No feature will be left unturned as automakers move into the electric era and look for more creative solutions to reduce vehicle weight in the name of efficiency. Weight is the enemy.
Turns out audio systems weigh a lot. Between the speakers, amps, subwoofers, and wiring, a lot of weight could be stripped from vehicles if they simply didn't have sound systems, but then how would people listen to The Beatles?
At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday, Continental and Sennheiser announced a speakerless sound system called Ac2ated Sound. It seems implausible, but it's an audio system that simply has no speakers.
It's not black magic or powered by unicorns. It's science. The speakerless sound system produces sound by "exciting surfaces inside the vehicle." In simple terms: it vibrates surfaces at certain frequencies to produce audio.
The technology was inspired by how the wooden bodies of classical string instruments act as resonance chambers. Actuators within the vehicle's interior surfaces create the frequencies that vibrate the surfaces. Different surfaces, due to their design, vibrate at different frequencies. For instance, the A-pillar trim, roofliner, and door panels can each produce different sounds due to their different shapes.
By dropping the speakers and related baggage of a sound system, the speakerless system reduces the weight of the sound system and space used in today's car by up to 90 percent, according to Continental.
Sennheiser said the system provides an immersive experience as if occupants were in a concert hall. By removing the traditional speakers, the sound isn't originating from a few select points within the vehicle. Instead, the sound comes from around the passengers using the surfaces inside the vehicle.
If put into production, the technology would allow vehicle designers to have more freedom with vehicle interiors as speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, and tweeters wouldn't need to be integrated.
Continental and Sennheiser didn't say whether Ac2ated Sound will see the light of day in a production vehicle, nor did they say whether it's ready for production, but it will be on display until Friday at CES.
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