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Friday, September 24, 2004Bose, the company best known for audio systems and speakers, has developed a revolutionary computer-controlled suspension system that replaces the traditional shocks and springs with electronic actuators. The result is a ride that's absolutely flat over the bumpiest of roads and around sharp corners. In theory, a car could even bank into turns, as do planes and high-speed trains.There are several interesting things about this piece.The suspension module is an oval tube slightly thicker than the spring that coils around a shock absorber in current systems, which it replaces. Processing power is supplied by a 750-MHz Intel Pentium III running at a quarter of its capability in the test vehicle, a 1994 Lexus LS400. When the car senses a bump, the linear motor actuator retracts or extends the wheel and tire almost instantly—many times faster than a standard suspension. The action is so quick that occupants sense no motion at all if the bump is less than the actuator's travel of up to 20 cm (about 8 inches).The system can reduce body roll in a turn or even allow a car to bank into a turn, but research showed that passengers find the result discomforting because they expect some roll. How come Bose engineers assume expertise in designing and developing suspension systems for automobiles?Frans Johansson, author of the book The Medici Effect wonders, aren’t the Bose enginners supposed to develop audio systems, speakers and those anti-noise headphones you bring along on a flight? It certainly appears that their engineers stepped into the Intersection and broke new ground because of it. It would be interesting to see the nature of the composition of the team that pulled off this invention. The second surprising thing about this innovation is that Amar Bose, the company’s founder, gave a small team the task to try to radically improve a car’s suspension system in the mid-80s. This was, in other words, an innovation 24 years in the making – at a company that makes sound systems!Bose will chose an automaker within a year and the sound system will be available to buyers “late in the decade”.Another invention based on intersection of ideas from different fields, disciplines and culture - also I think any enterprise can acheive what the top man wants - it is highly doubtful if Amar bose has not backed this for more than two decaded this could have been acheived.
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