Bose's amazing 'jumping' car suspension system still blows minds

Bose spent years and millions creating the ultimate car suspension system. A technical success but a commercial flop, it never came to be. CNET got a rare demo.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
Watch this: Watch Bose's incredible electromagnetic car suspension system in action

Back in the 1980s, Bose began working on a secret project that it hoped would change the automobile forever: an electromagnetic car-suspension system, code-named Project Sound.

The system was designed to anticipate and rise above bumps in the road, a little like riding on a magic carpet. It was the brainchild of Amar Bose, the founder of the company who died in 2013.

Current CEO Bob Maresca was lured to work at Bose in 1986 by the ambition of the project.

"I wouldn't have come up here [Bose] if there wasn't a chance it was impossible," he told CNET in a lengthy interview.

Maresca worked 11 years on the project, which was a technical success but a commercial flop. The suspension system was too heavy and too expensive for automakers to incorporate into their vehicles without a radical redesign (the extra weight also didn't help gas mileage). Plenty 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. But once they crunched the numbers, they always left Bose at the altar.

Although Bose used what it learned to create Bose Ride, a special car seat for truckers, the Project Sound suspension system remains indefinitely garaged. Nowadays it's only brought out for a seldom-seen demo.