What’s Next For The Connected Car And What It Might Mean For Radio

As tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Google make a play for a larger position in the connected car, what’s at stake for legacy media like broadcast radio? According to a trio of automotive experts, there are no immediate signs that big tech providers will dominate access to in-dash entertainment.

“In the immediate future, we do not see access to information as being exclusively through the big techs,” Manuel Pereira, Business Development Manager at global automotive electronics supplier Visteon, said during a virtual roundtable event Tuesday sponsored by tech provider Xperi. “A lot of people actually use the time in the car to listen to broadcasting and news that they don’t do at home,” Pereira said. “If you look at the data we can collect from devices, yes, people do listen to radio when they are in cars.” While Pereira said statistics show that access to content in the car through pay services is “slowly catching up” in certain population segments, “we don’t see a major trend [that] will significantly affect you.”

Jeff Jury, GM of Connected Car at Xperi, said their data shows the car remains a “lean back audio experience” since people want to be entertained while focusing on their primary task, which is driving. “That’s what our data shows, people get in a car, it’s a lean back experience for driving. Radio is perfect for that.” But Jury also acknowledged there’s “room for everything in the vehicle” as passengers participate in video and other forms of content being offered there.

When automotive electronics suppliers like Visteon consider what technologies they can put in the car, Pereira said the top concern is how they may impact the driving function. That often involves looking at other types of technologies or interfaces that would minimize the impact on the driver. “The driver pretty much is in the center of our concerns, while being able to also provide the co-driver and the other vehicle habitants the connectivity that you can enjoy while sitting in a vehicle,” Pereira said.

To bring new entertainment options and functionality into the car without sacrificing driver safety, the trend in the auto industry is integrating cockpit systems. Currently, most driver monitoring systems exist as standalone applications. But Pereira said they will become intertwined. “If you have information about the driver, you could use that information to warn the driver when the driver is too distracted playing around with the infotainment [system], spending too much time on certain activities,” he said. “If you integrate those systems, that would be one step further in helping the driver focus on his main function which is to drive safely from point A to B.”

Battle To ‘Own’ The Consumer In The Dashboard.

Big tech providers jockeying for position in the dashboard also have driver safety as one of their pillars. But they are in essence competing with the very automakers they supply in an escalating battle to “own” the consumer experience in the dashboard. “If you look at the big tech plays, it’s the extension of their ownership of the customer across multiple devices that is the strategy,” said Jury. “And that may be something that the car industry has to look at and say, ‘Well, I don’t want to be disaggregated from my consumer.’”

This marks a fundamental shift in the role of automotive suppliers in which tech titans are effectively competing with automakers. “Google would be competing with Ford, which is going to be unique, because in the past normally Ford suppliers wouldn’t be competing with Ford, they are simply Ford suppliers,” said Pereira. “Today they’re not, they will be competing.”

That dynamic is amplified by the trend of consumers choosing vehicles not so much for their driving experience but by the bells and whistles of the infotainment system.

There is a saying in the auto business that the driver of today becomes the passenger of tomorrow. Asked by Xperi VP of Broadcast Radio and session moderator Joe D’Angelo to put a timeframe on when that might occur, Jury said it was 25 years out. “I don’t think it’s anything that’s on the immediate horizon,” he said. Pereira declined to predict when that might occur. Today’s technology already allows for autonomous cars, he noted. The issue is the coexistence of autonomous cars with human-driven cars. Pereira predicted fully autonomous vehicles will start in the centers of highly populated cities where human-driven cars won’t be permitted. “It’s a self-contained environment,” he said. “I don’t think it will happen everywhere in all cases, but I think when it comes to deployment it’s more than likely going to be geographically located.”

 

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