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Japan's Melody Roads Play Music as You Drive 335

Krishna Dagli writes "The road works by using grooves, which are cut at very specific intervals in the surface. Just as traveling over small speed bumps or road markings can emit a rumbling tone throughout a vehicle, the melody road uses the spaces between to create different notes."
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Japan's Melody Roads Play Music as You Drive

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  • As in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by renegadesx ( 977007 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:16AM (#21346225)
    An oversized viynal? But what if you dont like the song?
  • Whimsy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:20AM (#21346245) Homepage Journal
    I have to say that after just getting back from Japan that they do have a certain affection for the whimsy even on large scale publicly funded projects that is just awesome. One of the things I saw was a huge platform with a glass top and water on top that served nothing more than a spaceship like cover for a courtyard down below and an attraction. Pics here [].

    I would have loved to have traveled on these roads while I was there...

    • Re:Whimsy (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:52AM (#21346481)
      That platform is in Nagoya. It's called the "Area 21". The glass "pool" on the top collects rain water to nourish the grass areas around the area.

      The area beneath is used for a lot of purposes, from concerts to street soccer championships.

      Nagoya (and Japan) has a huge number of projects with the sole purpose of making the city life more fun and less stressful. Like the lamp posts playing smooth jazz in the evenings, or the carousel attached to a building close to Area 21.

      There are virtually no street vandalism, so they can put a lot of statues and art on the streets, and it stays untouched and unharmed.

      Of course it's not heaven on earth, there are problems, but in the lat 2 years it became my most favorite city.

      I lived in many places, Midwest, west coast, east coast, europe, singapore, new zealand, but so far, the city life in Japan is the best I have ever experienced.
  • In Massachusetts, they are continually working on roads... I'd love to know the secret that makes them think that they'll be able to keep these strips around for more than a year or so. Beyond that, I'd think that it places greater stresses on the outermost pieces of tire, because of the uneven loading. Doesn't seem that smart to me...

    Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. []
    • by ( 142825 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:56AM (#21346509) Homepage
      Forget tire wear. What about the uneven coefficient of friction? That can get you killed. Predictability of your vehicle's reaction in all situations -- especial in emergencies -- is important.

      • I've been living in China for two months and I haven't seen any car accidents (being cleaned up, even). I don't think it's such a big deal here...maybe people are better drivers? Most of the population doesn't drive, though. If there's a difference, that's probably why.
      • One of the things that surprises me about cars from the US is how badly they react to changing road surfaces. You've got the outsize engines sussed, now how about figuring out how to make suspension and steering that works?
      • by Tuoqui ( 1091447 )
        Actually up here in Canada they do something like this on some streets going from the highways to inner city roads because it actually helps big rigs slow down/stop faster.
    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:58AM (#21346517)

      I'd love to know the secret that makes them think that they'll be able to keep these strips around for more than a year or so.
      Maybe they're not built by the lowest bidder?

      I remember an interview with the chief engineer of a road construction company. He claimed that if the state was willing to pay about twice as much, he could build them a road which could last 100 years. But if he did that he'd be underbid for every contract and would go out of business. So the state ends up with roads which need to be resurfaced after 5 years and rebuilt after 15-25. Essentially the longevity is enough to span one politician's career in that office. After that it'll be someone else's problem, so why spend extra money on it?

      • by ScrappyLaptop ( 733753 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @03:18AM (#21346915)
        Out in California you get a chance to see and feel the various levels of road quality that very nicely prove your point. Up in the Sierras, I-80 is concrete due to the winter conditions and chains. Wonderful to drive on any time of year. Down in Sacramento, and around the Bay Area, the freeways are often asphalt (asphalt concrete, not mastic asphalt) over dirt, baby. Great if a little slippery when it's brand new, just adequate when it's mature and really bad when it's still five years out from being replaced. At the local street level all the money from the boom years has been spent so it s gravel-over-tar every five years. Cars go through windshields at an alarming rate, but hey it was the cheapest bid. Interestingly, the decreasing level of quality is also mirrored in the reduced level of traction, so not only are better roads nicer to drive on, they're safer, too.

        I'm afraid this is what happens when there just isn't enough cash to go around. The amount the States get from the Federal taxes in various forms is reduced and so local infrastructure expenditures drop. However, it's not like the Federal government is spending more than it takes in on something that benefits only a select few and has quietly hidden the true costs here and there. There is a war going on; how can we complain about the state of our roads when on the other side of the world there are roads actually getting blown up daily? We have to rebuild those first, along with the electrical distribution, water supplies, schools and hospitals...the list goes on and we haven't even started. Once we have rebuilt Iraq in our image, then and only then can we talk about fixing things here with a clean conscience.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dubbreak ( 623656 )
          +5 interesting
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Nimey ( 114278 )
          I'm told by someone who works in Oklahoma's DOT that the tension between concrete and asphalt roads is this:

          Asphalt roads are pushed by human-factors people because they're softer and less fatiguing to drive on. Obviously this is more a factor with highways. Concrete roads are pushed by engineers because they last longer. However, they're a pain to resurface because great chunks must be pulled up ('crete is laid in large rectangles), while with asphalt you can just pull up the bits that need to be redone
      • Short term vision. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MikeFM ( 12491 )
        Having short term vision is a common problem among American's and their politicians. Planning for the future doesn't matter - only quick gain does. We'll save a nickle today so we don't worry that it'll cost us a dollar tomorrow. Stupid isn't it? You'd think we're all children.
  • but all I could get are big drum beats and the occasional pick screech...
  • Tires? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theReal-Hp_Sauce ( 1030010 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:23AM (#21346271)
    It's my understanding that the rougher the road surface you drive on, the faster it wears out your tires. Not just a small amount either, I seem to recall reading that it could shorten the life span of your tires by 50%.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I think tires are expensive and hate spending money on them. I would not enjoy having them wear out quickly so that I can listen to the same damned song every day on my way to work... The radio already does that for me, and it doesn't ruin my tires.

    • Deterrence (Score:5, Funny)

      by pavon ( 30274 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @02:21AM (#21346611)
      While it looks like these were done just for fun, one idea I have heard is to place them only in the passing lane, at regular intervals. This would discorage people from staying in that lane any longer than they need to, else be forced to listen to "It's a Small World" at increasingly annoying pitch the faster they drive :)
    • Due to vehicle testing regulations in Japan, I'd be surprised if your car survived long enough to need a change of tyres anyway.
  • Reverse (Score:5, Funny)

    by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <> on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:24AM (#21346289) Homepage Journal
    If you drive up that road in reverse it says, "Paul is dead."

  • What does Born to Be Wild sound like in Japanese?
  • RIAA (Score:2, Insightful)

    Watch out... the RIAA is going to demand that drivers pay them royalty fees each time we drive on said road and play a song.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Disney beat them to it. There was pavement that played zip-a-dee-doo-dah. []
  • ...companies will buy sections of road and carve their theme jingle in them?
  • Old Japanese Dup? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Phrogz ( 43803 ) <!> on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:38AM (#21346407) Homepage
    From over 2 years ago on [] (pseudo-english translation [])
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Rebelgecko ( 893016 )
      I was kind of hoping to see a translated page full of people saying "All your roads are belong to us." However,

      When it adjusts to the key of the taste, (score: 3, it is strange funny)


      The placebo effect that "Hirai it is said hard",
      You deduct amount, certainly Hirai hard the Poka is.
      Increasing the refresh rate of Hirai hard tune conversely, one blue
      Whether or not it becomes, just a little it is not understood, but.

      made up for the lack of Zero Wing.

    • I looked at that translation; check out the moderations -- "score 3, It is strange funny" and "score 4, splendid discernment." For the hell of it, I used babelfish to translate "First post" from English to Japanese and then back again. The result was "Engaging in floor bugle."
  • Speech synthesis? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lindseyp ( 988332 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:42AM (#21346437)
    That is awesome. I wonder if you could manipulate the harmonic quality of the hum, and take it as far as synthesized speech. "welcome" or "yokoso" as you enter town. That would be jaw-droppingly awesome.
    • I don't see why not. That reminds me of those action figures from the 80s / early 90s that had plastic notched strips you pulled quickly to get them to "say" something.
  • Top Gear (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bi_boy ( 630968 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:50AM (#21346467)
    Saw this on Top Gear (on Discovery Channel) a couple of years back. Not sure if it was Japan, I think it was a European country. I think they used bumps though instead, so that at certain sustained speeds it would play a nice melody but if you went too fast it would sound horrible and scarring.

    • There's one in the outskirts of Paris near Villepinte. The idea is that if you drive the correct speed you hear a melody but too fast and it's just noisy. I can't say it works that well (at least I had no idea what the tune was supposed to be - maybe it was some French classic) but cars did seem to slow down on the bumps to try it out it seems to be reasonable at traffic calming...
  • Something very similar was discussed back in the early 90's in the newsgroup! Wonder if someone might use these posts for prior art even. []

  • Youtube link (Score:5, Informative)

    by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:54AM (#21346499)
    See & hear it in action: Video here []
  • by testtrack321 ( 863249 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @01:55AM (#21346507)
    Years ago the Walt Disney World was looking for additional magical things to add to the roads for their upcoming Millennium Celebration. On a desolate piece of road on property speed warning indicators were tested (the kind you encounter on the side of the road or before a toll road) that played a song. That song was "Zip A Dee Do Dah", and for years it stayed there. There were problems with it. First, was the fact in order for it to work, you would have to be driving a VERY specific speed, not faster, not slower, or it would seem like a random assortment of rumbles. And when someone would go the wrong speed, they'd think there was something wrong (veering of the road, toll soon, etc), and would try to break, get the car back on the road, etc, that it became dangerous. Since it was dangerous, no one would drive the correct speed, and the fact they'd need to tear up the roads just to install it, Disney mothballed the idea.
    • by enos ( 627034 )
      It seems that's the reason for the giant musical note symbols on the Japanese road. It lets you know that something odd and perhaps musical is supposed to happen so you don't freak out when it does.

      Those Japanese think of everything..
  • I thought of something similar to this when I was a kid. (Ya, I know, should have patented it, would have made a killing, yada, yada...)

    Anyway, my idea came from the speed warnings in the road driving up to the airport in Dallas: about fifty 1cm ruts, perpendicular to the direction of traffic, caused a loud noise and strong vibration in the car. I thought, "If this can make noise, why not speech?" And the faster you went, the louder, more high pitched, and more strident the voice would be. It could say,
    • by mrjb ( 547783 )
      But would you listen to Alvin the Chipmunk screaming "Slow down" to you while passing there at 120mph?
  • There are three musical strips in central and northern Japan - one of which plays the tune of a Japanese pop song.

    In America the RIAA/MPAA/??AA want to sue you for umpteen bazillion dollars because you were HUMMING A TUNE in your mind without a license.

    In Japan the roads themselves play music for you.

    I know where I'd much rather live.... Even without the 100Mbps ethernet-over-fiber Internet services to your home (for less than I normally spend on coffee each week), "japanese schoolgirls" (ahem), tentacle-porn, etc - the list goes on and on. The Land of Sushi/Sake and Asahi truly is DisneyLand for Geeks.

    • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 )
      Too bad they hate whitey. And I read that they're finger printing and documenting all foreigners now, so you can enjoy being officially discriminated against by the government in addition to unofficially discriminated against by the general population. And it's a shame too, they have a lot of cool stuff--you mentioned a few examples ;) . I suppose it wouldn't be so bad to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
      • Well... so does the USA. It too fingerprints and takes photos of all Aliens entering the USA.
        But i agree with you on one count: They DO discriminate against all non-japs. Even in train cars they consider you Alien and stand/sit separate.
    • by Riktov ( 632 )
      Take off your rose-toned headphones. JASRAC, the Japanese equivalent of the RIAA, is pretty notorious for its own strongarm tactics, though they usually consist of extorting music-playing coffee-shops rather than suing individual listeners.
  • . . . but Achewood [] predicted this.

    In the arc's defense, the robot did dress up his hair like Pete Rose.
  • Seriously! As a young teenager in the backseat of the car for a long family trip, I had the idea that either music or, more importantly, warnings could be modulated as a sound onto a road bed. Combine the knowledge of those thing they used to put on balloons that would make a sound when you ran your fingernail over them with the creepy sounds that would sometimes come from the tires when riding over grooved pavement and you have an idea. If only I had patented it.
  • Ruts cut in roads, or slightly raised areas are all over the place in Japan, with the former usually to provide better traction in ice/snow, and the latter to warn of sharp curves, etc. They are annoying as hell, and noisy. They also have a tendency to wake up my toddlers in the back seat, even when driving quite slowly. Sure, use them for better grip on slippery roads, but just for novelty value? Yet another waste of public funds in a country that is notorious for it...
  • I thought of doing this when I was 10. Since then, I have seriously hoped that the government never realized it. I really don't think that the unwashed masses could withstand the constant hum of the road telling them "Personal firearm ownership is wrong."..."If your not guilty, you've got nothing to hide"..."Voting third party is throwing away your vote."..."War is peace"..."Slavery is freedom"...
  • I wonder how long it will take before some disgruntled municipal worker will grind in some really annoying song, or even better... the Brown Note.
    • They already got the brown note. Next time you see a sign that says "Center Line Rumble Strips", give it a try.

      Probably as close to brown note as is possible :P
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tuoqui ( 1091447 )
      Unfortunately the Mythbusters [] busted the brown note otherwise it would be a truly epic prank to pull off if you could do it to say one of the roads leading to the professors parking lots.
  • As cool sounding as the song is, I'm not sure I'd really I'd want to drive on a road that plays,"Highway to Hell".
  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @03:17AM (#21346909) Homepage Journal

    In Montreal a generation of Metro subway cars electric motors [] were tuned to perfect fifths, coincidentally the first three notes of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man". The tones were even part of a TV ad campaign [] when the line was opened.

    Technical Explanation PDF [] (in French.)

    However the Montreal Metro offers another treat to the senses: Smell.

    The train brakes are two part, electromagnetic over ~10km/h and birch wood injected with peanut oil slower. Thus when a train comes to a hard stop the station smells faintly of burnt popcorn. If you have to smell your public transit this is about as good as it gets!
  • Imagine a condom which says "Ay, papi!" as you go to work.

    And now I think of it... that's almost a palindrome! Perfect!

  • There's a motorway that plays the first bars of the national anthem of Germany when you drive over it. It's installed at the former border between eastern and western Germany. I think the installation is over fifteen years old. Couldn't find a link, though.
  • If you get a flat, do you get A flat?
  • Who knew Japanese engineers were reading Halfbakery, let alone getting ideas from it? []
  • I can't remember where, and I can't find the link now. You could hear it for miles, and it pissed everyone off. Eventually they tarmacked over it. Shame really.
  • When we drove through Italy this summer they had prepared the newly-built highways so you'd actually hear it when you were driving onto the emergency lane.

    I don't know if the sound would be enough to wake you if you were falling asleep at the wheel, but if it prevents people from mindlessly driving onto the emergency lane and knocking over people that actually are having an emergency there, more power to them...
  • Not only is the optimal speed for achieving melody road playback a mere 28mph

    And behold; we've solved the problem of speeding inside urban areas.

    Except that everyone outside the car experiences the tone as a standing noise (or a tiny snatch of a melody), which is repeated whenever cars go over the road. I dare say you could go stark raving mad if you lived next to something like that.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.