Here are some of the exciting new advancements Christian Sobottka’s team is working on at Harman – the American manufacturer of audio brands JBL, Harman Kardon and Marc Levinson, and has been part of the Samsung Group since 2017. Sobottka joined Harman last year as president of its automotive division, after around 20 years at Bosch, and is now reinventing car cockpits. Bengaluru hosts the largest of his teams – 3,300 people – and he was recently in the city to meet the team physically for the first time. He also spent an hour with YOU. Automotive customer expectations, Sobottka says, are changing dramatically. “You buy a phone for maybe $700 or $1,000, and then you buy a car, which is 50 times more expensive, and you expect the car to be at least as smart as your phone, and as dynamic than your phone experience. ,” he says.
Previously, Sobottka says, the powertrain (the assembly of every component – engine, transmission, driveshaft, axles and differential – that propels the car in motion) was the big differentiator for automotive brands. “Today, the in-cab experience is one of the biggest differentiators. And that’s our territory – we can offer video experiences, audio, we can offer connectivity, bring content into the car,” says- he.
One of the main content initiatives is to use augmented or mixed reality to provide the driver with a completely different world of information on the windshield. “You see the roads, the buildings, and overlay you create a virtual surface on which you have relevant information regarding your driving, but also draws attention to perhaps a safety issue, like pedestrians on the road. “, Sobottka said. This is an area, he says, where the Indian team plays a “very important role”.
Audio is another area of innovation. Electric cars are quieter than cars with combustion engines, so audio systems are adapted to this. Audio systems are built in such a way that new software can be purchased and downloaded to improve audio quality. Headrests with speakers are designed to create audio zones that provide an immersive individual experience. But the whole system is designed in such a way that, for example, a parent sitting in the front can take control and communicate with the children in the back by listening to their individual content.
The Indian team is also at the forefront of innovation in the High Performance Computing Node – the single node on which Harman is trying to consolidate many functions related to the cabin experience, including infotainment and dashboard. edge. One of the goals is to make the hardware easily upgradeable and the software constantly updated.
“We belong to Samsung, which launches a hundred devices a year in a very short cadence. In automobiles, it takes 24 to 30 months for a new infotainment system to emerge, and it’s very expensive. This cannot go on. You should be able to install a new digital cockpit system in your car in six months, and you should get it at a tenth of the current cost,” says Sobottka.
He notes that over the life of a vehicle, the standards and protocols for things like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi keep changing, and then the car starts to look outdated. Scalable hardware and software solve these problems. “For that, you have to do certain things in terms of architecture and technology. The teams involved in this area are to a very large extent based in Bangalore,” he says.