The Evolution of Car Infotainment Systems (Infographic)

Discover how in-car infotainment systems have evolved over the decades and see what infotainment might look like in the future.

What is an Infotainment System?

A car infotainment system makes use of hardware and software technology to deliver entertainment and information to the vehicle occupants. They typically comprise audio and video interfaces, touchscreens and keypads. Infotainment systems are incredibly versatile and vary from car to car. As such, they offer a diverse offering of helpful functionalities that enhance the in-vehicle experience for all such as playing music, hands-free phone connections, reverse cameras, and much more.

The Origins of in-Car Infotainment Systems

The history of infotainment systems can be traced back to the 1930s with the launch of the AM car radio. These started off as a taste of luxury of well-off motorists, but by the end of the decade, push-button AM radios became a common feature in most cars.

The Evolution of In-Vehicle Music Entertainment

“I never listen to music in the house; I listen to music in the car.”

Peter Tork, keyboardist & bass guitarist with The Monkees

As more and more drivers came to expect music players as standard in their cars, manufacturers worked hard to develop new and exciting in-vehicle music and radio technologies that aligned with how people were consuming music at the time. Some of the most notable innovations of the previous century include in-car record players, 8-track cassettes, car stereos, and in-built MP3 units.

The Evolution of In-Vehicle GPS Navigation

The satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) was first developed by the US military in the 1970s to provide geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on Earth. The first car to boast an in-built navigation system was Toyota’s 1981 Celica model. Dubbed NAVICOM, the system was controlled by a microcomputer which continuously displayed graphs showing direction and distance to a pre-coded destination. 1990 saw Mazda introduce the first ever GPS system for automotive navigational use. Since then, GPS technology has advanced significantly and again has become standard in many new cars in 2019.

In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems in 2019

With the mass adoption of smartphones, today’s consumers seek cars that offer sophisticated infotainment systems and with full mobile phone integration. Manufacturers have responded to this by developing “connected cars” that leverage IoT and AI technology, and this will bring a whole new level of connectivity and intelligence to car infotainment systems. As such, electronics are making up more and more of the total cost to produce a car. Statista estimate that the price of the car’s electronics as a percentage of its total cost will rise from 30% in 2010 to 35% by 2020 and up to 50% by 2030.

Learn More about the History of Infotainment Systems

To learn more about the past, present, and future of in-vehicle infotainment systems, scroll down to the infographic timeline from Woodstock Motors.

Mark Dressekie is the owner of Woodstock Motors, a family-run car repair and service business in London. He has a vast interest in automotive tech and frequently writes articles related to this topic.

Photo: Motor VersoAttribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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