Sound Suspension | Bose turns research toward improving vehicle ride and handling.

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Sound Suspension | Bose turns research toward improving vehicle ride and handling.

Doctor Amar Bose is a quiet man. Yet, when you listen to the tone of his voice as he explains the newest direction his ultra-premium sound company is turning, you see intensity in his eyes. This same intensity is what makes "The Mountain," the hill on which the company headquarters sits, continually buzz with excitement. The excitement that exudes from Dr. Bose is the passion that has molded the company into what it is today.


The Bose name is synonymous with ultra-high quality audio equipment because Dr. Bose has always held this company to the highest standards. This is why over many decades the company has developed some of the world's most sophisticated and highly regarded audio systems.

It is no surprise that Dr. Bose and a small but very talented team of engineers have taken more than 24 years perfecting the company's newest and perhaps most impressive innovation. What may surprise you, as it did us, is that this major development has absolutely nothing to do with audio equipment. Astoundingly, it is a development that could and probably will revolutionize the automotive world.

It is difficult enough these days to keep an industrial secret under wraps for a few weeks, but for 24 years is unheard of. Knowing that the research would need to be kept under strict confidence, Dr. Bose and his small band of engineers worked underground through prototype after prototype.

Garage Band.

To keep this endeavor secret they literally moved into one of the engineer's small home garage. Not wanting to be around the large Bose facility located in Cambridge, Mass., they decided that a home garage would be the last place one would look for a major development to emerge. For the first few months of the project these highly skilled engineers became carpenters, plasterers and painters getting the garage set for their project. Dr. Bose and his small group of engineers worked for over two decades on an automotive suspension control system that will have you shaking your head in disbelief. It certainly had us shaking ours in astonishment.

The Bose suspension system has no springs or shock absorbers, as you would find in a typical vehicle. In their place at each wheel you will find a computer controlled linear electric motor. It may be no surprise that the whizzes at Bose had developed precision variable electric linear motors. But it is astounding that this system greatly improves the handling and ride comfort of an automobile.

Excessive Testing.

During our test session, Dr. Bose sat us in a well-known luxury sedan equipped with his suspension system. The vehicle was mounted on a piece of equipment known in the automobile industry as a four-post test bed. As every automotive manufacturer in the world uses this type of equipment, it wasn't unusual to see Bose using this sort of equipment here. We did not realize we were in store for another revelation. It wasn't surprising to learn that the standard testing equipment available did not meet Dr. Bose's standards. So, what did these engineers do? They built one of their own that far exceeds all of those standards.

This test equipment has four hydraulic posts under each tire and through its computer control the system can simulate any type of road surface found in the world. From huge potholes found in Detroit, to the aggressive highway expansion joints of California, this machine can duplicate them all.

With four scribes seated in the vehicle, the Bose engineers ran through a system demonstration. First, the vehicle was setup as a typical suspension system found on a vehicle today. In this way we could have a benchmark from which to judge what we were about to witness. Needless to say we were being whipped around like rag dolls, with our heads nearly bouncing off our shoulders.

Then, as the vehicle appeared to continue on the same pothole damaged road surface, the engineer activated the Bose suspension system and it immediately seemed as though we were on the smoothest roadway we've ever experienced.

Night and Day.

The system provides an exceedingly smooth ride over all varieties of road conditions. Even more surprising is the way this Bose system improves the cornering and handling attributes of an automobile. You've probably noticed how an automobile leans and sways as it negotiates a corner. With the Bose system there is nearly no tilt of the car's body. It is as if the wheels are detached from the body and the body is just floating above the road.

This is not a reactionary system; the Bose system anticipates the conditions and adjusts to the situation before it encounters it. Through sensors that read the various vehicle components, the system can change settings so quickly you will never notice.

To set this idea firmly in stone, Dr. Bose took us out to a wide-open parking lot to demonstrate the system under real world conditions. Following our observation of a vehicle driving through a slalom and making quick emergency type maneuvers, Dr. Bose got a twinkle in his eyes and led us to watch the next exercise.

Extreme Tricks.

Workers placed a 2x6 inch length of lumber edgewise across the path of oncoming vehicle. Now Bose set us up quite nicely by telling us to, "Watch the vehicle closely as it stops perfectly in front of the lumber." As the car approached at about 30 miles per hour, we envisioned the car hitting the wood sending splintering wood across the parking lot. Not only did the car not hit the wood, the darn thing didn't stop in front of it either. To our astonishment, the vehicle leaped over the obstacle as if it were a cat jumping over a pillow in your living room.

To make sure we were not dreaming or having a very sophisticated trick play out in front of us, Dr. Bose demonstrated the jump again. Obviously this is not a stunt you would have your car perform commuting to work, but it demonstrated the extreme capabilities of this system.

We can't wait to see the next step in development and observe the progression of this system. We anxiously await its arrival in a vehicle we can drive everyday. Technological breakthroughs such as this will make motoring much more comfortable and enjoyable. It will also broaden the capabilities of all vehicles.

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