JUST like other on-board technologies, in-car sound systems are about to undergo a revolution. Numerous solutions -- most of which are still at the experimental stage -- are currently in the pipeline among car manufacturers.

Sophisticated audio systems will give way to more discreet and comfortable solutions, allowing everyone in the car to enjoy an optimised and even personalised audio experience.

Cars of the future may have no speakers whatsoever, while still offering unparalleled sound quality. But how is this possible? The answer lies in new technology in which the car’s interior acts as a soundbox, like a violin or a guitar, for example.

Continental and Sennheiser have already taken a first step in this direction by unveiling a novel, highly immersive 3D audio system without any visible speakers.

Here, sound is produced by stimulating surfaces that vibrate and send sound into the car’s cabin. An algorithm automatically converts stereo sources into three-dimensional sound, which means that everyone receives sound according to their position in the car, much like a miniature concert hall or movie theater.

This system, although sophisticated, has the advantage of being able to be installed in any model. Called Ac2ated Sound, it could save up to 90% in size and weight compared to current conventional systems.

Another key point of interest for carmakers right now is personalisation. Ideally, everyone in the car should be able to listen to what they want.

With this in mind, BMW recently unveiled a unique system in its i Vision Circular concept car. Speakers located under the headrest cushions give each seat in the car its own sound zone, theoretically allowing each passenger to enjoy their own audio content without disturbing the others.

With the development of 5G, multiple streaming services (audio and video) will no doubt be present on board vehicles, hence the importance of meeting individual preferences.

In the future, artificial intelligence will potentially be able to “recognise” each passenger and offer them a personal selection of content in line with their tastes and habits. It remains to be seen whether car manufacturers themselves will one day become content providers.

Finally, in a car, sound isn’t just about entertainment. Whether it’s the turn signal, GPS voice, various driver aids or warnings of different degrees of urgency, certain audio signals and information must come to the fore.

The prioritisation of sounds is therefore another factor for vehicle manufacturers to consider.– ETX Studio