Good vibrations

Written by: Eureka! | Published:

More and more, new cars are being sold on the strength of their in-vehicle infotainment systems. Whether this is having the latest navigation system, video players for keeping younger passengers quiet on long drive, USB and Bluetooth connectivity or Wi-Fi connectivity so passengers can access social media, browse the web or make video calls, one particular feature is far and away the most important component: the audio system.

The tuning craze from the 1980s through to the early 2000s saw an explosion of people customising their cars. For the most part this consisted of sporty-looking body kits featuring scoops and spoilers as well as lowered suspensions, low profile tyres with custom rims and possibly an extreme camber.

But it wasn’t just exterior modification, the sound system was a huge part of this fad with the standard speakers and systems replaced with high-end systems and better speakers... lots of them.

Since these less regulated halcyon days the car industry and more importantly, the tax system, has switched focus to produce and promote vehicles with reduced emissions. Lugging around the extra weight of standard audio systems, let alone giant speakers and bass amps, increases emissions.

The challenge

Withthe automotive industry looking for lightweight solutions to everything, this month’s challenge is to come up with a solution. Your in-vehicle infotainment system must be as lightweight as possible while also producing top of the range sound. Your idea might be so outside the box it contains hardly any standard components that currently make up a traditional system.

The idea we have in mind will be revealed in the May issue of Eureka! Until then see what you can come up with. Submit your ideas by leaving a comment below or by emailing the editor: paul.fanning@markallengroup.com


The solution

The solution to Last month’s Coffee Time Challenge to produce a revolutionary, lightweight in-vehicle entertainment comes from Japanese audio and electronics company, Clarion, which has been producing stereo systems for cars since the 1950s.

Clarion’s solution does away with speakers entirely and instead uses the vibration alert technology from its Infoseat vibration alert system. Essentially, actuators convert the signal from the stereo and convey these impulses to and excites the dashboard’s surface which acts like the diaphragm of a speaker.

In addition, a system situated behind the rear-view mirror directs air towards the windscreen. All these elements act to create a virtual subwoofer to deliver incredible surround sound.

High-quality sound is guaranteed because the hi-fi system and the car’s interior are fused together and are therefore systematically fine-tuned for optimum quality. The speakerless system incorporates built-in tweeters, expanding the frequency range of the trebles to result in a particularly clear sound.

This state-of-the-art type of sound reproduction has several benefits. First, it opens new possibilities for designers to find more innovative ways to enhance the car interior. The simplicity of installation and reduced wiring will also clearly appeal to the industry.

The concept was presented at CES in Las Vegas in January 2019 and Clarion says car makers will be able to start incorporating it in the coming months.


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Coffee Time Challenge is just a bit of fun, but it is based on a real engineering solution. If you send in your ideas by using the comment button below, we can add your solution as an alternative – perhaps something funny, practical, cheap or, of course, innovative.

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