The Silent Future

Spent Sunday over on Teshima, a smaller island than Shodoshima but also a partner in the Setouichi Arts Festival. We saw some great video art by Swiss Pipilotti Rist, had delicious lunch at Shima Kitchen & then revisited the phenomenal Teshima Art Museum by Rei Naito & Ryue Nishizawa which I have posted about before


But it was after leaving Shima Kitchen we saw a glimpse of the silent future, gliding past with a subliminal whirr…


While some people see electric cars as great opportunity for embedded sound design I beg to differ. Wouldn’t it be so much better if ten years from now our roads were silent?


What struck me seeing this Nissan concept car was that it definitely looked novel and kawaii/cute but it was its silent movement that gave me a deep feeling of witnessing a profound evolution.


Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the results of silent cars was that we all became more present? More aware of our surroundings? More aware of noise pollution. But industrial noise is one thing, someones idea of appropriate sound design for an electric car is completely a different form of industrial noise – how can someone know the intended audience for that particular sound design? People listening to a game or film soundtrack have voluntarily opted in….


Will we just end up with an evolution of the infantile obsession of boy racers with their fat exhaust pipes & blow off valves impressing no one except themselves (in which case why don’t they just wear headphones or experience the sounds INSIDE their vehicle and leave us in peace)

I applaud Nissan for making a near silent car. Obviously, there is a safety issue and no doubt there will be a special Darwinian award for the first person to be run over by a silent electric car. But recreating the irritatingly loud past is not the only means of solving that particular problem.

More info on the Nissan New Mobility Concept on Teshima Island available here

2 thoughts on “The Silent Future

  1. Connor Walsh

    Renault make an almost identical car (maybe the same one, I think there are corporate connections) called the Twizy and I saw one yesterday – with a passenger! Best of all, it was Car-Free day here in Brussels, but they were allowed into town.

    Apparently one state in the US has imposed *minimum* noise levels for electric cars, meaning they have to have some sort of noise generators. Hopefully in the future this will be a laughable policy from the early days, like a man with a red flag walking in front of early motorcars.

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