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.

Kia Motors has given insight into the company's future product plans.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia is charging ahead with an aggressive electric vehicle (EV) implementation plan that includes 11 new vehicles in the next five years. The strategy, called "Plan S" starts with the company's first dedicated EV in 2021.

Plan S is a dual-focus shift for the company. On one side they will be progressing toward an EV-centric product strategy while in the other hand Kia will be focusing on customized mobility solutions. They will also be focusing on autonomous vehicle development.

By the end of 2025, Kia plans to offer a full line-up of 11 battery electric vehicles. The company is aiming to have 25 percent of its vehicle sales outside of China come from what they call "eco-friendly cars" by 2025 on their way to achieving a 6.6 percent market share in the global EV market (500,000 annual EV sales excluding China). According to a McKinsey & Co. analysis published April, the U.S. EV market almost doubled to 360,000 EV units in 2018, mainly because of the strong sales performance of Tesla's Model 3.

From 2022, Kia plans to add EVs in the passenger vehicles, SUVs, and MPVs categories. They further outlined their electric vehicle development:

The dedicated EV model to be launched 2021 will be built on a unique platform specifically engineered to accommodate the car's world-leading EV powertrain and technologies. It will offer a crossover design which blurs the boundaries between passenger and sport utility vehicles, a future-oriented user experience, a single-charge driving range of over 500 kilometers, and sub-20-minute high-speed charging time.

Across its EV line-up, Kia plans to operate two different types of EVs with different charging capabilities (400V/800V) -- high-performance dedicated models and derivative models with reasonable pricing -- to meet the diverse needs of customers.

Growth in global EV sales will be pursued in accordance with a customized, market-oriented strategy, which considers regional differences in environmental regulation, subsidies, infrastructure and more.

These EVs are expected to first be sold as a trim level option in Kia vehicles in the same vein as the Niro EV and Soul EV.

Additional Kia expansion is planned to come from car-sharing and e-commerce businesses.

"Plan S is a bold and enterprising roadmap for Kia's future business transition, buttressed by the two pillars of electric vehicles and mobility solutions," said Han-woo Park, president and CEO, Kia Motors. "Our approach is to put customers first, and Kia will reinvigorate its brand innovation by developing products and services that offer new experiences for customers."

Easily missed in this plan is Kia's proposition to raise the sales of internal combustion engined vehicles while at the same time establish the development system for EV architecture. Though they say that they'll focus those efforts on emerging markets, it's relatively safe to say that the Soul, Forte, and Telluride aren't going away any time soon.

Kia is activating recent partnerships and company share acquitions to get to this goal. Last year, the Korean automaker invested in Croatian performance EV manufacturer Rimac Automobili and IONITY, which specializes in building high-speed charging infrastructures.

They're also planning on building "Mobility Hubs", transfer stations between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. Long term plans call for self-driving robotaxis and on-demand roboshuttles to also populate these Mobility Hubs.

Kia is part of a car-sharing services joint venture with Repsol, Spain's major energy corporation, in Madrid via its WiBLE brand.