Thursday Salute to Originals: Musical Highways

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, we’re suckers for the details. Creating projects with strange – or seemingly impossible – engineering criteria really gets our creative wheels turning. But we also love the miniscule details where a couple millimeters really make the difference between a lackluster project and a phenomenal one. And while we’re used to engineering tight lighting cavities and unusual backlit features, there’s a curious engineering movement taking over highways that put an unsuspecting musical twist on precision and detail.


Awhile back, a Japanese engineer made some accidental markings in a road with a bulldozer claw. Later, when he ran over the markings with his car, he realized the vibrations from the grooves created a musical melody. This accidental observation spurred further thought and research, and in 2007, engineers from the Hokkaido Industrial Research Institute precisely finessed these markings into actual musical tunes.


Making a musical road is not just as simple as cutting a few channels into the pavement, though. (We know this all too well in the world of backlit surfaces, the design is NEVER as simple as it seems). The size, depth, distance between the grooves, and speed of the car all have an impact on the pitch of the vibration emitted. By varying these variables, different melodies can be designed (closer grooves = higher pitch; further spaced grooves = lower pitches; faster speed = faster song tempo, etc). But if any of these elements are off – even by a few millimeters or few mph – the song will be distorted.



Watch the clip below to hear the melody on a road in New Mexico. See if you can figure out what tune the vibrations sing.

Utilizing precise engineering to turn highways into whimsical musical instruments is certainly deserving of our Thursday Original Salute! Now that’s what we call cruising music – literally!

Image Credits: Amusing Planet