You know how when you’re touring or doing a road trip or whatever, and at one point after hours of driving you start singing roads songs just to stay awake and keep your vital brain functions active. Well in some places, the roads do the singing for you.
A Japanese engineer by the name of Shizuo Shinoda was the first to come up with the brilliant idea of transforming roads into a playback medium. The system works by cutting thousands of little grooves in the asphalt that produce a sound when a vehicle drives over them. The grooves are a few millimeters deep and 6 to 12 millimeters wide, and the closer you bring them together the higher the pitch will be when driven over. Production cost is about $20 000. Mr Shinoda got the idea by driving his car over markings a bulldozer had previously scraped off a street and realized he was generating a series a tones.
The Japanese had dabbed at some security measures to keep drivers awake and alert – now with these musical roads they found their new toys. Already three streets in Japan have been “tuned” to play popular regional songs and famous tunes like the theme from “Alvin And The Chipmunks”. The streets are situated in Hokkaido, Wakayama and Gunma. One has been sponsored by Honda in Lancaster, California, one plays “Marry Had a Little Lamb” in Anyang South Korea, and yet another exists apparently somewhere in Holland (the links above will direct you to some youtube vids)
The ones in Japan induce slow driving as the recommended speed to unleash the most accurate melody is 28mph. The one in Lancaster prefers/has-been-engineered-for Honda Civics (no joke) at a cruising speed of 55mph. But the “William Tell” overture played on and on is seriously starting to get on neighbor’s nerves as the sound is made to be heard inside the car, but creates a disturbing sound from the outside. Two days ago, it was announced that the unique Californian singing road will be re-leveled and the grooves filled-up. That’ll teach big corporate Honda to market their Civcs messing around with Rossini’s fine music.
Here’s an extract:
Man…the road sings better than I do.
Although Lancaster’s case may yield precedents that could limit the production of more humming highways, I can imagine all types of brands willing to pay $20k and more to have an unavoidable permanent commercial imprint that not only grabs people’s attention but also entertains them. $20k doesn’t seem so expensive from that standpoint. With all due respect to Mr Shinoda, the melodies heard barely resemble their original versions, and yet most drivers are quite fond of the idea. Wonder if it’s possible to make portable/disposable musical road sections; groove-encrusted lengthened speed bump of sorts that could easily be mounted then unmounted. Probably not as the section would have to be too long, but if it were I would vandalize the streets with my songs.