How your vehicle horn found its place in your car, SUV or truck.
The standard vehicle horn was invented in 1910 by Oliver Lucas in England. It's primary purpose was for alerting. It was a simple invention that provided a great fix to the a communication gap at that time. In addition, the klaxon horn was also conceived around that same time (the "awooga" sound you hear from cars in older movies - the infamous sound you would hear from a Ford Model T or Model A).
Fast forward to 2020
The klaxon horn is pretty much non existent, unless you have an after-market kit. However, the standard vehicle horn that was invented in 1910 survived the test of time. The major differences from the original models in the early 1900's are the materials used & how the sound is amplified. The general trend from 1910 to now for the standard horn was reducing cost & weight. Another major difference is the sound quality & amplification - horns in today's vehicles generally come in pairs (a high & low tone).
The Physics Behind the Horn
However, the principle of operation on the standard vehicle horn from 1910 to 2020 is pretty much the same. An electromagnet turns off & on (channel your high school physic's class) via a contact switch that will oscillate a diaphragm, usually made of steel, 400 to 500 times a second. The oscillation from the diaphragm causes airwaves, which in turn creates the sound you hear. Pretty simple & cheap operation.
Generally speaking, vehicle horns in the U.S. will last you a good while unless you are using it heavily. In countries where there is repeated use like India or China, horns tend to wear out quickly, which is generally happens on the contact switches. These contact switches are prone to intensive abuse from arcing, what you would see when you weld a piece of metal, to repeated hammering. Imagine that 400-500 times a second after each use.
Mechanical or Digital?
Mechanically driven switches were a great fix before the digital age, & as vehicles are becoming increasingly digital. Digital switches are becoming the norm. If you were to buy a new mid to high end vehicle today. There's a good chance that vehicle would be equipped with sensors & computing power that could rival any electronic device in your house. Vehicles are computers with 4 wheels that have an engine or motor. From LED screens larger than an iPad to sensors that brake for you automatically. Be it good or bad vehicles are becoming increasingly intelligent.
In the next blog we'll discuss how the digitalization of horns & other devices makes sense for future solutions. As well as how a digital horn can work with your vehicle's CPU to intelligently warn & communicate.
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Finding your frequency,