In-Vehicle Experience: A Focus on the Personalized Zoned Audio

By Michael Burk - 2018-10-11

For many years, premium brand audio systems have been a key component of the in-vehicle infotainment / experience. The notion of a premium brand reflects a higher quality, better sounding sound system when compared to a standard audio system. To achieve the higher level of quality, audio designers work with the interior designers to strategically place specialized speakers throughout the interior. A combination of tweeters, midrange speakers, woofers, and subwoofers take into account the interior shape to set a baseline for audiophile level performance. Once the speaker placement has been determined, high performance digital signal processing is employed to equalize the system and establish the sound stage. DSP processors with typical performance of 120 MIPS implement crossovers, bandpass filters, limiters, mixing, time delays etc. and are coupled to amplifiers with up to 16 channels and up to 1000 Watts of power to create a vehicle with audiophile level audio performance.

With the recent trend toward ride sharing and fleet sales strategy at many OEM’s, the market has created a need for personalized zoned audio. The desire is for every passenger in the vehicle to have their own private space where their activities (phone calls, listening to music, etc.) have created a much more complex problem for the audio designer.


Each seat is treated as an individual sound system with a small soundfield around the listener. Each listener needs isolation from every other passenger. How is this done? Designers use complex cancellation techniques to isolate the soundzone beyond what is physically possible in the interior. Once this isolation is designed, the individual zone is enhanced with a user selectable surround sound field, personalized equalization, active road noise cancellation, and nearfield speech support. As compared with traditional audio the DSP processing required is distributed and up to 1000 MIPS with large programs stored in external non volatile memory. Power levels are much lower and distributed at each listening position. Each user will also interact with either a mounted video monitor or with a personal device.

Passengers will carry a personal profile either via cloud storage or via a localized ID such as NFC. With the advent in-cabin vision systems, OEM’s are also using AI, facial recognition, etc. as a means to identify users and where they are seated in the vehicle. Once the identity is known, personal preferences are applied including acoustic settings, media selections etc. Voice interactions will use AI and interact with cloud based speech systems. This vastly enhanced approach to personalized interaction in the vehicle will replace the traditional audio interaction and create a full AV experience that is isolated to that user and will become an important sales feature.

Similar to other components of the in vehicle experience platform, automotive qualified memory plays an essential role in realizing these platforms which consumers expect to work reliably across the most harsh conditions. Micron has a long history and commitment to supporting the automotive market and we are excited play a role in ushering this next generation of in-vehicle experience. This exciting trend will continue to grow as autonomous driving emerges where passengers will use drive time more productively or as a time to relax.

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Michael Leventhal

Michael Burk

As principal architect for IVI Systems within Micron’s Automotive business and a key contributor to the early automotive aftermarket, Michael Burk draws from 50 years of automotive industry experience. Prior to Micron, he was chief engineer of Advanced Development for Panasonic Automotive and director of Audio System Engineering for Harman.