CES 2020

Continental and Sennheiser create an immersive vehicle sound system without speakers

New technology shown at CES allows for automakers to say goodbye to speakers inside their vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Sennheiser

Premium audio systems have what, like 12, 15 speakers? More? Contentnail and Sennheiser teamed up to create a concept car at CES that immerses its occupants in a sound cocoon without using a single speaker.

What?! How does that work?! The technology merges Sennheiser's AMBEO 3D audio technology with Continental's Ac2ated Sound system. The Continental system eschews speakers and instead uses surfaces within a vehicle to produce sound. When this technology is combined with Sennheiser's AMBEO Mobility, the result is "a breathtaking 3D sound reproduction that envelops passengers in an incredibly detailed and vivid soundscape and lets them enjoy their in-car entertainment to the fullest," according to a release.

Continental Sennheiser CES 2020 sound system The new type of system would save nearly 100 pounds of weight.Photo courtesy of Sennheiser

The weight savings is significant for autos. The Ac2ated Sound system enables up to a 90-percent reduction compared to the average weight of a sound system. Vehicles with the top-tier trim levels generally weigh more than their mid-grade and base model counterparts, which causes them to be less fuel efficient.

"For Ac2ated Sound we have brought together the highest levels of expertise in the areas of acoustics, infotainment and vehicle design. In Sennheiser we have found an audio expert who helped us make our pioneering audio system even better," said Helmut Matschi, member of the Executive Board and Head of the business area Vehicle Networking and Information at Continental. "Together, we have developed an audio system that creates premium sound out of nowhere. Additionally, Ac2ated Sound reduces space and weight. At Continental, we call this sustainability that's music to your ears."

But, how does it sound? According to the companies, the result of the technology is a natural sound experience that, for the occupants, feels, "as if they are sitting in a concert hall surrounded by sound."

The technology, if implanted in passenger vehicles, would allow designers more leeway in designing an interior, saving 75-90 percent of the space of a traditional audio system. It also would make the vehicles more fuel efficient.

Volvo Valet delivers a luxury level experience for owners.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

Volvo owners can now have their cars serviced without having to come face-to-face with another human. The automaker has debuted its new Volvo Valet service in the U.S., offering owners the opportunity to use their smartphone to schedule maintenance.

Users download the Volvo Valet app (available for iOS or Android) to schedule their service appointment as well as a preferred pickup time. A retailer employee will then pick up the customer's car and drop off a loaner vehicle for use while maintenance is being performed.

Through the Volvo Valet app the customer can see where their driver is and when they will arrive tracking their moves like you can in the Uber app. After handoff, the owner can receive a notification when their car has arrived at the dealership. The customer is notified the moment their car is ready to be picked up then, the retailer will contact the customer to arrange a time to return their Volvo and pick up the loaner vehicle.

Volvo Valet app The Volvo Valet app allows for vehicle maintenance to be conducted without the hassle of heading to a dealership.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

To ensure a fully transparent process retailer employees are asked to photograph the condition of both cars at the point of handoff.

"Volvo Valet gives owners the flexibility to service and maintain their vehicles in a way that works best for them," said Anders Gustafsson, Senior Vice President Americas and President and CEO, Volvo Car USA. "Volvo Valet has been very successful in pilot testing over the last year and it is now ready to serve our customers and retailers in this unprecedented time."

Owners can also choose to schedule this service over the phone with their local dealership.

Volvo vehicles of any age are eligible for this service, at the discretion of individual retailers. To check if an individual retailer is participating in the program, customers can contact their service department until an online functionality is added this spring. Retail locations can be found at www.volvocars.com

All service performed via Volvo Valet is eligible for the Service by Volvo benefits provided to all Volvo car owners: Volvo Tow for Life offers owners free towing to a Volvo retailer within a 25-mile radius for the life of the car when work is performed there. Volvo Lifetime Replacement Parts and Labor Warranty covers genuine Volvo parts installed by a Volvo retailer for out-of-warranty repairs for as long as they own the car—pay once and never again.

While currently applicable only to maintenance and service, Volvo Valet will be expanded to include lease and purchase deliveries, lease returns, and overnight test drives later in 2020.

Volkswagen has worked with Panasonic and Fender to offer premium audio systems in their vehicles since 2011.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

You think about the price, number of seats, cargo space, fuel efficiency, and drivability. Then, somewhere down in the lower half of the list of considerations, for the average consumer, is the setup of the vehicle's sound system.

Volkswagen, like many other automakers, has teamed up with audio system companies to engineer sound solutions that provide high-quality sound in their vehicles.

In 2011, the first Fender Premium Audio System debuted in the Beetle, Passat, and Jetta GLI. It delivered 400 watts of sound from eight speakers. Panasonic sound systems were added to the mix in 2015 delivering a concert-quality experience and since then, the company has offered available premium audio equipment on most of its model.

With that system, "we're able to put concert-quality sound inside a vehicle," said Tom Dunn, Director of Global Audio Solutions at Panasonic. "The emotion of a live performance is something we were all familiar with, but it was not something anyone expected to feel while driving their car."

Volkswagen's Atlas, introduced for the 2018 model year, presented unique acoustic challenges because of its size.

"The Atlas has three rows and seven seats, which gives the vehicle a large cabin space," said David Ernst, Panasonic's Senior Acoustics Engineer. "The Atlas Cross Sport has two rows and five seats, so we had to pare down the design of the Fender Premium Audio System for the smaller model without taking away any of the quality."

When VW decided to add the Atlas Cross Sport to its lineup, the move wasn't as simple as lowering the roofline and updating the grille.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Lowering the roofline as part of the creation of the Atlas Cross Sport presented unique challenges for Volkswagen and Fender engineers.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

According to Volkswagen, "To adapt the original Atlas audio system for the size of the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst and his team tested the system with focus groups and people at events and concerts. The team even had musical artists sit in the Atlas Cross Sport and listen to their own music on the system to see how well it matched in quality and expectation."

"We did a lot of fine-tuning to make sure the product would be perfect for passengers, wherever they sat inside the vehicle," Ernst said.

The Atlas Cross Sport ended up with a 12-speaker Fender Premium Audio System. It has a 80-mm front-center channel speaker, two 200-mm dual voice coil woofers in the front doors, four 60-mm soft dome tweeters in the first- and second-rows, two 168-mm speakers in the rear doors, and two 80-mm wide frequency speakers in the D-pillar. A 168-mm subwoofer sits in a 12-liter enclosure in the back. All told, the system delivers 480 watts of power.

After spending months optimizing the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst says he's proud of the "concert feeling" passengers have when listening to the final product.

"This partnership is not just about the hardware of the audio system," said Dunn. "It's an opportunity to connect with customers on an emotional level. And Volkswagen has always recognized the importance of this connection."