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What potholes? Startup making ‘digital’ version of the shock absorber gets huge investment

Rendering of ClearMotion’s technology to develop smoother riding cars.ClearMotion

Investors have put $100 million into a startup in Woburn that is developing software-controlled suspension systems for cars, hoping to commercialize a technology that could neutralize the rough ride on Boston’s notoriously pockmarked roadways.

ClearMotion Inc. announced Wednesday that J.P. Morgan’s private equity unit was leading the new investment. The company has now raised a total of $130 million from investors.

ClearMotion describes its technology as a “digital chassis,” replacing the humble shock absorber with a software-controlled system that moves a car’s wheel in response to changes in the road surface to produce a smoother ride.

The idea has long enchanted techies in the Boston area. In 2004 the Bose Corp. said it was developing an electromagnetic suspension system called Project Sound that would counteract bumpy roads. But that product never made it into production.

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ClearMotion has more than a coincidental link to the Bose project: Its chief technology officer, Marco Giovanardi , previously worked at Bose on the company’s “active suspension” projects.

ClearMotion is pitching its technology as a natural extension of the push for increasingly autonomous cars, a separate set of driver-assisting systems that tech and car companies are betting will produce the next great wave of automotive innovation.

The possibility of self-driving cars, ClearMotion chief executive Shakeel Avadhany said in a news release, “mandates a future in which cars afford not just driving pleasure, but the utility of a mobile office.”

ClearMotion, founded in 2008, was formerly known as Levant Power. The company was previously developing shock absorbers that promised to reduce gas consumption by turning a car’s bouncing motions into electricity that could be fed back into the vehicle’s electrical system.


Curt Woodward can be reached at curt.woodward@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @curtwoodward.