Known as In Car Entertainment or Car Infotainment systems, the electronics in vehicles intended to provide information and entertainment are gaining in popularity. New numbers put out by market research company IHS iSuppli estimate that automotive infotainment will be a market worth more than $33 billion in 2012.
Defining automotive infotainment
Automotive infotainment systems are a fractured and relatively undefined market. GM’s OnStar was one of the first systems that was considered infotainment, and now there are a multitude of available systems. Generally, automotive infotainment systems are any electronic system intended to provide information or entertainment in a vehicle. This includes radios and displays of speed, fuel mileage or operating information; it also includes systems that play DVDs, read text messages, tap into Bluetooth phone technology or are connected to the web.
The growth in infotainment
In 2011, the market for automotive infotainment systems was estimated by research firm IHS iSuppli to be in the neighborhood of $32.5 billion worldwide. Europe is the largest consumer of automotive infotainment systems, though North America comes in a very close second. iSuppli estimates that in 2012, revenue from these systems will add up to $33.5 billion, and continue to grow until it hits $41.2 billion in the year 2016. This is an average growth rate of about 5 to 6 percent per year. Much of this growth comes in the electronics included in new vehicles that are sold, so the market is expected to grow along with the sale of new vehicles. A small but significant portion of the market is also in add-on devices that are intended for installation in vehicles that did not come with their own infotainment systems built-in.
The problem with automotive infotainment
Despite the fact that in car entertainment systems are expected to experience a steady, strong growth over the next few years, these systems are not necessarily safe. Distracted driving is one of the biggest causes of fatal and non-fatal accidents on the road to date. As the New York Times reported:
“This is irresponsible at best and pernicious at worst,” Nicholas A. Ashford, a professor of technology and policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said of the new efforts to marry cars and computers. “Unfortunately and sadly, it is a continuation of the pursuit of profit over safety — for both drivers and pedestrians.”
Makers of these systems say that safety is always a priority, but the reality is that many drivers choose to use their cell phones, GPS systems, and other infotainment systems in a way that takes their hands off the wheel or attention away from driving, all of which can be very dangerous, especially in heavy or city traffic.