Bose Corp., best known for its high-end speakers, spent decades developing an automotive suspension system that could anticipate bumps, prepare for sharp turns, and vault over obstacles without ruffling the passengers inside. In the end the technology proved too expensive and heavy to commercialize.
Now, years later, Bose has finally found a buyer.
A well-funded Woburn startup working on similar suspension product wants to take another crack at the technology. ClearMotion, Inc., which is building a system that can anticipate and neutralize bumps, said Wednesday it had bought the “Project Sound” suspension technology and several related projects from Bose.
“Bringing these two together, bringing Bose into the fold, we really do believe that the consumer will have the opportunity to experience this technology in the next couple of years,” said Shakeel Avadhany, chief executive of ClearMotion.
As part of the deal, ClearMotion will also take over the Bose Ride business, which uses elements of the same technology to make truck seats that help drivers better endure the jostling of their heavy rigs.
Financial terms were not disclosed, and neither company would say how many jobs would be affected. Avadhany said ClearMotion would take on some employees from the Bose unit.
The sale comes amid a transition for Bose, which announced last week that chief executive Bob Maresca is stepping down at the end of the year. Both Maresca, who will stay on as chairman, and his successor, Phil Hess, worked on the suspension system.
The project, which dates to the 1980s, was largely kept secret until the technology publication CNET last year posted an article along with a dramatic video that drew more than 2 million views.
ClearMotion has its own connection to the project: its chief technology officer, Marco Giovanardi, is a former Bose employee who worked on the suspension effort.
ClearMotion, which has raised more than $130 million from venture investors, describes its own technology product as a “digital chassis” that uses software to adjust a car’s wheels and other components in anticipation of imperfections in the road service.
Avadhany said ClearMotion has a handful of development contracts with companies that make car components, including one that will deploy its technology on the road within a few years.
Though ClearMotion departs from Bose in its approach to the mechanics behind its suspension technology, using electrohydraulics instead of electromagnets to move the components, the company is most interested in Bose’s software.
Industry observers say conditions have changed since Bose took its first crack at the technology. Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett said it’s not surprising a startup would be interested in taking the project on. The price of many sensors has gone down, Gillett said, and many that now come installed in vehicles might be helpful in a suspension system that anticipates rough going.
Meanwhile, the size and bulkiness of equipment has been decreasing. And with self-driving cars around the corner, he said, people may be more induced into buying one if has superior road-handling features.
“The fact that they have a superior ride may be one way to offset people’s anxieties about trusting self-driving cars,” he said.Andy Rosen can be reached at email@example.com.