Research and Design of the 2nd Generation Sound Signature for Electric Vehicles

For IRCAM's Perception and Sound Design team the EV-Sound project represents an important evolution in research and development for electric vehicle sound design. In the tradition of our industrial collaboration with Renault this new study— carried out once again in close association with the composer/sound designer Andrea Cera¬—furthers the team's implication in an emblematic sound design theme. The project provides an opportunity to experiment with new ways of conceiving interactive sounds and, ultimately, to implement them in a specific industrial context. EV-Sound, initially planned for the interior and exterior of the vehicle, finally focused on the design of the exterior sound signage (VSP - Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians), its acoustic contribution to the interior of the cabin, as well as on a certain number of exterior sound human-machine interfaces that contribute to the overall user experience of the electric vehicle.

Based on previous studies—in particular, the Zoe production vehicle and the Symbioz demo car— the project consisted of designing the sound of the electric motor based on the vehicle's operating parameters (speed, engine torque, pedal pressure, etc.). Outside the vehicle, this signature aims to comply with current regulations (dating from July 2019) by combining functionality (alert), ergonomics (salience), and aesthetics (brand identity). On the inside, the work aims to take into account the natural sound feedback of the VSP in the passenger compartment in order to create a pleasurable sound environment and a new experience for both the driver and passengers. Development work has also been carried out to meet the constraints of the on-board synthesis algorithms, particularly in terms of storage space and computing capacity. Beginning with initial prototypes heard in the lab or in a simulator, the sound design orientations of the VSP were extended to the industrial environment (hardware and software) and embedded in the vehicle. The different solutions were then tested, measured, and evaluated in different technical configurations (chassis dynamometer, test tracks) as were different versions of prototype vehicles (pre-series).

The result of this project will be incorporated in the exterior sound of the next production models (beginning in 2022) of the carmaker's electric range. For the IRCAM sound design team, the sound reflections/productions resulting from the project contribute to our reflection on the tools for rapid prototyping of sound as well as on the new forms of sound works that can result from a process of creation in sound design.

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