How To Achieve a Smooth Ride

By Gary S. Vasilash

Noise-canceling headphones work not by adding something like the hissing of white noise to take the place of the annoying sound that you’re trying to minimize, but by, well, canceling the noise.

That is, sound takes the form of waves. The headphones determine that nature of those waves then generate a counterwave which has the effect of canceling the original wave.

Automotive OEMs have been using tech of this sort to make the cabins of cars quieter. Again it is a matter of detecting the noise that is to be eliminated, creating a counter wave, then playing it through the speakers of the audio system.

So sound is waves, or vibrations.

There is something else that vehicles encounter that create vibrations: road surfaces. Because they are not absolutely smooth, there are some vibrations. Because most ordinary roads are far from being absolutely smooth, there are lots of vibrations.

What about detecting those vibrations and then setting up counter vibrations in the suspension system?

That is, simplistically put, what Massachusetts-based ClearMotion is doing with a system that is one part software and one part mechatronics. The software portion takes care of determining what the vibrations are that need to be countered; the mechatronics portion produces the motion that is necessary to perform the task. There are four Activalve units for a given vehicle, one on each corner.

Christian Steinmann, ClearMotion CEO, says that not only does the setup provide a smoother ride—something that will be increasingly important as there are increased levels of autonomy, which means that people will be able to do things like read or watch videos rather than keeping their eyes on the road—but it enhances the overall handling of the vehicle.

Steinmann talks about the system on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.” Joining “Autoline’s” John McElroy and me is freelance auto journalist Jack Nerad.

And you can see the show here.

By the way: the analogy to noise-cancelling headphones isn’t a fanciful one: ClearMotion acquired the Bose Ride business, Project Sound active suspension and software to develop into its system.