Bose sells its futuristic car suspension system to ClearMotion

ClearMotion, a startup that makes road-sensing technology, aims to bring Bose's secretive electromagnetic active car suspension system to a new generation of vehicles.

Bose demoing the suspension system for CNET two years ago.

Bose is best known for its speakers and headphones, but it spent years quietly developing an electromagnetic active car suspension system that offered incredibly smooth rides. Code-named Project Sound, the suspension system was a technological success but a commercial failure -- because it was too heavy and too costly to put into mainstream vehicles.

Now it may have a future. ClearMotion, a Boston-based startup that's developed road-sensing technology with the mission of "Improving the quality of time in cars," has acquired the Project Sound active suspension and other predictive road-sensing software from Bose.

Bose, which is privately held, didn't disclose financial details of the deal but told CNET that it's not an investor in ClearMotion, which raised $100 million from venture backers after being founded by three MIT students in 2008. It has additional offices in Silicon Valley and the UK.

As part of the deal, ClearMotion also acquired the technology for Bose Ride, a special "active" car seat for truckers that improves ride quality and reduces occupant fatigue. Bose used what it had learned from developing the active car suspension system to create Bose Ride, but it remains a niche product. 

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With the acquisition, ClearMotion says it now has over 300 patents related to active motion control. The company said it "plans to scale the portfolio of Bose technologies across all types of vehicles and classes including self-driving platforms, consumer SUVs and pick-ups, commercial truck, bus, agriculture and off-highway."   

"The Bose brand is synonymous with innovation, and their breakthroughs in motion control are no exception," said Shakeel Avadhany, CEO and co-founder of ClearMotion. "These technologies will be assimilated into our product portfolio at a time where the car business undergoes remarkable change. We believe that the quality of time in cars is vital, and ClearMotion will distinguish our customers from the many mobility developments underway. We will offer innovative automakers the ability to adapt their cars, pick-ups, SUVs and self-driving platforms to the rapidly changing needs of the customer as autonomous functionality recaptures lost time while in motion."

Current Bose CEO Bob Maresca, who is set to retire at the end of the year, worked 11 years on Bose's active car suspension system. Plenty of car makers were enamored with the performance and said it was the best-riding car they'd ever been in. Jaguar, Mercedes, Honda and Ferrari were all interested, Maresca claimed. But once they crunched the numbers, they always left Bose at the altar.

Perhaps ClearMotion will have better luck it.