exuberance of leather (or 'vegan leather'). The people that buy these cars really like them as the comfort comes from the silence, not the novelty cup holders/infotainment systems and other nonsense that motorists in the West think they need these days.

They still have to sit in gridlock and they still have to give up a lot of their day to the demands of the commute. From the glimpse into the future afforded by what is going on in China I suspect that these fake car noise things are not what the customer really wants. Tranquillity is much nicer than gimmickry. It is as simple as that. Might as well get some work done if you are a passenger in one of these cars or enjoy some quality time with your social media apps on your phone. There is no need to get your inner nine year old out, the cheap thrills of spaceship noises get boring if listened to every day, the novelty wears off.

The other thing is that these affordable electric cars will be coming here soon. Complete with hard plastic interiors. Imaginably there will be Trump taxes and tariffs that make these cars expensive compared to a 'Chicken Tax' SUV/truck, however, if there was to be free trade then these cars will be half the price of these up-market Jaguar things. They might not have the 'ludicrous mode' but who needs that if you are inching through bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic?

These affordable EVs might not have fake whooshing noises inside the cab, so the question then becomes one of would you really want to pay for that? Why would anyone pay $$$ for these funny noises that a cheap toy designed for a nine year old could make?

Note that EU and other mandated exterior noises are for outside the passenger compartment, not for in it.

If you had one of these cars and you could download an app that used your phones sensors to play fake whooshing noises to make up for the absence of in-built fakery, would you bother?

I suspect that within a generation or two people will reject the noise of the internal combustion engine, even if V12 and turbocharged. It will be as anachronistic as wanting to hear horse hoof clatter and the whip of a buggy whip. But we are not there yet, hence the fakery.

Those Chinese cars are cheaper in part because they don't have to comply with US safety regulations. As such, they can't be sold in the US without significant reworking.

What nonsense! Congrats engineers who have nothing else better to do.

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