Battery-powered innovation

It’s easy to get lost at the world’s biggest tech show. CES takes place in Las Vegas every January, and it’s so big you can be overwhelmed, but the one thing you couldn’t miss this year was the presence of the car industry. Radioplayer was there too, and our inescapable conclusion was that if the radio industry doesn’t act collectively on an international scale, radio’s presence in car dashboards could be in jeopardy.

The car industry loves its acronyms, and the latest one is SPACE. It’s a reminder of the main areas in which they’re all innovating and competing - Shared :: Personalised :: Autonomous :: Connected :: Electric. Electrification is having a massive effect on dashboard innovation, and therefore radio/audio’s place in the car. The much-needed push towards alternatively-fueled cars is happening now, and is a big disruptor. Existing brands are racing to get new models developed, and Tesla’s success has kick-started a number of new electric competitor brands such as Polestar, Byton, Rivian and even Sony.

These companies have a blank canvas when it comes to dashboard design, unshackled by past thinking and the need to iterate existing layouts. They’re putting entertainment at the centre of their offering, focusing on screen-size, visual impact, and a personalized user experience. As you’d expect, voice control is fully integrated, in many cases with more than one platform eg Alexa, Google Assistant and maybe also a bespoke ‘voice assistant’ from the manufacturer too.

At CES, we saw an electric car with a 48 inch LCD dashboard screen which can be customized and split for drivers and passengers. Deals have been signed with video content companies to create a cinematic experience, including a choice of films to watch when the car is stationary or self-driving. Radio is still in this entertainment mix, but we will need to work quickly to develop some visual slickness, so that our content continues to shine among the other services.

Radioplayer is developing a vision of the radio experience for these big-screen environments, and we’re doing this by bringing broadcasters and automotive partners together. That collaboration is vital, and the car manufacturers really value the radio industry speaking with one voice. This work will allow us to create a roadmap for the new ’smart radio’ features that broadcasters and car companies want to deliver. As this work progresses, we will be watching the car market closely – particularly the ones with electric plugs instead of spark plugs.

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