On a long and dull motorway journey you can alarm slumbering passengers by steering gently on to the rumble strip at the side of the road. The sudden bass note will cause your fellow travellers to think that you have dozed off and are about to plough into the buttress of a bridge.

In Japan (and of course California apparently) this musical moment has been elevated to high art, as shown in this clip which DS found today.

The Japanese highway authority has boosted traffic volumes on a little-used road by cutting grooves into the road surface at varying distances apart. When you drive along the stretch of road your tyres play a gentle tune across the grooves.

DS suggested, brilliantly (the boy is a genius – takes after his mother), that it would be possible to create a grid of computer controlled retractable ridges in a motorway, which would announce up-to-the-minute travel news through vibrations heard as a voice when you drive over them.

I like this idea.

It might be a bit expensive compared to, say, travel news transmitted via an RDS radio, but there is a lot of scope for some cheaper solutions.

My first suggestion is to add some permanent grooves just after the sign for each imminent motorway junction, which simply speak the number of the junction as you drive past. This would put an end to the those moments just after you go past a sign and say “which junction was that?”

If the computer controlled traffic news ridges are expensive, they could be used for advertising; for example, to say “mmm doughnuts” in a subliminal bass tone shortly before an exit to motorway services. 

On the dullest stretches of road the grooves could be cut to say “wake up!” sharply at unexpected intervals.

Don’t bother trying to file a patent. I’m already there.

7 Responses to “Roadspeakers”

  1. 1 Joe

    This will work even better with electrical vehicles in the future, as the engine noise is far lower, which also means that much less sound isolation is needed.

  2. 2 Alan

    Alex, I think this is a brilliant idea – have you thought about taking this onto Dave Gormans ‘Genius’ show?

  3. 3 Ben Davis

    Does that mean that if you’re travelling slowly, the message will be time-streched?

  4. I wonder if the strange road markings – consisting of numerous parallel stripes of various colours – on the A11, Northwards, somewhere near Six Mile Bottom, were an early, visual, attempt at this.

  5. 5 Bernard

    Hi Alex,

    Good to see the outside has not dulled your blogging skills. Why not have groves for each lane this would stop people faling asleep and drifting into other lanes.

  6. Hi Alex,

    I hope you are well. I am surprised that a “systems magician” such as yourself was stumped by something as simple as a lamp change! I cannot bring myself to call it a bulb. Years of military training taught me that bulbs produce Tulips and lamps produce light.

  7. I take it this is why you left your former employer to pursue your dreams of informational roads noises.

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