Often, we don’t realise that a car comprises numerous parts, components and technologies that come together to create the perfect product. And, really, it’s the enhancement or the reimagination of what each of these have to offer that triggers every major every innovation in the mobility space.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is one such space, and Israel-based Silentium has been developing new technologies that turn your car into a silent retreat and keep out the pandemonium of the streets.
“Noise cancellation has become more than just a luxury in automotive. Health-focused consumers now demand products that prioritise occupant safety and wellbeing. The adverse health effects of unwanted noise and vibrations on drivers and passengers have long been recognised. An addition to this is safety; fatigue is a major factor in car accidents, and tiredness increases average driver reaction time by 16%,” says Silentium’s Head of Automotive, Anthony Manias.
“Silentium’s Active Acoustics technology can reduce, cancel or enhance sound inside any vehicle, improving occupant comfort, safety and wellbeing, and creating a more pleasant environment for all. The Active Road Noise Cancellation technology in JLR vehicles, for example, lowers unwanted noise peaks by 10dB and overall noise levels by 3-4dB – the equivalent of reducing the volume of the car’s sound system by four levels.
“The benefits provided to occupants by noise cancellation software cannot be measured in units of sound alone – the comfort or extra relief felt goes beyond the quantified reduction in sound. Reducing the sound levels of a crying baby compared to that of a Chopin piano recital will give you different feelings, even though the level of reduction might be the same,” he adds.
According to Manias, Silentium’s technology has a crucial part to play in ensuring passenger comfort in electric vehicles. This is especially relevant as the focus on the adoption of electric vehicles grows with each passing day.
He explains: “In an ICE car, you can predict the noise and the frequencies of the engine, based on metrics such as RPM, which makes it easier to cancel them out. In an EV, the focus is more on wind and road noise, which is obviously less stable and is harder to adapt in real time.
“The high frequencies on an electric drivetrain are also more prominent but harder to decipher, and have much shorter soundwaves, meaning our additional speakers will need to be positioned closer to the passenger’s ears. Without a traditional, noisy engine, you can hear noises from as low as 20-30Hz right up to the top of the hearing range. The challenge has been to cancel noises over a much wider range over the audible frequencies.”
Quiet Bubble, Silentium’s newest product, has been receiving a lot of attention. Effective in environments like cars, trains, airport terminals and airports, Quiet Bubbles comprise of proprietary algorithms that significantly reduce spatial, broadband and adaptive sound.
Speaking about the product, Manias says: “Our Quiet Bubble can create an almost physical space around 1ft in diameter around each occupant’s head, which allows the driver or passengers to experience a quieter environment in their seat specifically. The ability to expand this to our Personal Sound Bubble technology means passengers can listen to their own music, without it overlapping with other occupants. For example, the driver can be listening to navigation instructions while the passenger listens to their own music or a podcast.
“Being able to combine personalised audio with active road noise cancellation to create fully separate audio environments for passengers is likely around 2-3 years away; we are actively developing how to create separate audio spaces and profiles for each passenger.”
Silentium has proven that Active Acoustics and broadband in-car noise cancellation can work.
Silentium boasts of partnerships with almost all major carmakers out there, but most recently its partnership with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has come to light, with its technologies being adopted in the Jaguar F-Pace and the Land Rover Velar.
I wanted to know more about the company’s experience of working with JLR and the ‘Active Acoustics’ technology that have been implemented in the F-Pace and Velar.
“We were very excited for JLR to be the fastest OEM to realise the value of the Silentium technology as part of its journey to Destination Zero: an ambition to make societies safer and healthier and our environments cleaner through relentless innovation. Silentium started working with JLR back in 2013 after winning a competitive tender to develop personalised interior noise for three new vehicles,” says Manias
“After several successful POC (proof-of-concept) projects, the JLR advance engineering team were convinced by Silentium’s capabilities and how active noise cancellation technology could be applied effectively to its vehicles. Through our work with JLR, Silentium saw the growing opportunity for Active Acoustics software and became more automotive centric.
“Silentium’s industry-first technology is similar to that found in a pair of high-end noise-cancelling headphones, but more advanced as it manipulates a larger amount of air. Up to six strategically positioned accelerometers on a vehicle’s chassis monitor unwanted road noise and send a signal to an on-board control unit with the software, which plays an equivalent anti-noise signal through the vehicle’s speaker system. The pressure waves from both the unwanted exterior noise and manufactured anti-noise reach occupants’ eardrums at exactly the same time and cancel each other out.
“Silentium has proven that Active Acoustics and broadband in-car noise cancellation can work. Now the duty is on carmakers to adopt the technology and ensure their customers can enjoy the benefits. So yes, we are also working with other manufacturers and partners to bring the technology to more people. We hope it will become ‘the norm’ in automotive,” he notes.
With the demand for ANC technology on the rise, our conversation progressed to the future of this technology. Manias is of the belief that while this technology is currently limited to premium cars, it won’t be long before ANC goes mainstream and becomes a standard feature in cars.
“Like many new technologies, the Active Acoustics system is likely to be featured on premium cars to start. But the principle we use for high-end vehicles with premium sound systems is quickly being adapted for smaller, lower-cost vehicles in the lower car segments, just like ABS and air conditioning were developed in the past for the luxury car segment and then filtered to lower segments,” he explains.
“Every car has a decent speaker system these days. Yes, premium cars usually have better audio that will cover more frequencies, but as long as there are speakers and we can put sensors in the right locations on the vehicle, Active Acoustics can work.”
But what I found really interesting was Manias’ thoughts on the role that ANC technology plays in an autonomous era, where driverless cars become mainstream.
“In the automotive future, where autonomous vehicle tech removes certain aspects of driving, occupants will become more aware of unwanted noise as they relax in the vehicle, such as the road, wind and powertrain noises,” he says.
“Removing this unwanted noise and creating a more pleasant acoustic environment will become a point of brand differentiation – and eventually a legislative requirement. The real benefits provided to occupants by active noise cancellation software cannot be measured in units of sound alone – the comfort or extra relief felt as a result goes beyond the quantified reduction in sound,” notes Manias.