2014 Cadillac ELR noise cancelling spares your delicate nerves from engine roar

The 2014 Cadillac ELR has an audio feature you can’t hear, but that’s a good thing. A new noise-cancelling feature works through the Bose speakers and tunes out background noise emanating from the car when it switches from the electric motor (which runs for about 35 miles) to the gas motor. The result: there’s no added distraction to the driver when the engine roars.

The ELR will be the first luxury car from GM to offer battery-powered driving at normal speeds. It will debut early next year and uses the same technology that's in the Chevy Volt.

The Cadillac ELR mounted on a dynamometer to test the noise levels of the on-board generator. The noise-cancelling feature on the car cuts down on the noise as the car switches from electric to gas motors.

Noise cancellation is a well-known trick in audio circles. In noise-cancelling headphones, for example, the headphones “listen” for background noise and emit an opposing waveform that cancels out that audio stream. For the ELR, Cadillac uses three microphones mounted on the ceiling of the car. After you deplete the battery power, any noise emitted from the generator and powertrain will be cancelled out as you drive. The waveform is transmitted out of the Bose speakers and subwoofer in the car.

Like any tech innovation, the noise-cancelling would not work at all if the car didn’t have other sound-dampening features. The floor mats, dashboard, carpet, and even the windshield are all designed to work in tandem with the microphones and the speakers.

Some electric-powered cars are too quiet

The noise-cancellation is exactly the opposite effect that some automakers have tried in the last few years. The original Nissan Leaf emitted a sound outside of the car to warn pedestrians. Last year, the US government started investigating whether all EVs should emit an engine noise sound at all times so pedestrians can hear them whisk around corners.

There’s no word on whether the driver will be able to adjust the level of dampening in the Cadillac ELR. Here’s what we do know: Even though electric cars are quiet on the road, they still produce plenty of tire noise and—depending on how much you like rap—a pounding subwoofer.

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