All the sexy exotics, dramatic concepts, and big introductions of the Detroit auto show can be found on the main floor of Cobo Hall.
Michigan Hall is also part of the show, but down an escalator. It’s where you’ll find various green-themed exhibits, and a completely normal-looking Toyota Venza.
But in fact this particular Venza is an acoustical wonder — it plays music without speakers.
This “speaker-less” car was put together by a Canadian company no less, AVG of Scarborough.
AVG has already partnered with Bongoivi Acoustics to create the world’s first completely digital sound processor accessory certified for automotive use, the Bongoivi DPS (Digital Power Station) now available on all Toyota vehicles.
You audiophiles out there have probably figured out already that this Venza uses transducers.
A transducer is basically just the bottom part of a speaker — the heavier part that makes the top “paper cone” section vibrate. To make sounds, a transducer must find something else to vibrate. In the Venza they vibrate the A-pillar trim panels and the entire headliner. So, yes, it’s not really a speaker-less car — because the car’s interior has actually become the speaker.
And don’t think this is easy.
Rob Hamelink is a chief engineer at Johnson Controls, a world-class auto supplier specializing in interior design and systems, and the third company involved in this speaker-less initiative. He told me that this is not the first attempt to get transducers into vehicles.
“In the past we spent a lot of time, energy and cost, trying to engineer the interior materials to have certain (transducer-friendly) properties.”
But these efforts didn’t create great sound, and the costs of such systems didn’t make them “manufacture-able.”
Enter music legend, Tony Bongiovi, and his digital processor technology. Bongiovi gave me this short-form version of how it works: “Basically the DPS has the capability to re-mix the music before it’s played in the vehicle. We know what we have to compensate for in the vehicle, and can re-mix the material to fit that environment.”
In this way, the interior materials can be regular “cost effective” types.
According to Bongiovi the sound inside the car is also improved over traditional systems, because the sound is, “higher, closer to ear level… Traditional car speakers are located lower, usually in the door panels. In this Venza the sound is coming from above and all around.”
Another benefit is weight. “A similar sounding system would weigh twice as much,” notes Hamelink. He adds that the technology also enables interior engineers to do something else with the spaces that were previously occupied by large speakers.
The team feels we will see and hear “speaker-less” cars in two or three years. Any interior that will need to be designed or re-designed from this day forward will be a candidate.