• 31 Jan 2023

The battle for in-car entertainment and connectivity: who will win?

Driving The Future – January Edition 

Welcome to the first edition of Driving The Future – a newsletter to keep you ahead-of-the-curve in the rapidly transforming automotive industry.

The battle for in-car entertainment and connectivity: who will win?

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Electric cars 

Whether you’re a car enthusiast or not, you’ll know about the ascent of electric cars. For many of you, this might prompt an image of Elon Musk and the innovative Tesla brand. You know, the cars that have falcon-like doors and hidden “Easter Egg” features like ones that allow owners to put the car into a dance mode to the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Aside from Tesla though, there’s a lot of automotive brands that are actively developing their own fleet of electric cars. In the UK, the government announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 to help tackle climate change. Therefore, it’s crucial for brands to have an electric car option.

Electric cars are going to be the single largest innovation within the industry over the next decade. But within that large innovation are so many smaller innovations: autonomous driving, shared mobility, over-the-air updates, and in-car entertainment and connectivity systems. For this article, I want to dive into the latter trend: in-car entertainment and connectivity systems.

In-car entertainment and connectivity systems

What comes to mind when you think about in-car entertainment and connectivity systems?

It’s an interesting question because anything you can think of, it’s probably being developed. The space is a blank slate and the grand prize is the opportunity to be the de facto operating system of choice: consider what Mac and Windows are to computing and what Android and iOS are to the smartphone. And within that, there’s developers who are developing apps for those systems. It’s one of those rabbit holes you can dive deeper and deeper into and continuously be amazed.

Defining in-car entertainment and connectivity is best described like this: it’s how you and your passengers will access music, games, videos, social networking, apps, and other audio and visual content. This is achieved through displays within your vehicle.

For starters, you have the titans: Google and Apple. Google revealed they are teaming up with the likes of Audi, Honda and Hyundai in order to “speed up innovation” in the automotive sector, while Apple has already signed a deal with BMW, GM and Honda in order to develop in-car entertainment technology. The significance of these partnerships is rather substantial: in the future, the operating system of a car might be a key consideration in which car you choose.

So what’s the difference? At the moment, you’ll likely choose the operating system to match your smartphone. That’s because it allows you to sync your phone with your vehicle and manage your preferred music, navigation, messenger and calendar apps.

Apple CarPlay

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Apple CarPlay

Google’s Android Auto

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Google Android Auto

Meanwhile, some automotive brands – like BMW – have been busy developing their own infotainment systems in-house. In BMW’s redesigned 2023 7 Series, a 31-inch multimedia display delivers content and runs on Amazon’s Fire TV operating system. The screen lies flat against the sedan’s panoramic sunroof when not in use, but at the press of a button, it drops down behind the front-seat backrests. It’s been dubbed “the pinnacle of in-car entertainment”.

Don’t let your kids see this one or they’ll never stop bugging you to buy a 7 Series…

BMW’s Theatre Screen Entertainment System

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BMW’s Theatre Screen Entertainment System

There’s also some underdogs that are developing infotainment systems with their unique advantages. Take AMD for example. If you’re not a gamer, you might not know who they are, but you might already be using their computer chips: Apple relies on AMD’s Radeon graphics cards to power high-end devices like MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac Pro.

The new Tesla Model S and Model X feature Ryzen™ Embedded APU and RDNA™-2 based GPU that power the new infotainment experience with support for AAA gaming. In layman’s terms, that means you can play video games within your Tesla and with a very capable chip; enough to rival the latest home gaming consoles like the Playstation 5.

AMD’s infotainment system

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AMD Infotainment System

On the topic of gaming, there’s a whole heap of innovation happening to help keep passengers entertained. Take holoride, the Audi-backed start-up and the world’s only motion-synced in-car VR experience. What does that mean exactly? Imagine you’re playing a virtual reality game, and the car you sit in turns right, and the world in your VR game does the same thing. Or your spaceship jumps ahead when the car accelerates. Essentially, what you see in VR is perfectly synced with the motion of the car you’re in. Interesting Engineering magazine said of Holoride, “The platform turns the back seat into the kind of immersive experience that was only available at a theme park just a couple of years ago.”

holoride VR Entertainment System

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holoride VR Entertainment system

At the moment, you can use holoride in any holoride-enabled Audi vehicle (models produced as of June 2022) or purchase a Retrofit device for $799 that sticks onto your car windshield and therefore allows you to use Holoride in any vehicle (although it won’t be as smooth as the native functionality that Audi vehicles will enjoy).

“Through combining real-time vehicle data and virtual content, we’re creating an entirely new customer experience. A crucial cornerstone of the vehicle’s digitalization is developing the interior into a third living space. In this very personal space, living and working coalesce. holoride is another proof point in our roadmap”, said Giorgio Delucchi, Head of Digital Experience/Business at Audi in a press release by holoride.

“A third living space”

I want to end this article on the note of “a third living space”, put perfectly by Delucchi. This is where vehicles are heading: as the driver becomes the passenger, in-car entertainment is becoming crucial. It may all seem very far away, but as we’ve all witnessed first-hand with smartphones, when innovation happens, it happens fast, and the latest innovation quickly becomes the norm and what is expected from consumers.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are just the start, automotive manufacturers are also keen to develop their own systems in-house, while gaming titans like AMD and innovative start-ups like holoride are bringing entirely new experiences to vehicles. It’s going to be an extremely exciting space to watch and I hope this article has offered you a flavour of what’s to come.

Autofixa Solutions is the first provider to offer a holistic suite of marketplace solutions for the automotive industry. We manage marketplace stores for some of the world’s largest automotive brands and retailers as well as creating direct to consumer platforms for brands like BMW. If you’re an automotive brand or retailer considering what role online marketplaces might play in your future, get in touch to schedule a free consultation.