Did you know that ClearMotion Company created a technology that will significantly reduce not just the movement up and down, but also the right-left lurch from bumps on either side? While the system doesn’t make speed bumps obsolete, its goal is to become the kind of system that car owners won’t be able to live without.
The founder and chief executive of ClearMotion, Shakeel Avadhany, said he had been inspired by the ride in Japanese bullet trains, which can reach 200 m.p.h. with little sensation of movement. ClearMotion is recreating that train experience in cars. The earliest cars didn’t bother with shock absorbers, but some way of reducing, or damping, spring movement was clearly needed as speeds increased on the bumpy roads that predated the interstates.
In 1926 Monroe debuted a hydraulic shock absorber, and then the groundbreaking Monro-Matic telescopic damper, with automatic adjustment for all roads and loads. The innovations since have been variations some fairly sophisticated on those early breakthroughs.
Packard, for example, In 1955 and 1956 offered Torsion-Level Ride, and Citroën famously used a four-wheel hydropneumatic suspension and automatic leveling on its innovative DS 19, also introduced in 1955. But neither system was known for reliability. And now start-up companies and established automakers alike are looking at modern technology to give consumers a smooth ride free of shake, rattle, and roll.
ClearMotion’s Activalve system is an electrohydraulic unit the size of a softball that works with the car’s existing shocks and counteracts road disturbances by putting pressure on the dampers in milliseconds.
Mr. Avadhany calls the technology “noise canceling for motion.” He said he expected the first cars equipped with the system to appear in 2020. Such systems are power hungry, requiring either the new 48-volt electrical systems hitting the market or the ability to convert 12 volts to 48 volts, so the devices may first show up in hybrids, electrics or cars equipped with start-stop technology.
The ClearMotion’s headquarters is full of young workers, many of them from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The company is gearing up to produce the Activalves itself at a small factory in nearby Wilmington. It also operates a motion sickness project, aimed at among other things reducing the queasy feelings that motorists may be more likely to get if they face backward in the living-room-like interiors of tomorrow’s autonomous cars.
ClearMotion is not the only company trying to smooth automakers’ road into the self-driving future. Automakers are actively pursuing the holy grail of a level ride. Mercedes, of course, offers its Airmatic air suspension as a standard feature on some models, including the S-Class, and as an option on others. Mercedes also offers a Magic Body Control system, which uses a high-precision camera to scan the road ahead and prepare the suspension components at each wheel for the surface it’s about to encounter.
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