The New Era of In-Car Experiences and Its Effect on Media and Entertainment

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By Max Kalmykov
Vice President, Media & Entertainment
The New Era of In-Car Experiences and Its Effect on Media and Entertainment
“The goal for the infotainment system is to say what’s the most amount of fun you can have in a car. I don’t think other car companies really think about it that way. It’s not just some sort of transport utility device with no soul and no character.” – Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla

The rise of smart electric vehicles—led by Tesla and its outspoken CEO, Elon Musk—carries many changes in the way consumers think about personal transportation, signaling a new era of the in-car experience. 

As self-driving vehicles get closer to becoming a reality on our roads, the opportunities for media and entertainment to take center stage in cars grow exponentially. Many radically-new self-driving car concepts have already been revealed, some of which include interiors that more closely resemble a living room than a vehicle from the past, with TVs, gaming consoles, and much more. 

Voice Command Technology

It’s becoming increasingly common for consumers to use voice assistants powered by artificial intelligence (AI) in vehicles, with voice command technology proving to be the primary driving force behind the majority of new in-car experiences. This technology makes it much easier and safer to use apps while driving, providing the ability for people to access a wide range of services without taking their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road. 

Many of us want to stay connected throughout the entire day, whether we’re sitting at a desk, walking down the street, or driving home from work. With voice command technology, drivers can answer phone calls, send text messages, get directions, play music, and much more without compromising the safety of our roads. Due to the combination of ease-of-use and reduced danger, the popularity of using voice assistants in cars is rising dramatically. According to a recent report by Voicebot, approximately 50% of consumers currently use voice assistants in their vehicles. And this number is expected to skyrocket up to 73% by 2022, thereby illustrating the rapid upward trajectory of voice assistant adoption in cars.

Of the many uses for in-car voice assistants, controlling music and navigation are currently the most popular, according to Voicebot’s report. This comes as exciting news for media and entertainment companies, with the industry ideally positioned to dramatically expand its presence in vehicles.


The strong association between driving and listening to music goes all the way back to the 1950s when FM radio receivers were first installed in cars, resulting in a major source of revenue for the music industry. But a lot has changed in the way people listen to music over the years. While AM/FM radio still holds the top spot for audio consumption in vehicles, according to Edison Research’s Infinite Dial 2019 study, the use of other audio formats in cars is steadily rising in popularity. 

The Infinite Dial 2019 survey found that 81% of respondents have used AM/FM radio in vehicles, while 45% have accessed digital music. With 28% of consumers listening to online radio in their cars and 26% indicating that they’ve listened to podcasts in a vehicle, it becomes clear that audio alternatives to traditional radio already hold a significant place in the listening options available to drivers. 

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The rapid growth of music streaming impacts in-car entertainment systems dramatically. As an example, such a large number of Tesla vehicle owners indicated their interest in streaming music that the company added Spotify to a recent software update for its cars. And when it comes to FM radio talk shows, they’re slowly being replaced by podcasts, which have grown from being 3% to 4% of the most frequently used audio source while in a vehicle.


With Tesla once again taking the lead, video streaming is already part of the in-car media experience for some consumers following the innovative company’s addition of Netflix in a software update last year. While this comes as exciting news for the media and entertainment industry, the biggest leap for video consumption growth in cars is yet to come.

Although the precise timeframe varies depending on who you ask, the fact is that self-driving cars are coming to the mainstream. And once autonomous vehicles are commonplace on our roads, drivers and passengers will be much more likely to seek out video streaming to provide entertainment while their car drives itself to their destination. 

The imminent arrival of commercially-available self-driving vehicles carries the wonderful potential of an immersive media and entertainment experience within cars, resulting in a wide range of innovative developments and partnerships between leaders in the media and automotive industries. The new-found free time that will become available to people in autonomous cars was cleverly referred to by Audi as “The 25th Hour” when the automaker revealed its partnership with The Walt Disney Company to develop new media types to include in its future vehicles. 

Car-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are also steadily entering the in-car video consumption market. And while car-sharing isn’t new in North America or Europe, these services are rapidly spreading throughout the world, recently becoming available in countries such as China, India, Nigeria, and Indonesia. In the United States, car-sharing services are most commonly used for short trips in cities. But in markets such as India and China, a growing number of people use these services for their daily ride to work, which is often a longer trip. For example, the average commute time from home to work is 67 minutes in Mumbai and 51 minutes in Shanghai, so it’s not surprising that an increasing number of people are using car-sharing services for these long commutes in heavy traffic. With someone else behind the wheel, watching videos becomes a very enticing way to be entertained during a trip.


A growing number of automakers are expanding their in-car gaming systems. Following Tesla’s initial game offerings, which included Missile Command, Asteroids, and Centipede, the company added 2048 and Atari’s Super Breakout to its dashboard display gaming arsenal last year. Mercedes-Benz is another automotive leader that announced plans to expand its in-car gaming systems, while the entire industry speculates on the possibilities coming in the not-too-distant future. 

With its promise of lightning-fast connectivity speeds, the imminent availability of 5G in the US will allow automakers to take in-car gaming to a new level, opening up the potential for vehicle-to-vehicle games to gain popularity amongst drivers. And with self-driving cars coming to our roads soon, playing games is very likely to become a significant portion of what commuters choose to spend their “25th Hour” on during daily commutes.

From music and video streaming to listening to podcasts and playing immersive games, the new era of in-car experiences will be led by media and entertainment offerings. With self-driving vehicles and 5G connectivity speeds just around the corner, we’re on the cusp of an in-car experience revolution, with virtually endless possibilities for innovative and fascinating entertainment to enjoy while on the road.

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