New car interiors are equipped with speakers and microphones to support increasingly complex audio systems and voice recognition functions. Now Harman also wants to attach this hardware to the outside of cars.
At the CES in Las Vegas, the Samsung-owned automotive supplier introduced a sound and vibration sensor and microphone designed to be installed on the exterior of a vehicle. They’re sensitive enough to pick up emergency vehicle sirens or the speech of other drivers or traffic cops, as well as glass breakage and other sounds from accidents, Harman said in a press release.
Harman external speaker
The hardware includes a weatherproof microphone designed to pick up speech from people outside the car and a piezo-based sensor that can detect noise and vibration and convert the pressure generated into voltage.
Harman said the sensor could be “invisibly” integrated into a vehicle’s exterior, but did not announce any automaker partners willing to deploy the technology. External noise detection was developed to complement Harman’s new Ready Vision head-up display, also unveiled at CES, which includes audio alerts to warn drivers more quickly of impending hazards.
Harman external sound and vibration sensor
Thinner and smaller audio hardware makes features like this possible, and Harman isn’t the only company developing them. Ahead of CES, LG introduced its Thin Actuator Sound Solution technology with speakers just millimeters thick. Each speaker is about the size of a passport, according to LG, and weighs just 1.4 ounces.
Audio systems weigh a lot, and weight is the enemy of efficiency and performance in a car. At CES 2020, automotive supplier Continental and audio company Sennheiser even proposed a speakerless audio system, although this concept has not yet reached commercialization.