If you’ve gotten into a new car recently, you’ve noticed that there is a change that has occurred over just the past few years. As there is a high likelihood that the vehicle is started by a keyfob rather than a key that is inserted into a cylinder on the steering column or on the instrument panel, the car “recognizes” that you have the fob. In fact, in the case of many vehicles, before you open the door, the car “wakes up” and will automatically unlock the door and if it is dark out, initiate a lighting routine so that your visibility is enhanced.
Upon getting behind the wheel, the car “greets” you. This is where the big change has happened. There is likely to be a message on a screen that welcomes you. And there is a series of sounds that acknowledge that you have arrived in the vehicle.
These sounds are an interesting thing. The beeps and buzzers that have long been characteristic of cars (e.g., seatbelt warning; you’ve left the lights on after you’ve shut off the vehicle; your door is ajar) have given way to more mellifluous sounds. These are not some random noises that have been selected for activation. There are sound signatures that identify the brand (were you to climb in another vehicle of the same vintage from the same brand—say a 2021 Kia Sorrento and a Kia K5—you would hear the same micro melody), as well as the various whooshes and whirs that are to make you think that you’re not just getting ready to go to the store to buy some milk but to be whisked away on some sort of magical adventure.
The company that has made an absolute art of the musical sounds within a vehicle is Lincoln. It didn’t hire some little-known creator of digital sounds that are encoded on a chip that is part of a vehicle’s body control module in order to create the audio ambience. Rather, Lincoln hired musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the automotive soundscape that is part of its vehicles’ signature. The company even has a position called “supervisor, vehicle harmony.”