Citroënvie member John McBride brought to our attention a recent segment on NBC news featuring a ride-stabilizing shock-absorber system from ClearMotion.  It reminded him of the Citroën films highlighting the hydropneumatic suspension in a DS.  The results shown in the NBC video are very impressive particularly considering the proactive ride system can transforms the ride of conventional spring suspension cars – old and new! 

The company, originally called Levant Power, was founded in 2008 by three MIT students with the original target of building shock absorbers that turn a car’s usual suspension movement into useful electrical energy.

In 2010, development involved the U.S. Army, and the company had 15 employees.  By 2017 the name was changed to ClearMotion and 100 employees were added to it’s payroll.  In 2017 ClearMotion acquired Bose’s development of their Electromagnetic Suspension system.  Thirty-seven years previously, Dr. Amar Bose conceived of beefing up a loudspeaker’s electromagnetic driver to be an adaptive car suspension. Bose got as far as developing prototype cars that were exhibited in 2004, and it brought to market an offshoot, electromagnetically suspended seats for long-haul truck drivers. 

Bose believed a loudspeaker driver comprising a magnet and electromagnetic coil, which pushed the speaker cone in and out, could be seriously scaled up to move not just a paper cone but 1,000 pounds of automobile at each corner. Bose created a mathematical model of the suspension. It called for better and beefier electromagnetic motors, power amplifiers, control algorithms, and microprocessor power — all of which he believed would come available over time.

Bose set up a skunkworks project in 1980 and code-named it Project Sound to hide the true nature from the Bose accounting department. Twenty-four years later, the company felt comfortable enough with Project Sound to showcase it for the media and analysts.

  Bose suspension. (a linear motor at each corner replaced the traditional springs, shock absorbers).

Bose suspension in a 1994 Lexus LS400.

Unmodified and Bose suspension Lexus LS400s on a bumpy road.

It is interesting that at a 2004 technology rollout at Bose headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts, Amar Bose said that he was drawn to develop alternatives to the traditional springs-and-shocks suspensions after experiences owning a 1957 Pontiac with a fledgling air-suspension and a 1967 Citroën with an always-leaking hydraulic suspension.

ClearMotion’s message has changed slightly from Levant Power’s.  The emphasis is now on it’s “digital chassis” – software-enabled actuators that sense and respond to road conditions in real time, delivering a smoother and controlled ride.  The company claims it does for motion what noise cancelling does for noise, mitigating road inputs within a fraction of a second. 

  ClearMotion suspension today.

“Innovation in the car business is ramping dramatically, and we see an opportunity to make our mark upon it,” said Shakeel Avadhany, CEO and co-founder of ClearMotion, in a statement.  “Self-driving functionality mandates a future in which cars afford not just driving pleasure, but the utility of a mobile office.  We are focused about the quality of time in autos and how we transform it by digitizing our relationship to the road, allowing software to control the dynamics of the car.”

Read more about ClearMotion and other companies developing road dampening ride technology here.

Plus, here’s an article stating how Ford has developed a similar system and is offering it in their Fusion V6 Sport sedan: https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2016/02/18/all-new-ford-fusion-v6-sport-helps-protect-against-potholes.html

Fascinating stuff, but when it goes wrong, we’ll bet the cost of the fix is more than you are going to incur for any hydropneumatic Citroën!