Mark McKeague Explores The Future Sound Of Traffic

Electric vehicles are on the rise and so are the synthetic sounds they produce. With his City Symphonies project, London-based interaction designer Mark McKeague explores the future sound of urban traffic by transforming the roadside into a new context for sound. Can the city become a symphony?

Although many electric vehicles use synthesized sounds to simulate the sound of motor vehicles, you can let them play any sound you want. (A good example is this electric pizza scooter in Amsterdam that says “Mmmmmmmm… lekker” (“tasty”) instead of “Vroooooooommm”.) McKeague, who studies Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art, created a scenario in which electric cars adapt their sound to their relationship to other road users and the environment, resulting in a totally new sound of traffic.

The interaction designer created a traffic simulation to power the movement of vehicles through different sections of road networks in London. From a street level perspective the motions of traffic combine the sounds to create soundscapes that are unique to the place and time.

“In City Symphonies the sensor-aware networked cars are the instruments and the street the concert hall. The simulation is a tool for exploring these ideas, to explore what would it actually sound like if cars were moving past at different speeds and directions.”

Based on satellite images, McKeague drew digital roads filled with moving white dots. Every dot represents a vehicle and accelerates according to simple traffic rules, such as obeying traffic lights and slowing when nearing other vehicles. Every car’s sound depends on its relation to the distance of other cars on the road, resulting in great sound pieces, and even little symphonies. Head over to this article on CreativeApplications to read more about the technical part of the project.