Premium Audio on demand and extra functionality for EVs

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Previously, Automotive Interiors World spoke to Riley Winton of Harman about the hardware systems it was designing specifically for EV applications. In this second part of that interview, Winton provides details on other functionality the company is looking at in order to improve the in-car experience for EV drivers and aid manufacturers in simplifying equipment specifications.

In addition to the hardware you detailed earlier, what other EV specific solutions is Harman working on?
We do have some other elements in the whole system we’re calling EV Plus+. For example, there is software-enabled branded audio, also known as premium audio on demand. Currently, with different vehicles, all with different trim levels, when an OEM tries to make a car they have to figure out this huge matrix of complexity, as does the end user, when they buy a car.

Because of this very small, lightweight system [we detailed earlier], theoretically, you could imagine every car ships with all of its premium features already integrated. But through software, the user or the OEM can decide at any time which level of audio system they want. When you buy a car, you check the box for the desired spec, the dealership can then unlock the software experience.

You could get your Harman Kardon branding, you’d get all the speakers running with the full tuning, you get the amazing audio experience, also possibly some lighting, some branding and some industrial design elements.

There’s a whole bunch of different business model potentials there, with subscription services maybe or standard point-of-sale single purchase. For example, if an owner changes their mind, they can unsubscribe from the premium audio experience, or whatever business model a manufacturer describes it as. Then, if they change their mind again, you can get the premium audio back. At the push of a button, boom, you’re right back up to a Harman Kardon system.

It’s a hugely flexible new concept that enables us to do this stuff at the touch of a button over the air. So that’s a big centerpiece we applied to the EV Plus+ concept.

Beyond the simple audio experience, what other functionality does Harman’s system offer?
There is our Audio Marketplace. Think of it like an app store, connected through the head unit or a companion app. You can access a lot of functionality through it.

For example, we have done some experimental things with the marketplace, such as make it possible to add soundscapes such as authentic sounds and scenery from different US national parks. Effectively it lets you completely customize and personalize your audio system at any time over the air.

EV Plus+ is basically a suite of products that unlock a whole new set of features and interactions for the end user. We looked at all these different elements that were just sitting there idling, and we pieced them all together into a package that makes a lot of sense for the end user, and solves a lot of the pain points for manufacturers.

What about other functions that are only possible to realize with an EV?
Something else we have looked at relates to the pedestrian warming speakers EVs are required to use. Legally, you have to have them, so why could they not also play music as well? Imagine you pull up to the beach, you have these speakers already there and you’ve got this huge battery with a bunch of reserves. Why could it not be basically a giant portable speaker that sounds awesome?

That’s one of the other use cases we’ve looked into as again, it gives the best bang for your buck. There are already speakers there, we just tune them a bit more, maybe make them a little bigger, add a sub as an option. Then you can really squeeze out this entire new set of use cases for existing equipment.

Riley Winton is head of UX concept at Harman International.

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