The Ultimate In-Cabin Experience: Multi-sensory, content-focused, and emotion-driven

Creating the ultimate in-cabin experience can be done by building upon what is already a great foundation: radio. Through a combination of radio, audio content, metadata and even cameras, automakers can take their vehicles to the next level. Radio’s reach worldwide makes it the best platform to work with, and content delivery can be improved and tailored by automakers themselves.

The challenge: finding the best audio content in the car

The increased variety of infotainment choices in the car can make finding the best content to listen to extremely challenging.

Choosing between AM / FM or digital, between satellite radio and streaming services can be a hassle. Think of the over 2 million active podcasts, as well as loads of other audio content apps available for in car listening, and you will realize that finding the creator or music you want to listen to can mean a lot of  time wasting.

Just juggling back and forth with different UXs can feel like a struggle when, really, finding the content you want to consume should be seamless.

The solution: a content-focused infotainment strategy

Considering this challenge, it might be time for OEMs and infotainment system suppliers to get involved more in the content delivery options.  This can be done by starting to understand the customer, in this case, the listener.

To the listener, searching for the right content – while at the wheel – can be unsafe. Multitasking is difficult in the best of times but while on the road, it can be distracting and dangerous.

So, instead of letting our customers search and scroll endlessly, potentially risking their lives until they find the right radio station, channel, or service playing their favorite programming, why not give them the chance to explore and search safely through better personalization and voice enablement?

Great in-cabin content personalization means delivering content the way it was intended, and it is demanded. To do so, you’d need to turn the vehicle into a smart media center, a content recommendation engine. By leveraging  and enhancing broadcaster-provided metadata, the in-cabin system can point out the radio station playing the artist or track the listener is looking for. A truly content-focused in-cabin infotainment strategy with personalized discovery would completely change the game and present the content the user is looking for without the need for searching and scrolling.

Moving forward, imagine adding proprietary information and premium content to that metadata, such as lyrics and events.

Drivers could find the info they need via voice commands, in record time, while passengers would take advantage of the multitude of screens the latest models are starting to offer. Some carmakers are also increasing the size of the front screen. By making Hyperscreens, like Mercedes-Benz, the chance of getting crucial info, as well as desired content, without clicking on anything increases significantly.

Suddenly, car occupants could have an IMDb-style experience. Besides getting basic information about the artist and song on the radio, such as artist name, picture, and album name, the system could confer related data. For example, the in-car display could show a longer bio and trivia about the artist’s personal and professional life. The system could also point out their social media channels and upcoming concerts and events. 

With lyrics on screen, it would be easy and fun for driver and passengers to sing along, record their performance for a long-lasting memory or upload directly on social media, showing off their skills on Smule. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine an in-cabin camera providing the tools necessary to turn a sound “audition” into a video one.

Location-driven music, emotion-based content, and a driver infotainment profile

And that’s just the beginning. A flexible content aggregation architecture that would put content first could spark an entirely new in-cabin multi-sensory experience. The music emitted by the car’s speakers could set the tone for the entire trip. If correlated with in-cabin illumination, seat massage or fragrance emission, it could create a completely personalized experience, a home.

Let’s imagine what that enhanced audio experience could look like if we throw location data into the mix. During a sunny coastal drive, medium to low volume audio could play on the radio. On a snowy off-road adventure, the in-cabin system could suggest loud, energy-fueled music. And on an evening drive in romantic Paris, instrumental tunes or soft jazz could play from the speakers. Those behind the wheel would feel like the main characters in their own movie, matching soundtracks with their lives.

And what if a camera was involved? In-cabin cameras are bound to become standard in vehicles for the drivers’ and passengers’ safety. Key in driving monitoring systems, cameras will detect, track, and record facial cues to determine the occupant’s status.

With the right algorithms, that data could be used to not only identify users, but also their emotions and eventually, find and play the music people truly need. A night owl forced to brave morning traffic might benefit from a dose of lively music or a positive, productivity-oriented podcast. A successful entrepreneur, who just got their big break, would probably enjoy dance tunes that call for celebration.

The right mix of metadata, content, location, cameras, and algorithms can create the ultimate, custom in-cabin experience. And we wouldn’t have to stop there. The next move for automakers and in-cabin suppliers would be to make that unique experience… portable.

The driver infotainment profile could be saved in a mobile app and reused in other vehicles. When renting a car from the same automaker or upgrading the vehicle for a newer model, all that data could come within a different vehicle in a seamless, secure way. That way, you would not only help car owners create their third space but give them the freedom to recreate it in all future personal vehicles.

Ready to join us and design the ultimate in-cabin connected experience?

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.