What is driving the next generation of in-car entertainment?

Self-driving cars have been filling headlines for a while now, but the conversation around in-car entertainment has been slower to pick up speed – despite impressive developments in the space. We’ve seen sophisticated navigation systems, video players, and in-car internet become fixtures in car interiors; and now there are plans for the likes of e-cockpit platforms, RSEDs, backseat video conferencing, and live video broadcasting. It’s no surprise then, that the in-car entertainment technologies market is expected to be worth $21.5 billion by 2026.

People are tech savvy, and smartphones have shaped users who know to navigate interfaces with few or no onboarding prompts. As a result, drivers and passengers have greater expectations for intuitive design in car entertainment tools. Users ultimately want the technology to be an extension of their existing devices (primarily their phones), and so car manufacturers are building systems that integrate with established user behaviors.

But the automotive space also comes with safety concerns, and manufacturers have to curate entertainment structures that engage users without putting them or others in danger. It’s why voice input makes sense in cars – as drivers can carry out actions whilst maintaining concentration on the road. In fact, 125 million drivers in the United States already use voice control in their cars.

In-car entertainment has a strong foundation to build atop, plus it can leverage the innovation happening in the broader automotive sphere. From AI and e-commerce opportunities to greater collaboration between automotive and entertainment players, here’s what’s driving the next generation of in-car entertainment.

AI for improved connectivity, CX, and development cycles

AI has a significant role to play in the future of in-car entertainment as it contributes to better tech functionality, as well as more efficient development cycles. What’s more, AI can seamlessly merge with existing technology and user behaviors, so there’s no friction in updating – and improving – in-car entertainment.

Take podcasts: nearly 50% of people say they listen to them whilst driving. Leveraging generative AI and voice cloning technology, intive has helped create an app that adjust the length of podcasts based on the remaining time of a car journey. The podcast is tailored precisely to fit the duration of the journey and dynamically adapts to changes in the estimated time of arrival, such as traffic delays. This ensures that passengers don't miss out on content if the podcast is longer than the journey and, conversely, prevents idle time if the journey surpasses the podcast length.

Elsewhere, AI is being applied to support connectivity in cars. AI tools can identify where the internet connection is strongest in a driving route and pre-load any content that is being streamed. Because connectivity is dependent on the availability of networks and how fast people drive, AI ensures that people can access and enjoy in-car entertainment without altering their driving habits.

When it comes to development cycles – where the automotive industry is known to require large amounts of time to produce new models – AI can also help. The tech currently empowers manufacturers to build cars more quickly and intelligently via the likes of digital twins, wearable exoskeletons, and smart robots. As best practices for these solutions emerge, manufacturers will expand their application to fuel in-car entertainment advances.

In-car entertainment example

In-transit e-commerce opportunities

As autonomous driving continues to be finessed, cars are becoming an immersive entertainment platform where the interior of a vehicle is comparable to a mobile lounge area for people.

There’s huge potential for e-commerce then, as people can relax and shop comfortably while in transit. According to Intel, this new passenger market could be worth a staggering $7 trillion by 2050. How? E-commerce apps can be installed in in-car entertainment systems and allow passengers to buy goods and experiences directly from their cars – for example, parking reservations or content (in-car films and music). Product placements can also be featured in content and allow passengers to make a purchase without leaving the car’s entertainment system.

While voice-activated payments are most popular at the moment, Mercedes has constructed its own in-car payment process for e-commerce. A fingerprint sensor mounted in its cars enables users to complete transactions with one simple touch. Notably, the tech is one of the first to orient payments toward both drivers and passengers – previously, payments were primarily designed for passengers or for when a vehicle wasn’t in motion.

Still, car entertainment infrastructure has to mature to facilitate mass safe, fast, and secure e-commerce payments. It additionally needs to overcome the issue of constant connectivity.

Deeper collaboration between automotive and entertainment players

Car manufacturers are striving to launch their own entertainment ecosystems, where they can tailor offerings to users, collect data to optimize services, and brand entertainment services. However, the in-car entertainment of tomorrow can’t be realized without input from entertainment brands. Giants like Netflix and Sony can bring years of knowledge, customer data, and tech capabilities to automotive companies, helping them scale, rework entertainment into a new format, and put content in front of people on the move.

The head of Volkswagen’s automotive software unit recently told at the 2023 CES technology trade show: “We will see content, which is provided by software-enabled functionality, be a decisive factor for buying.” In turn, a number of car manufacturers have begun partnering with entertainment players to enhance their products. Tesla vehicles let users watch YouTube and Hulu while the vehicles are parked and charging. BMW is working with AirConsole to bring gaming to its cars. Meanwhile, Stellantis has plans to add Amazon’s Fire TV for Auto in its new range of SUVs.

Along the way, manufacturers are harnessing tech players like intive who are experts in the automotive and entertainment landscape. intive’s team of experts has overseen cutting-edge projects in the whole tech ecoverse, from payments to e-commerce, and from embeded systems to UI/UX design in Automotive. They possess the knowlodge and expertise to embed a better, more holistic entertainment experience in cars.

Ready to accelerate your journey toward the next generation of in-car entertainment? Speak to a member of intive

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