The Incredible Bose Active Suspension System
Picture this. You're attending a press event at the Bose Audio Company headquarters in Boston. You've heard rumors they've been working on something revolutionary. Stood outside, in the cold, you see a Lexus LS navigate a corner at speed and accelerate towards a railroad tie. What is this madness? Surely the car is going to be heavily damaged? The driver continues driving towards the tie, then, at the last second, the LS400 lifts off the ground and clears the tie by several inches. Everyone is amazed, is this trickery? The driver pulls to a stop, gets out and takes a bow. The car literally does the same, whilst flashing its headlights.
This may sound unbelievable, but the above actually happened. Bose, the famous audio manufacturers, produced a revolutionary car suspension that provided an incredibly smooth ride using adaptive suspension. To look at, the cars resembled magic carpets.
The idea came from the business founder, who realized that if he beefed up some of the electromagnetic drivers from their loudspeakers, it would support up to 1,000 lbs of the car per corner and replace traditional design shock absorbers.
Bose included sensors that could analyze upcoming road surfaces, searching for potholes and bumps and then compensate for those imperfections. Ordinary suspension reacts to bumps, the Bose Active suspension cancels them out. The result is a car that literally floats along the road and through corners.
To hide the true nature of the secretive project, Bose called the suspension experiment 'Project Sound', fooling the Bose accounting team. The engineers purchased 2 identical Lexus LS400s, one as a baseline comparison and the other to be used as the testbed for the new electromagnetic suspension. In order to make the system less costly on the vehicles electrical system, they even include an energy recovery system that could offset some of the power requirements of such an advanced design.
After an impressive demo, where the Bose car remained almost completely flat despite the obstacles it drove over, many car manufacturers stated their interest in adapting the technology into their cars. Passengers would experience unparalleled comfort. Unfortunately that never transpired as the Bose Active Suspension system had several drawbacks, namely, it was incredibly heavy and rather costly. Fitting the oversized linear actuators at each corner added 200lbs of weight and reduce fuel economy.
It was deemed a technological success, but a commercial failure. The two cars were put into storage and are occasionally rolled out for a crowd pleasing demo where the Bose car jumps over obstacles. Eventually, the company adapted the technology into truck seating that improved driver comfort and health.
Some high-end, luxury car manufacturers are now using this idea, cars like the Audi A8 and Mercedes S Class from 2014 onwards have active suspension. They can thank Bose, the headphone and speaker makers, for this futuristic wonder!