Video Won't Be Coming Soon to a Front Seat Near You

The prevalence of rear-seat video screens in motor vehicles has prompted some auto industry pundits to warn of the dangers of driver distraction, should front-seat video become just as popular. But a new research brief from ABI Research has a different message: don’t worry, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

“No carmaker – certainly no North American carmaker – will be delivering a video system other than rear seat entertainment, for a variety of reasons,” says research director Mike Ippoliti. “One is legal: in the US, some 39 states specifically prohibit the installation of DVD entertainment systems in the front seat. Chrysler had challenges with its MyGig audio system, so no OEM is rushing to develop a video system that might prove to be illegal.”

The second reason, relating to real-time video, is also non-technological: there simply is no sign of sufficient customer demand to motivate government rule-makers to change their conservative direction. Rear-seat entertainment systems will remain popular, but the market for real-time video delivery to the limited number of vehicles equipped with RSE is too small for OEMs to put forth much effort.

Another inhibitor is the lack of standards and business models – “format soup and an ecosystem jungle” is how Ippoliti puts it – multiple incompatible formats for video, changing over time, with no guarantee any one will dominate the future market. Also, there are multiple players in the distribution channel, with no clear preferred approach or team.

Such an ecosystem is a worst-case scenario for OEMs. Were the product something essential to an automobile, with huge customer demand, workable approaches would be found. But in this case, OEMs are not anxious to wade into a market still searching for the right business model, where the teams are still choosing sides.

The research does not suggest that there will be absolutely no market for TV in the car, but that lack of demand will keep its growth to a very measured pace, reaching perhaps 300,000 OEM shipments of digital radio hardware for video by 2011.

The ABI Research Brief “Video to the Car” examines the similarities and differences between automotive video technologies and evaluates the challenges they face. It forms part of the company’s Automotive Infotainment Research Service.

Founded in 1990 and headquartered in New York, ABI Research maintains global operations supporting annual research programs, intelligence services and market reports in broadband and multimedia, RFID & contactless, M2M, wireless connectivity, mobile wireless, transportation, and emerging technologies. For information call +1.516.624.2500.