In-car streaming entertainment starts to rev

The long-anticipated Jetsons style future of the car as a “living space on wheels” is gathering pace as a fresh wave of announcements bring familiar home entertainment experiences into the vehicle.

In a technology tie-up with software developer Qt Group, LG Electronics aims to create “more innovative, immersive content-streaming services for cars” by integrating the Finnish developer’s framework for application development into its Automotive Content Platform (ACP) for in-vehicle entertainment.

“The promise of in-car streaming media entertainment began ten years ago when the first fully autonomous cars were proposed,” Petteri Holländer , SVP at Qt told StreamTV Insider. “Since you have to do something in the car while traveling if you are not driving, streaming media was the number one entertainment. There’s been a growing number of demos over the years and we’re finally seeing the first real implementations in cars.”

The news follows new research projections of the global in-car infotainment market size reaching $35.4 billion by 2030.

Holländer said Qt provides “a very flexible and efficient set of collaboration tools to give the auto providers greater choice in development of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). Increasingly consumers expect their vehicles to offer an experience no different from that offered by other smart devices and that includes video streaming.”

The partnership builds on Qt’s existing support for LG’s open source webOS, which is predominantly seen in consumer electronics, including smart TVs. Previously, LG relied on the Qt framework for UI and UX in devices like smart TVs, signage, smart monitors, and home appliances. Qt Group has existing deals integrating its software into development of the ‘digital cockpit’ with Peugeot, General Motors and Mercedes Benz.

LG began offering Netflix and YouTube on its ACP running on Hyundai’s Genesis models in its home market of South Korea at the start of this year.  It made a similar pact with Kia, another South Korean auto marque, in May and plans to do the same for more car brands and more territories.

LG explained that “the move is emblematic of LG’s continuing growth as a media and entertainment platform company, and presents a content experience that extends seamlessly from home to vehicle.”

Also in May, Google said it was adding Max and Peacock to its Android Automotive infotainment platform, which is the OS used by Volvo, BMW, Renault, Stellantis, Polestar and Ford. Xperi’s TiVo is another player working to make a name for itself in the in-car entertainment area, with its TiVo-powered DTS AutoStage Video Service for connected cars. Xperi scored an expanded partnership with BMW earlier this year with deployments across various models in the U.S., Great Britan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, South Korea and plans for Japan.  

Video streaming in-cars generally relies on the user’s cellular connectivity though some auto brands sell additional WiFi connectivity. Tesla for instance offers a standard package with every car capable of basic maps and music streaming over Bluetooth and charges $9.99 a month for a Premium service “for the most intuitive and engaging ownership experience”. 

Tesla led the way in 2019 when it made Netflix available within its in-car infotainment system.

“You have to do something while you are sitting in an EV waiting for it to charge, and watching a video is an obvious use case,” Holländer said.

It is illegal in most countries to have video playing on the front display because of the safety issues concerning driver distraction. The automotive rear seat infotainment market size is forecast to increase by $8.79 billion, at a CAGR of 13.39% between 2023 and 2028.

Special screen coatings for displays in the front of cars are also being introduced allowing passengers in the front to view video without distracting the driver. Screens in certain Mercedes cars automatically dim the passenger screen if it catches the driver trying to look at it, using the driver monitoring system to track their eyes.More broadly, not just including streaming video apps, ‘software-defined vehicles’ (SDV) will create over $650bn in value potential for the auto industry by 2030.

According to IBM, in a SDV, the vehicle serves as the technological base for future innovations, acting as a command center for collecting and organizing vast volumes of data, applying AI for insights and automating thoughtful actions. Another piece of research valued the global SDV market, at $35.8bn in 2022 rising at a growth rate of  22.1% until 2032. 

Article updated to correct the spelling of Petteri Holländer's last name. A previous version incorrectly stated Höllander.