What’s in store for the future of the automotive industry? According to Inside EVs, the future is electric: total U.S. electric vehicle sales increased in 2018 by a whopping 81%.

As the electric vehicle continues its breakthrough to consumers, the pressure is on for these green, clean, silent machines to produce external noises for greater pedestrian safety. Notoriously difficult to hear when travelling at lower speeds, the U.S. Department of Transportation will require electric vehicles and hybrids to emit external sound alerts by September 2020, while the European Union will require the same beginning in July 2019.

And yet the question remains: what might the electric vehicle of the future sound like?

HARMAN’s Lifestyle Automotive team sought to find an answer. In order to address this largely untapped ‘wild west,’ HARMAN sound engineers developed unique, synthesized engine sounds and tested a focus group to pinpoint specific sound preferences. Next, we invited CNET Roadshow to spend a day at our Novi facility for exclusive access to the project. There, reporter Andrew Krok learned about how HARMAN is working to define EV sound through world-class engineering, acoustics and trained listener input.

We took CNET Roadshow along for a ride in a Tesla Model S, equipped with a digital signal processor and a pair of external speakers for the emission of sound inside and outside the cabin. Disparate worlds united as we showed Andrew how an EV would sound with a roar of a V8 or the intergalactic hover of a UFO.

Next, we brought Andrew to HARMAN’s listening room – a controlled environment outfitted with sound-deadening materials – perfect for conducting critical listening tests. The creation of a single sound, from conception to evaluation, can take a couple of weeks, and it’s here in the listening room that trained listeners evaluate these synthesized sounds to ensure the audio experience meets customer goals. Andrew participated in a brief demonstration of the evaluation process and was impressed by the unique character of each audio clip and how it provides automakers with the ability to match each experience to the vehicle’s personality and target demographic.

Up next was the benchmarking lab, where the magic of HARMAN’s automotive audio systems take place – here, a diverse sample of trained listeners evaluate the in-car audio experience, articulating their sound quality preferences for the engineering team to optimize performance and establish sound quality targets relative to market segmentation and audio brand.

The market for EV sound is still in development, but the need is sure to follow. A recent study from IBM found that over half of consumers are interested in personalized and customized experiences in vehicles, and a variety of available EV sound options provides automakers the opportunity to address consumers’ inherent need for personalization.

Check out CNET Roadshow’s story here and see for yourself why EV sound is soon to be “a hotspot of innovation and individualism.