Harman Looks to Customize the Ride-Sharing Experience

Perhaps the most widely anticipated trend in the next few decades of automotives is a massive shift from private vehicle ownership toward ride-sharing services.

There are plenty of reasons for consumers to be excited about this, including costs savings and increased convenience. The demise of private car ownership, however, will rightfully be mourned.

For all of the positives that come with ride sharing, there are still a lot of great things about owning a car. One of the biggest benefits is customization. When you have your own ride, you can tune every element to your exact preference. When you ride in a different, anonymous vehicle every time you make a trip, that’s far from the case.

Harman International wants to change that.

At CES 2018 in Las Vegas, the Samsung subsidiary unveiled two new user experience solutions, known as Configurable Entertainment and Moodscape, that will allow passengers in equipped ride-hailing fleet vehicles to customize the in-vehicle settings exactly how they like them.

“When it comes to their vehicles, today’s consumers are all about the experience and are less concerned about the technology behind it. At Harman, we are constantly focused on innovating with the passenger in mind, integrating emerging technology with software-driven audio to provide the effortless, responsive experiences consumers have come to expect,” Harman’s president of lifestyle audio Michael Mauser wrote in a statement. “Moodscape and Configurable Entertainment are perfect examples of how we’re reinventing what is possible in the vehicle today, as well as for the autonomous future.”

Configurable Entertainment leverages Harman’s industry-leading position in the automotive speakers space to offer passengers their preferred sound design for the specific media they’re using. Someone riding in a Configurable Entertainment-equipped car could use JBL audio while gaming, or Harman Kardon audio while listening to music thanks to “shape-shifting speakers” that sound more like a Transformer than an audio component.

“In-vehicle speakers transform in real-time to provide different experiences in line with user preferences,” according to the release. “A unique sound bar or tweeter can dynamically morph from one audio brand experience to another, both sonically and visually.”

Moodscape is designed for passengers who are feeling stressed, contemplative, tired or energetic. Citing growing consumer interest in the “wellness” space, Harman developed Moodscape to adjust the emotions of a passenger. A feature known as Music Motivator “identifies GPS routes and analyzes available biometric feedback to build and deliver an audio experience based on passengers’ whereabouts, schedule and energy level.”

Perhaps the coolest feature of Moodscape is the so-called QLED MoodRoof, which projects an immersive environment onto the car’s internal ceiling. While you actually may be riding through downtown Boston, MoodRoof can make it feel as if you’re being guided through a snowy forest or a sunny beach town depending on your preferences.

Part of the joy of driving home after a long day is being in your own personal space. As consumers transition toward making that drive in a ride-hailing vehicle, Harman is trying to preserve that idea of personal space with Configurable Entertainment and Moodscape. While a passenger may not own the car, he or she can still own the experience.

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