Atlanta revelers heading home in the dead of night may spot a weird sight on the local freeways: a white Mercury Sable sprouting a wind vane, wind-velocity meter, bicycle tire, and 41 microphones. It's an experiment by Krishan K. Ahuja, an acoustics expert at Georgia Institute of Technology. Ahuja is helping Ford Motor Co. prepare itself for the market that's expected to develop for electric cars.
Without a gasoline engine's roar to drown out wind noise, Ahuja explains, drivers are going to be far more touchy about the whooshes and whistles of air rushing around their cars. Since this hasn't been a major issue while gas-guzzlers ruled the earth, nobody has developed a model that can predict wind noise. To correct that, Ahuja and his assistants collected acoustical data from 25,000 miles of driving in the quiet wee hours, and the analyses are now starting to spill out of the computer. Ford is keeping silent about the findings so far.