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Hyundai ‘Separated Sound Zone’ Could Enable Individual Audio Without Headphones

Hyundai claims the system could be ready for production within two years.

New cars are fairly good at insulating their cabins from outside noises, but that doesn’t mean occupants always get peace and quiet. The music being played may not always be to everyone’s liking, and incoming phone calls and alerts from driver-assist features can add to the cacophony. Hyundai hopes to address this with a “separated sound zone” system that lets individual occupants listen to different, personalized material.

Hyundai claims the system allows driver and passengers to listen to their own music without headphones. It can also isolate phone calls to individual vehicle occupants, or mute alerts from the navigation system or driver aids for everyone except the driver. Why should everyone else’s music be interrupted every time the driver is prompted to turn left?

While giving each person their own individual sound bubble may seem isolating, Hyundai claims it will actually make it easier to socialize because passengers won’t have to wear headphones. Other benefits include privacy while making phone calls, and being able to use the audio system without waking up a sleeping baby in the back seat, according to Hyundai.

The automaker didn’t offer much detail on how this is accomplished, but did say that the system manipulates the audio levels from individual speakers in the vehicle. Automakers have gotten pretty good at piping sound around a car’s cabin, so it’s not inconceivable that Hyundai could achieve individual sound zones in a production vehicle.

A Hyundai press release said the system has been in development since 2014, and that a mass-production version could be ready “within one to two years.” The automaker didn’t say which models would get the system first, or whether availability would also extend to sibling brand Kia and the Genesis luxury marque.