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Weight Savings Will Soon Render Car Speakers A Thing Of The Past

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Instead, your entire car will act as a speaker so you can annoy your neighbors more effectively.

Think of a violinist playing Vivaldi's masterpiece, The Four Seasons. If you're lucky enough to hear it live, think of where the sound is coming from. Wiser audiences will ensure that the concert hall they visit forgoes the use of speakers to let the raw sound be emitted from the strings and wooden body of the instrument. That concept isn't too far off from how the engineers at Continental, the tire and automotive technology company, are planning to rid the modern automobile of speakers.

The manufacturer is toying with the idea of ditching in-car speakers for good, which is not the first thing audiophiles or anyone with a lengthy commute they typically fill with podcasts wants to hear. Fear not, however, because this doesn't mean that the in-car listening experience is about to go away. Instead, Continental wants to replace speakers with a new form of technology. To generate sound, Continental will use the car's interior surfaces, vibrating them so that they resonate like a speaker would and produce sound without using as many heavy components. The system works by replacing the speakers with sound actuators that vibrate different surfaces of the vehicle.

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The actuators themselves are nothing more than a magnet and coil that vibrate, but the movement is then transmitted through vehicle surfaces rather than an oscillating membrane. There are many advantages to the system, one of them being the fact that sound can be transmitted from more locations inside the car rather than a few centralized points, giving the sound more of a 3D nature. Weight savings is where the real benefit is seen, however. Continental's system is 90% lighter than existing speaker systems, which is a desirable quality during a time when automakers are attempting to squeeze every ounce of fuel economy out of cars. It would also be an attractive feature for enthusiasts.

More extreme packages on many performance cars ditch the sound system to save weight. Continental's technology would make it so performance cars like the Porsche 911 GT2 RS with the available Weissach Package could keep its sound system without a huge weight penalty. Owners would be able to have their cake and eat it too so to speak. The technology is becoming more refined by the day, with engineers finding that different parts of the car resonate certain frequencies better than others. "The A-pillar is suited for high frequencies, while the door panels, for instance, have the right properties for generating medium frequencies," says Dimitrios Patsouras, director at the Continental Engineering Services.

Don't jump the gun and petition your favorite automaker for the tech just yet because Continental claims that these speakerless systems are still several years away from production.