Automotive is the new frontier of entertainment. Or at least, that seemed to be one of the key take-home messages of Audio Collaborative 2023. As cars become smarter and safer, so much more becomes possible – from both an audio perspective and regarding infotainment. Sarah Yule (KEF) exemplified this during her presentation at Audio Collaborative, through the partnership between two iconic British brands, KEF audio and Lotus cars.
Yule was interested primarily in the audio aspect of automotive entertainment. Audio in vehicles is no new phenomenon, but the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) is carving out new avenues for automotive audio. “The transition from combustion engines to electric vehicles,” said Yule, “opens up huge possibilities for sound.”
Gone are the days of smog-churning, noise-polluting cars. While some might miss the purr of an engine, the absence is what makes the future of in-car audio so rich with potential. Audio can inch closer to sounding how it was intended to sound, making immersive, high-fidelity listening experiences possible. Another benefit is that EVs free up space previously occupied by engines, gearboxes and other hardware components necessary to combustion vehicles. Now, OEMs can dedicate that new space to displays, audio components, and more.
And from a spatial perspective, cars may as well be custom-built for sound. They are immersive, self-contained entities, a space to detach from the outside world. With the automotive industry recognising the appeal and power of quality audio systems, opportunities will quickly unravel. Speaking of the new Lotus Eletre audio system, George Perkins, Head of Acoustics (KEF) said: “I think for many, it will be the most emotional, enveloping sound experience they’ve had.”
With EVs geared for take-over, immersive, in-car audio will only become more manifest. In many ways, innovation is only just beginning. But safety must first be prioritised.
Anxieties around distractions while driving are still, understandably, ingrained in the culture. For true in-car immersive experiences to take hold, automated driving assistants (ADAS) may well be a necessary bridge to cross. Currently, we’ve seen lane-changing assistants, traffic light and stop sign control in Tesla Model S upgrades – but fully autonomous vehicles may be a bit further on the horizon. There are also legislative barriers preventing the further implementation of driving automation features – despite cars having the capacity.
“As we see these new technologies come into place, the vehicle will become an extension of the individual,” said Yule.
Chris Bull, Lead Analyst at Futuresource Consulting, anticipates in-car experiences to be another hot topic at the forthcoming CES.
“Last year, brands showed a real commitment to developing cutting-edge technologies to elevate the in-car experience. Amazon, Panasonic, and Peugeot were just a few of the companies displaying visionary offerings in the space.”
According to Bull, more details about Car Play 2 – Apple’s in-car operating system – should materialise at CES. Currently, a lot of automotive operating systems rely on a phone mirroring platform, but whether Apple will be breaking into an in-built car system – like we’ve seen with Android Automotive – remains to be seen.
Then there’s the issue of integration. Having infotainment systems that are fully interoperable is crucial in maximising their value and ensuring safety. However, there is a question mark over whether cars will have built-in processing or will rely on cloud services.
“Cloud connectivity offers a less stable connection than smart phone mirroring, so brands will have to reckon with that. The seamless and correct functioning of infotainment is paramount to automakers, so the cloud would be expected to operate as a layer on top of core functioning, rather than as the sole source powering the interface.”
Sarah Yule dubbed cars as the new ‘hyperspace’ for sound. As driving technologies advance, journeys will become safer, driving less stressful, and journeys more comfortable. “The car will become a sanctuary,” said Yule – a sanctuary fully equipped with spatial audio, smartphone integration, video streaming, and gaming, no less.
Audio Collaborative offered attendees a haven of insights into the future of immersive, in-car audio. Futuresource looks forward to expanding these insights at CES 2024. In the meantime, discover more about Futuresource’s research into automotive infotainment and audio by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
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