Few things are as enjoyable on a long road trip or daily commutes as listening to your favorite tunes or catching up on the latest podcast. In-car listening is now more convenient than ever due to stereo technology advancements.
In-car stereo systems have come a long way from AM/FM radios. Today, they boast advanced features like smartphone integration and satellite radio, and more exciting innovations are still coming. Here is an overview of the future of in-car stereo technology.
IoT-Powered Infotainment Systems
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept where devices interact over the internet. IoT in the auto industry powers the infotainment system for enhanced entertainment, navigation, and connectivity for a seamless driving experience.
The advancement of IoT capabilities is supercharging in-car stereo and infotainment systems. Audio streaming will be the first to benefit, focusing on improving audio quality and reducing distortion.
Auto manufacturers and technology companies are working together to make this a reality. For instance, Vodafone and Hyundai Motor Group recently announced a partnership under which Vodafone will bring its Global IoT Connectivity for Connected Car Service to Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis models. It will cover all new models sold across Europe.
The Vodafone IoT connectivity will give Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis customers real-time and relevant information at the wheel. It will allow fast and reliable access to audio/video streaming and Wi-Fi hotspots.
Speakerless Audio Technology
Most modern vehicles are weighed down by bulky sound systems and subwoofers. Radio, loudspeakers, and cables can add 40 kilograms to a typical car. As a result, sound companies and car manufacturers are now adopting speakerless audio technology. The working principle behind this is similar to how instruments like violins and guitars produce sound.
Vibrations are induced in existing surfaces within the vehicle’s interior to produce sound. Each car component – from the body panels and door trim to the roof trim and the trunk – possesses unique acoustic characteristics. This will create a more immersive audio experience for drivers and passengers while still considering fuel efficiency and performance through weight reduction.
This innovation can lead to a 75 to 90% weight and space reduction compared to traditional sound systems. Electric vehicles will greatly benefit as weight and space considerations are critical for EV performance.
Technology company Continental is one of the pioneers in this field with its Ac2ated sound system unveiled in 2017.
Continental has since started collaborating with audio specialist Sennheiser to further work on this technology.
360-Degree In-Car Sound
More passengers will soon be able to fully immerse themselves in a 360-degree sound experience. Continental and other auto technology companies, along with audio experts like Sennheiser, are leading the way in this area.
360-degree sound technology is different from standard stereos, which project music in a straight manner. It delivers sound anywhere around the car occupants. This technology is powered by an algorithm that transforms stereo sound into 3D sound. As a result, no 3D audio source is required.
The immersive sound experience produced by the acoustic surroundings gives the impression of a music hall. Customization will also be a focus of this innovation as we go into the future. That means every passenger will have access to a customized sound zone. For example, the driver will hear a different soundscape from the other passengers.
When self-driving cars eventually become fully autonomous, this technology will also enhance the travel experience. It will offer drivers and passengers the ideal sound environment for working, relaxing, or entertainment.
Enhanced In-Car Sound Environment
The operation of modern cars is usually accompanied by many dashboard noises. These include turn signal clicks and phone call indicators. The noises can be quite distracting and annoying. Manufacturers of in-car stereo systems are starting to acknowledge this.
As a result, they are working toward improving the in-car sound environment through quality enhancement and sound integration. They are also incorporating noise reduction into infotainment systems, like the case of noise-canceling headphones.
The systems can also record relevant noises from the car, such as navigation system announcements, among other audio information, and integrate them to ensure optimal comprehension by the driver.
Sonification for Safer Driving
Sonification is currently used in in-car stereo technology to lessen driver stress and enhance road safety. It turns essential data like traffic conditions and driver assistance data into actual sound. Therefore, driving becomes safer and less stressful, especially in highly demanding situations.
For example, the turning sound tempo rises as the car approaches a turn. This eliminates the need for the driver to estimate distance or to rely on the display panel. Additionally, a unique sound is produced in the direction of the turn. This can help in challenging driving situations like dense urban traffic or uncharted territory.
In-car stereo systems are also being integrated with blind-spot assistance for safer overtaking where the regular turn signal tone is overlaid with an audible warning. This tone only returns to normal signal tone when the lane is clear.
This means drivers won’t have to spend excessive time scouting for a gap in the oncoming traffic and will be able to concentrate more on the vehicle and road ahead.
The collision warning system operates similarly with an audible alert notifying the driver of oncoming vehicles, even if they are still concealed around a bend. Most auto manufacturers, such as Tesla, BMW, Land Rover, and Nissan, already incorporate these technologies into their vehicles.
Advanced Smart Voice Assistants
Advanced smart voice assistants are setting the stage for the next wave of in-car stereo systems. Voice assistants are changing how drivers interact with their vehicles. They can now understand complex voice commands, engage in meaningful conversations, and learn from past interactions.
The capabilities of smart voice assistants are expanding in tandem with technological advancements. Industry leaders such as Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, and PSA Group have rolled out advanced smart voice assistants that enable a hands-free driving experience. Soon, they are expected to be able to predict the driver’s needs and modify the vehicle’s settings accordingly, sort of like CarPlay Siri.
For example, they might select suitable music depending on the driver’s mood and preferences. As we move towards a future of self-driving cars, voice assistants will also play an increasingly vital role in navigation.
Phasing Out Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Some auto manufacturers are moving away from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Tesla, for instance, has its unique interface. General Motors also has plans to phase out both systems in its new gas and electric vehicles. Instead, it will leverage Google’s operating system. This will provide drivers with seamless access to app shortcuts, notifications, and music without needing mobile device integration.
Steering Towards the Future of In-Car Stereo Technology
Technological advancements are creating new possibilities for in-car stereo technology. Artificial intelligence and machine learning developments are refining voice assistants to make them more intuitive and interactive. The driving experience is being enhanced by the integration of safety features into in-car stereo systems.
Also, there is a shift from smartphone-dependent systems to independent interfaces/operating systems. This improves functionality and access, where drivers can access different features without a smartphone.