The result is essentially a simulation of "anti-noise," played through a vehicle's audio speakers in such a way that passengers don't notice.
This will be critical for electric vehicles, said Alex van Laack, vice president of sales at Faurecia Clarion Electronics North America.
"When you have an electric vehicle, you lose the masking sound of the gasoline engine," van Laack told Automotive News. "The gas engine is masking all the road noises and wind noise and the sound of small stones being thrown against your chassis. For EVs, it becomes more important to cancel road noises and wind noises."
A key to the electronic approach is a component known as an accelerometer. Originally used for vehicle stability control, the accelerometer monitors road vibration through sensors in the wheels. The vibration data signals to a central processing unit how much noise is needed to mask the bumpy road.
The technology falls under Faurecia's Active Noise Control business, which also supplies internal combustion engine vehicle programs with "engine order control" technology. Engine order control uses some of the same onboard hardware to artificially alter the sound of the vehicle's engine — using simulated sounds to erase some of the low-end booming, for example.
"Some of the hardware needed for this technology is new, and some of it was already in vehicles. Audio speakers, for example, were already there," van Laack said. "What's new is the software to create the anti-noise and the ability to do simulation."
The electronic approach to noise reduction has a secondary benefit for automakers. It achieves its enhancements without simply adding more sound-deadening material to a vehicle. Dampers and insulation add pounds, van Laack pointed out, so using less of those materials helps EV makers reduce weight to maximize battery range.