Nissan wants its electric cars to ‘sing’ so that you’ll hear them coming

Nissan unveiled a new electric concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show today called the IMx, and it’s relatively standard fare as far as these types of futuristic car announcements go. It’s a crossover SUV with a sparse interior that lets giant OLED displays splash and clash with wood grain details. It promises a dreamy 600 kilometer (372 miles) of range without shorting the theoretical driver on power — it’s got the equivalent of over 400 horsepower. And, of course, this literal vehicle is also a metaphorical vehicle for Nissan’s self-driving technology, ProPilot.

The standout feature, then, has more to do with the people around this car than it does with the driver. While the lack of engine noise might be a turnoff for car buffs with a thing for combustion engines, it’s a genuine concern for pedestrian safety. And so instead of being ultra-quiet like most other electric vehicles, this car — and other EVs in Nissan’s future, the company says — “sings” to let people know that it’s coming. Nissan’s calling this suite of sweeping sounds “Canto,” as in Spanish for “I Sing.”

Nissan didn’t elaborate on exactly how Canto will work, just that the sound will be activated “at speeds of up to 20 to 30 kph,” or about 12.5 to 18.5 miles per hour, “depending on marketplace requirements.” Those requirements are currently pretty loose; the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, will require cars made in and after 2019 to emit a sound at under 19 miles per hour, but doesn’t prescribe what the sound should be.

Some manufacturers, like Porsche, had already committed to bestowing their EVs with some sort of artificial noise before NHTSA announced its requirements. Other companies that are working on more specifically self-driving electric technology have explored visual communication techniques, too.

What little you can hear in the promo video that Nissan released for Canto, which you can watch above, isn’t enough to get a full impression of what it will be like to hear on the street or behind the wheel. There are a few more clips of how it might sound in this video, though.

To me, it sort of resembles what would happen if you took the sound of a traditional car accelerating and ran it through Vocaloid. It’s also reminiscent of the Lucasfilm THX Sound promo that plays before movies. It’s also not all that different from some famous computer startup sounds.

Is that a good thing? Will Canto change by the time Nissan actually builds a car that uses it? And which carmaker will be the first to license the Jetsons noise for its cars? The future holds many secrets.


That noise is a pretty good one, better than others. I just hope they standardise to the same sound or else the street’s going to sound like a carnival midway.

However, as much as I hate it, if I can get the same Christmas music loop that our ice cream can plays in the summer I’m all in.

I can just imagine how annoyed people would get in quiet neighborhoods when someone is driving during the night. Hopefully they find a sweet spot for how loud it gets.

Hopefully the same sound level as gas powered cars.

That or a tad quieter if the sound is clearer like this is.

There should definitely be a standard for the sound. One of the resons we can be alerted to the presence of any combustion engine car is because the sounds are all roughly the same. I hate to imagine busy roadways with cars all making different types of noises. It could be insufferable, instead of the steady background drone that it mostly sounds like now.

I’d prefer a Jetsons car sound though.

For years I’ve wanted an electric motorcycle that makes the Jetson’s car sound.

What electric cars need is a low hum, like a light saber.

First, what we need is a light saber.

Canto in Spanish also means "Song" as in "El Canto", the Song.

el canto fue viniendo pero yo no lo oiste.

"Crosstown traffic" by Jimi Hendrix. And may be "Little red corvette" by Prince.

Just make it sound like an engine, and start it below 40kmph. Will still make a big difference to overall city noise levels, you know, in 20 years.

I don’t get all of this concern over the sound. With a lot modern cars, you don’t hear the engine too much unless the person is over accelerating or has a big engine and loud pipes. What you hear is the road noise echo, and that’s present on every car.

That really depends on tire noise with some being quieter than others. Especially with low rolling resistance tires that are used on these types of cars.

The car should be audible at the same consistency regardless of tires used.

It’s not even close to being as quiet as an EV or hybrid. I should know. I was almost hit by a Prius. Twice. I didn’t even have headphones on but I heard absolutely nothing. They started backing out of their parking spot and it didn’t make any noise at all. I moved out of the way and the Prius steered towards me again. I only noticed the car was coming at me once it got extremely close. I would have been ran over if I didn’t notice it, as the driver didn’t see me while backing out. It’s hard to imagine this is an issue until you experience something like that.

There’s some parking lots that are so small, you have to have eyes on your ears and behind you.. and even then if you look every which way there’s always the possibility that someone jumps behind your car as soon as you start moving backwards.. especially the gas station near where I live and where I also used to work at. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people backing up and a car pulls right by at the same time.. people just use your brains please. If you see a car backing up, LET IT BACK UP.

Unless you’re already behind the car and it starts backing up. Which is what happened to me. Any other time I can hear a car start or the engine running.

I have experienced stuff like that, but it wasn’t with an EV. And now I watch all of the cars around me because "oops" after I’m a pancake doesn’t do me any good. Either way, it’s still possible for any car to be quiet.

It’s still possible, but a much bigger concern for EVs and hybrids.

Exactly, we have a little Fiat 500e and it has bicycle tires. It is quiet but not silent. Also true that in Nevada the A/C is always a give away. I’m missing something that this is a signature feature. Vegas must not be a big enough city for me to understand the need for noise.

Should play Ride of the Valkyries.

Just for some contrast, have the nissan leaf sing "I feel pretty."


So basically like a bike hub?

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