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Kia a step closer to rolling out individual sound zones in cars

By David Bonnici, 15 Aug 2018 Car News

The Korean brand’s Separate Sound Zone technology allows vehicle occupants to listen to their own music and make private phone calls without the social limitations of headphones

kia separated sound zones

Imagine driving on a long trip and being able to zone out from your kids’ music choices, while being able to make a hands-free phone call without anyone else hearing it.

Kia is working on just that, with its next-generation Separated Sound Zone (SSZ) technology that provides each passenger an audio stream tailored to their individual needs, including music, phone calls, and vehicle alerts, whilst maintaining a headphone-free social space where everyone can still chat to each other.   

SSZ technology creates and controls the acoustic fields of the car, allowing the driver and each passenger to hear isolated sounds.

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It works by installing multiple speakers around the car that apply noise cancelling technology to reduce or increase audio levels of sound waves to reduce the overlap of various cabin noises.

SSZ allows 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. It also allows the driver to hear important sounds like sat-nav directions and warning chimes without irritating other passengers or waking up sleeping babies.

Kang-duck Ih, a research fellow at Kia’s NVH Research Lab said the technology will also be  useful for driverless cars.

“Customers in the autonomous navigation era will demand increasingly customisable entertainment options within their vehicles, which includes technological innovations such as the Separated Sound System,” Ih said.

Read next: Car audio options explained

“I hope by providing drivers and passengers with tailored, independent audio spaces, they will experience a more comfortable and entertaining transportation environment.”

Kia has been developing SSZ technology since 2014, with the completed mass production system slated to appear in production vehicles by as early as 2020.

A similar system is also being developed by in-car-audio specialist Harman, with noise cancelling technology already used to reduce road noise in a growing number of cars such as the Ford Everest, Holden Equinox and ZB Commodore, Infiniti Q50 and Renault Koleos.