Car Audio in 2030

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Volvo autonomous concept car audio and electronics

In the year 2030, with self-driving cars hitting the roads, will car audio simply be your “brought in” laptop on a 5G connection streaming movies from the cloud? To our surprise, the answer from many industry members and analysts is “no!”

Car makers say in-car entertainment may become even more important in self-driving cars.

“We have heard from our [OEM] partners that it’s important…. and they will need to rely on us even more for entertainment in the future,” said Pioneer Exec VP Marketing Russ Johnston.

The same was confirmed by a spokesman for a car maker addressing semi-self driving cars, “Most automakers are focusing on embedded systems as the automaker wants to make sure they have the ability to notify the driver if/when they need to take over driving responsibilities as quickly as possible.  If the user was on their laptop or tablet, the amount of time it would take to put the device aside and regain control of the vehicle would cause undesired delays in the driver’s reaction time- increasing the risk of an accident or injury.”

Some car makers are contemplating placing a super large screen in the vehicle plus a smaller “in-your-face” screen for the driver as shown in the pictures above and below.

Nissan autonomous car electronics
Nissan autonomous concept car dashboard shown this month at Geneva Motor Show.


You can see more from Nissan in the video here.

It’s important to note that there are different levels of autonomous cars. Level 3, which could be available within 5 years, requires the driver be at the ready to take control of the car in situations such as night driving or rain. As we explained last week, the only problem here is it’s difficult to refocus the driver’s attention once he’s lulled into believing the car is doing all the work.

Level 5 vehicles by contrast, are fully autonomous, and the driver is really just a passenger. Level 4 vehicles are fully autonomous only in proscribed areas like downtown in a city.

Once you get past Level 3, cars will be shared by many users.  You can summon one at will, so you may use the car only for commuting and other drivers will use it during the day.   ABI Research estimates in the year 2030 about 64 people on average will share each autonomous vehicle. And there will be 11.4 million shared autonomous cars on the road at that time.

So how do you tailor infotainment to so many users? Analyst James Hodgson of ABI says a laptop isn’t enough.  “There is a school of thought that says once we do away with driver distraction, what’s the point of having a display in the car, you can just have a tablet or phone.  I don’t subscribe to that.”

He believes an autonomous car used for basic car pooling car might have smaller displays, one for each of many users.  And it may use new audio technology that directs the sound so that only an individual user can hear it. This audio zone technology has been demonstrated by Harman and others.

Also, if there’s traffic ahead and the car reroutes, you need to have some kind of notification to the driver/passenger and so a moving map on a display would be a way of reassuring the driver that the car knows what it’s doing, he said.

Plus, “In the home we like large screens and audio–it gives us a better experience overall.  You can certainly see that being transferred to the vehicle,” he added.

Hodgson believes we will each have a cloud profile and when we enter a vehicle, our streaming movie services will be made available to embedded systems in the car.

Some of the autonomous concept cars on display at recent car shows include a display stretching from one end of the car to the other with additional smaller screen in areas such as the door panels.

A car company spokesman said, “Once we get to Level 4 and the driver is no longer expected to take control at any point, there will likely be more radical infotainment options available (ie. full-windshield displays, seats rotating around for an in-vehicle collaboration space, etc.)”

ABI sees different tiers of cars just as we now have luxury, mid tier and basic level cars.  And of course, luxury cars, would have the larger screens and multiple screens, while the basic passenger cars might just have smaller screens for many passengers.


*Different Levels of Self-Driving Cars

  • Level 3 –Semi-autonomous cars that are “making decisions” on driving, changing lanes and braking when needed.  But they still require a driver be ready to take over in poor conditions, such as night driving or rain.


  • Level 4—The car can now handle any situation as long as it stays in a safe place like a prescribed area downtown in a city.


  • Level 5—A fully autonomous car under all conditions.  The driver becomes a passenger.  (Some engineers say we won’t see true Level 5 cars for decades).

*As determined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).



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  1. GDUB, There is a “BIG” difference between turning your lights on with your smart phone, and sharing a car with 64 people. I’m sure that in “LALA” land there are lots of people that no longer have a desire to drive, but in the real world, we like to actually drive our vehicles, and we strive to own things. It’s already proven that the world doesn’t know how to “SHARE”, and yet you think people will just get on board with the whole “sharing” process. Your sadly mistaken.

  2. Tim – I’m shocked you actually believe this is not the future of automotive? how old are you? got your letter from the Queen yet?
    gary – Really? “rich man’s toys” virtually all of my neighbours have some form of automation and no, not talking about $10mil mansions, in the land down under if you build a modest $1mil home (Sydneys median house pricing is just over a million so far from the “rich man’s” domain) you’ll be hard pressed flogging it in the future. Next thing you’ll tell me you use “click clack” light switches and can’t turn your lighting on or off from your smartphone !
    Welcome to this century gentlemen, time to hitch the horse and buy one of those noisy “horseless carriage” thingy’s.

  3. I’m shocked that the OEM manufacturers actually believe that this is the future of automotive. In a world where we test the limits of speed in a vehicle, and where people in general do not want to give up control or ownership of things. Do they really think that people will be willing to give up owning a car, or driving a car. Especially since the dawn of the vehicle it’s been all about the “Driving Experience?” I don’t want 64 people driving, and making a mess in my car.

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