Back to the Future: How to Turn the Classic Radio into a Next-Gen In-Cabin Experience

In the incredibly fast-paced world we’re living in, where 30,000 apps are created every day1 and we can spend up to half of a working day jumping from one app to the other, you would think internet-based sources of entertainment are all that interest us anymore. After all, what are three hours spent in front of the TV daily compared to the 9 billion minutes all mobile users spend on Android™ apps alone?

The mobile era seems to have left no room for pure, over-the-air broadcasting fun. The internet has become the message, shaping our culture in a way that older sources of entertainment cannot compete with – or so the story is being told.

In fact, this medium dating back to the Roaring Twenties left its mark in subtle and long-standing ways. One hundred years later, radio attracts people of all ages, across continents. Most car occupants today listen to radio in the vehicle, whether it accommodates FM/AM stations only or digital broadcasts and other streaming services, too. Given the popularity of radio, why do OEMs not simply enhance the current experience instead of providing alternatives? Even Spotify uses “radio” in its marketing, underscoring its relevance and value. Why not bring the radio experience into the next era by building on what’s already so valued by the consumer?

Better than scrolling on your phone

In-Cabin Monitoring

In Europe, 74 percent of people listen to the radio at least once a week, and 47 percent tune to their favorite stations almost every day.2 Similarly, Americans spend more time listening to the radio than scrolling on their mobile devices or using their computers.3

This century-old technology remains not only relevant, but in high demand in the era of social media, streaming and e-commerce. As surprising as that sounds, it is in large part due to the where factor, not the how. Broadcasters are still thriving thanks to automotive consumers, who are still enjoying everything radio has to offer on the road.

Across Europe and the U.S., people consume radio programs in transit. A staggering 79 percent of Americans listen to radio in the car during the weekends.4 Car owners in the U.K.5 and the U.S.6 are likely to choose radio as their favorite form of audio entertainment, followed by listening to CDs and, lastly, streaming services.

Unlike car manufacturers in the 1950s, when radio was simply an optional feature, today’s automakers include it standard in every vehicle.

With its mass availability and appeal, and loyal listeners around the world, it’s only logical for manufacturers to look for ways to modernize radio and enhance it for the next hundred years.

A unique in-car social media experience

Connected Car

Amplifying a familiar and intuitive user experience is by no means easy. However, radio presents a series of next-gen opportunities and benefits that make it far more appealing than streaming apps or other content sources.

Imagine enhancing radio to the point where car occupants know not just the songs playing at any given time, but the lyrics, too. Wouldn’t that create a fantastic opportunity for spontaneous car karaoke?

Or, in the blink of an eye, passengers could book tickets to concerts featuring their favorite artists who just played on the radio. This add-on would not only replace the need to browse on their mobile phones, ensuring their safety in the car, but it would also eliminate all the time they would have otherwise wasted on searching for available shows. For some, it also provides value by suggesting weekend activities.

Now, imagine bringing cameras into the mix. Picture an experience where audio entertainment and social video recording come together, in a way that doesn’t distract anyone. It would certainly have to be a car-enabled experience, one that does not require the use of handheld devices, complemented by in-cabin monitoring to ensure driver attentiveness.

An enhanced in-cabin experience as the one described would certainly require a dangerous amount of attentiveness, a fact that would be hard to disagree with.

Unless, of course, there weren’t already ways to make the entire experience completely safe. You have in-cabin monitoring systems capable of tracking the driver’s attentiveness behind the wheel. The same system could take selfies or social videos and build the foundation for new use cases.

Introducing the socially connected car

Combining audio, video, lyrics and concert data can transform the traditional in-car entertainment experience into a social engagement platform. With enhanced radio, the car can provide karaoke-style lyrics to allow occupants to sing along – and record and share their performance on social media apps like TikTok, Instagram and Smule, a social singing app. If the social car acts as a mobile photo-booth or production set anyway, why not share the content on WeChat or WhatsApp, too?

While the individual components are available right now, such as Xperi’s DTS AutoStage™ and DTS AutoSense™, no vehicles on the market fully integrate content, metadata and cameras in a way that reaches the full potential of the in-cabin experience and creates truly new and innovative use cases. It will be up to today’s automakers and technology innovators to make the first move.

Are you ready to change the future of the in-cabin entertainment experience? Join us here!

Gereon Joachim is working in the automotive industry for 26 years now, and has been making car rides more enjoyable and safer ever since. He spends most of his time innovating, and thinking outside the box to create the extraordinary experiences customers are looking for. He is still looking to buy a Porsche 912 from 1969, so it matches the year of his birth.


  1. Statista, March 2021:
  2. Statista, March 2020:
  3. Nielsen, June 2019:
  4. Nielsen, June 2019:
  5. EBU, January 2019:
  6. Nielsen, June 2019:

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