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Porsche Invests in Audio Processing Company DSP Concepts to Create Signature Sounds for its Vehicles

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【Summary】Porsche has purchased a stake in Silicon Valley-based audio processing company DSP Concepts, Inc. The company specializes in developing software for audio signal processing and audio algorithms that lets automakers digitally enhance the sound of their vehicles.

Eric Walz    Feb 28, 2020 1:00 PM PT
Porsche Invests in Audio Processing Company DSP Concepts to Create Signature Sounds for its Vehicles
The new electric Porsche Taycan has its own digital sound signature created with software.

The roar of a sports car's engine doesn't always come from under the hood, it sometimes comes from speakers inside the cabin. In recent years, new audio processing technology has allowed automakers to digitally enhance the sound of their vehicles, to give them a more aggressive exhaust note. That's why German automaker Porsche invested in an audio software company.

Porsche has purchased a stake in Silicon Valley-based audio processing company DSP Concepts, Inc. The company specializes in developing software for audio signal processing and audio algorithms. The venture capital arm of automaker invested $14.5 million in DSP Concepts as part of the company's latest series B round. 

Also participating in the funding round was BMW iVentures, the venture capital arm of automaker BMW.

DSP Concepts its best known for its audio development software platform Audio Weaver. Its designed to help to streamline the audio development process for sound engineers, so automakers create custom sounds for their vehicle models, including electric vehicles. 

Audio Weaver software is currently used in more than 40 million devices within the automotive and consumer goods industry, the company says.

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Creating Enhanced Sounds for Electric Vehicles

Recreating the unmistakable Porsche exhaust note and engine growl is among the uses for the Audio Weaver software. Porsche wanted to create a unique sound signature for the electric Taycan that's "authentic" yet also futuristic. The sounds make the car stand out, but also provides audible feedback for drivers, such as when the accelerator is floored, so a driver feels more connected to the car.

Drivers of sports cars for example, are often captivated by the exhaust note of the engine. Enthusiasts are often aware that there's a signature sound associated with certain models high-performance vehicles, such as the Porsche 911 and Audi R8 and Ford Mustang Shelby. In modern engines that produce less noise, these sounds can be digitally enhanced for the driver using the speakers in the cabin, so the car sounds more aggressive.

Porsche created a signature sound for the new electric Taycan sedan using this type of digital signal processing. The sporty sound is meant to be part of the car's identity and reflects the signature internal combustion engine sounds of the Porsche brand.

"We are all familiar with the unique Porsche combustion engine sound. We transferred this essential Porsche element to electric powertrains with our first electrically driven sports car, the Taycan. DSP Concepts' technology makes it possible for our engineers to implement an individual sound concept for the Taycan and to create a unique Porsche sound signature," said Oliver Seifert, Vice President of Electrics/Electronics Development at Porsche. "For this reason, we endeavour to further intensify our cooperation with the highly skilled DSP Concepts team."

Sounds for Electric Vehicles are Mandated by the NHTSA

For additional safety in urban areas, the National highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also mandating the automakers add sounds to electric vehicles so pedestrians and visually imparied people can hear them when they are nearby.

Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 requires that automakers add the artificial sounds so pedestrians can "reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle", including when driving at constant speed, accelerating or decelerating. 

The new rules require that all electric vehicles that weigh 10,000 pounds or less produce an audible noise when traveling forward or in reverse at speeds under 19 mph. At speeds over 19 mph, the artificial sounds are not required, since noise generated by the vehicle's tires and wind noise are sufficient to warn pedestrians of an oncoming car. 

Electric automaker Tesla recently added a speaker to the front undercarriage of the newer Model 3 sedan to produce the electric car's signature sound with help from DSP Concepts. The car is equipped with a digital signal processor to produce sounds inside and outside of the car. One day automakers may allow drivers to select a unique sound for their car from a set of presents, such as "sport mode."

German automaker Mercedes-Benz also created a signature humming type sound for its new electric EQC SUV.

Ford's first fully-electric Mach-E SUV is one of the vehicles that the Ford Motor Company creates enhanced sound for. Depending on which driver mode a driver selects, when pressing the throttle the Mach-E delivers a noticeable growl both in the cabin and outside of the vehicle.

DSP Concepts has also developed an intelligent software called TalkTo, which guarantees reliable voice control even at significant ambient noise levels, so in-vehicle assistants like Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant can better hear voice commands from drivers.

DSP Concepts is headquartered in Santa Clara, California and also has subsidiaries in Boston, Stuttgart and Shanghai. The company plans to use the new funding to expand worldwide, including opening a new office in Taiwan.

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