We think of artificial engine sound as something manufacturers are piping into the cabins of performance cars to add a dash of excitement to proceedings, but Ford is looking at applying the idea for a rather different purpose. It’s just applied for a patent for a new type of artificial noise-creating device which will apparently make its users drive more efficiently.
The problem is that many people ‘shift by ear’ rather than using the rev counter, and those driving cars with Ford’s smaller engines - like the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Ecoboost unit - tend to change gear at much higher revs than they would with a larger engine with more cylinders, sapping efficiency. In the patent, Ford says: “a time period between two directly successive ignition events of the internal combustion engine is determined. A superimposed noise is then generated at a time between the two directly successive ignition events.”
In other words, by inserting artificial noise at the right points in the ignition cycle, Ford will be able to make a dinky engine sound like it has more cylinders. The theory is that with the sound of a larger engine with more cylinders hitting their ears, drivers will be more likely to shift up earlier.
It’s too early to say whether or not this intriguing piece of technology will actually make its way to Ford’s production cars, but we’ll certainly be watching with interest…