Is car entertainment about to hit next-gen?

We’ve had the launch of the new games consoles within the past year and that was a nice big jump to next-gen, even if a lot of people don’t see why it’s not a full HD one. However when it comes to in-car entertainment, things have been a little light in the past few years, but apparently no more, as many people think the next six months are going to usher in a truly next-generation like experience for new car owners.

Typically audio and visual elements in cars are always a long way behind current trends. New cars now will still ship with a CD player, regardless of the fact that the hardware trend for music listening died off a long time ago. Even more modern vehicles which have bluetooth connectivity or touch screens, are using technology that was from the mid 2000s, meaning it’s slow and buggy and not particularly responsive. This is because often times the entertainment part of a car is chosen during the design period, several years before consumers can get ahold of it. When that isn’t updated throughout the life of the car, you can have brand new vehicles with nearly 10 year old stereos. Not good.

However that looks set to change this year, as not only is Apple’s iCar looking likely to revolutionise and modernise in-car entertainment, but manufacturers are really pulling out the stops to compete. For example, in the next few weeks Kenwood launches its new DNN991HD system, which features speech recognition, WiFi Sync, WiFi hotspot tech (with the attachment of a 4G accessory) social media and business related apps and an HDMI output, meaning you can stream videos from your phone or tablet straight to the car’s displays. While we can’t recommend you watch a movie while you drive, for cars with screens in the back, it’s perfect for kids.

Jaguar is hot on Kenwood’s heels though, set to release it’s new “Sync,” in car system this August. Sync will let you use apps and new navigational tools on the system, meaning you can go beyond whatever the default loaded GPS system is in your car. However because it all links up with your phone, it means any updates you make to your calendar, address book or other management applications, can come with you in your car or even more over to a different vehicle should yours go into the shop for a while. Of course your rental would have to be compatible, but it’s an interestting look at a more connected future.

Other developments that are not too far away, according to TechNewsWorld, include the upcoming push for infrared and weather beating camera systems. The idea being that at night, you’ll be able to see animals off to the side of the road that might be ready to run across and with a clever bit of imaging technology, even use the dashboard display to see through weather like snow and rain, as if it doesn’t even exist.


Intel is going a step further and developing a system that uses clever tweaks to your car’s lights, that avoid picking out raindrops, meaning you should be able to see  as if the rain isn’t even there – when it’s dark. The long time CPU maker is also working with developers like Nvidia to help modularise the in-car entertainment system, meaning that a few years after you buy your car, if you want to upgrade it, it will be much easier. While you can do that at the moment, it can often be a real pain and it’s far from cheap to do so.

So the future for in-car entertainment certainly looks exciting, but it makes me mad that I got my new car a few months back and didn’t wait. As little as I drive, a sweet stereo and entertainment set up would definitely have been a big selling point if I was given the option.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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