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HEAD Press Release Herzogenrath (Germany), July 15, 2014
Sound design for electric vehicles
Acceptance of synthetic driving noise in the interior of electric vehicles
A recent field study examined the acceptance of various synthetic driving sounds in electric vehicles. Reactions of consumers to different soundscapes in an electric production car were acquired during numerous test drives.
As part of a master thesis, various synthetic driving sounds were developed for the interior of electric vehicles. The acceptability of these sounds was then evaluated by test persons in real-life situations. Sound concepts are often tested in laboratory settings using artificial test scenarios, which lack sufficient context to the real-life situation to obtain meaningful results from the test persons. For the evaluation of the synthetic driving sounds, it was therefore essential to create realistic situations in order to ensure a high validity of the test results. The sound synthesis system that generated the various soundscapes was based on several synthesizers creating base frequencies and harmonics with certain intervals, Shepard tones, noise signals, modulations, and roughness.
During a number of test drives, test persons were given the opportunity to judge four contrasting sound scenarios: The unmodified original noise of the electric vehicle and three synthetic driving sounds. The different sound concepts represented different approaches of future sound design. Variable parameters included the sound character and its relation to engine load and speed, loudness, perceivable modulations, loudness variation depending on the engine load, variation of the sound character in dynamic processes, as well as presence and character of an idle sound. The different sounds were presented continuously and in real time by an in-vehicle synthesizer system.
Developed for the field study were a combustion-like engine sound, a modern, unconventional sound, and a reduced, unobtrusive driving sound. Each of these sounds was evaluated during a test drive of 20 to 25 minutes. Ten test persons participated in the field study.
While driving, the test persons voiced their spontaneous impressions, emotions and thoughts about the vehicle and its perceived acoustics. After the test drive, they were interviewed with questions regarding acoustics. The results and their evaluation show that all sound concepts triggered both positive and negative comments. Overall, the playback of synthetic driving sound led to a higher number of comments. The combustion engine sound (example 1) received a worse overall rating than the unaltered original noise of the vehicle (example 4). Since the relative numbers of positive, negative and neutral comments on the original noise did not differ significantly, no improvement in the perception of the vehicle acoustics could be concluded. The modern sound (example 2) received the highest number of negative comments and was considered obtrusive and inappropriate. The unobtrusive driving sound (example 3), which could only be acoustically perceived under certain circumstances, received the highest number of positive comments. Even though many test persons had stated in advance that they needed no additional driving sound, they nevertheless acknowledged the benefit of complementing the original noise with synthesized sounds, particularly to provide cues for better speed estimation and improved load feedback. This result indicates the fundamental potential of synthetic sounds in vehicles. However, the study also clearly shows that a sub-optimal design of an additional driving sound quickly leads to a worsening of the perceived acoustics. No general purpose sound for electric vehicles can be defined on the basis of the field study. Further research should focus on specific sound concepts that selectively provoke positive impressions depending on the vehicle class, image and target group; while at the same time, disguise the undesired inherent noise of the electric vehicle.
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[1] Untersuchung zur Akzeptanz synthetischer Fahrgeräusche im Innenraum von Elektrofahrzeugen;
Masterthesis; Johannes Kerkmann; Technische Universität Berlin; Aachen; 2013
[2] Sound design of electric vehicles – Challenges and risks;
Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig; Internoise, Melbourne, Australien; 2014
[3] Acceptance of synthetic driving noises in electric vehicles;
Johannes Kerkmann, Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp, André Fiebig; Forum Acusticum, Kraków, Polen; 2014
[4] E mobility – Sound concepts and consumer reactions. Assessment and acceptance of driving sounds in the interior of electric vehicles;
Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp, André Fiebig, Johannes Kerkmann; Aachener Akustik Kolloquium, Aachen; 2014
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