As cars got more sophisticated in every aspect, so too di the demands for more advanced audio systems to provide higher quality of music reproduction. Because it is a specialised field, many carmakers have usually turned to the experts to develop sound systems for their cars. One example is Mark Levinson’s work for Lexus, while Bose has also customised its systems for Mazda.

As its products move towards a more premium image, Kia Motors has also been carrying out in-house development of sound systems and has revealed its next-generation Separated Sound Zone (SSZ) technology. This technology allows each passenger of a vehicle to experience an audio stream tailored to their individual needs. The audio stream encompasses music, hands-free phone calls, and vehicle alerts, whilst maintaining a headphone-free social space where passengers can converse freely.

SSZ technology creates and controls the acoustic fields of the car, allowing the driver and each passenger to hear isolated sounds. The many speakers installed in the vehicle feature technology that uses scientific principles to reduce or increase audio levels of sound waves. This negates the overlap of sounds being heard in each seat, creating the same effect as current noise cancellation systems, but without the need for headphones.

“Customers in the autonomous navigation era will demand increasingly customizable entertainment options within their vehicles, which includes technological innovations such as the Separated Sound System,” says Kang-duck Ih, a Research Fellow and engineer at Kia’s NVH Research Lab. “I hope by providing drivers and passengers with tailored, independent audio spaces, they will experience a more comfortable and entertaining transportation environment.”

People’s musicl tastes vary, so some passengers choose to use headphones during a journey to isolate their audio stream, but this also creates an unnecessary social barrier when interacting with other passengers. When travelling in a vehicle equipped with next-generation SSZ technology, each passenger can connect their smartphone via Bluetooth and listen to their own music without interference from, or interfering with other passenger’s audio streams.

When the SSZ is utilized, hands-free phone calls can also be isolated to individual passengers, ensuring privacy when having important phone conversations on the move. Furthermore, this ground-breaking technology can eliminate unnecessary sounds for the passenger, but provide them for the driver.

Navigation sounds, or various alerts allow the driver to focus on controlling the vehicle, while the SSZ system isolates these sounds, maintaining a quiet area for the other passengers. This has a particularly strong application for drivers with a sleeping child in the vehicle.

SSZ technology has been in development since 2014, and the completed system is expected to be ready for installation in new models within 1 or 2 years.

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[Chips Yap]

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