Some drivers don’t like electric vehicles because of one reason: the sound the make. Some have fallen in love with the acoustics of diesel engines that just can’t be accurately replicated by EVs. That sound can also have a secondary purpose: to give people around the car, specifically pedestrians, an audible warning of an approaching vehicle. That is why at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan introduced “Canto”, not a new concept vehicle but a concept sound that will give its EVs an audible personality on the road.
Some experts can distinguish cars simply from the sounds their engine makes. Pedestrians, however, need only hear any engine sound to warn them of possible danger. The near-silent engines of electric cars makes that difficult and a bit eerie as well. Imagine a highway filled with nothing but fast-moving but totally quiet vehicles.
“Canto” brings back the audible signal but also transforms it anew. It’s not the roaring sound of an engine that some people will always classify as noise. Instead, the “Canto” sound that Nissan played for the crowd can perhaps be described as a high-pitched buzzing equivalent to the roaring of a diesel engine.
Being somewhat digital, Nissan is able to do things that are impossible with regular diesel cars. For example, “Canto” varies the tone and pitch depending on the car’s state, whether it’s in acceleration, deceleration, or reverse. It also only kicks in at certain speeds, depending on the market or regulations. By default, “Canto” activates at 20 to 30 kph.
“Canto” was, and is, primarily intended to give EVs an alert sound distinct from regular cars. At the same time, however, Nissan envisions that it could also spruce up roads in a city with at distinct “Nissan” flair. No word yet on when Nissan will actually put the technology on the road.