Rear Seat Entertainment Systems to Grow to 5.6 Million Units

The popularity of Rear Seat Entertainment (RSE) systems is growing, with worldwide sales expected to nearly double during the next five years, according to iSuppli Corp. In 2015, in-vehicle and aftermarket RSE sales will reach 5.6 million units, up from 3.1 million in 2009. The United States accounted for nearly half the total in 2009 and will continue to do so in the future.

Not just for the kids anymore
RSE systems are morphing into comprehensive infotainment systems, said Ruthie Bloch, researcher for iSuppli’s North American Automotive Service.

“In the past, an RSE system was usually found in a minivan and referred to — often dismissively — as the rear seat babysitter. Not anymore,” she said. “In fact, RSE systems are showing up in all sorts of vehicles beyond just minivans.”

The first RSE system, introduced to passenger cars in 2000, included a factory-installed DVD player located overhead in the rear seat of a Dodge Grand Caravan. In comparison, a number of options are offered today, including gaming systems, branded audio, HD Radio, USB, MP3 connectivity, mobile TV, Wi-Fi and increased display sizes of up to 16 inches.

Wi-Fi alone offers extensive options for the student or professional on the road, Bloch said, such as the capability to join a meeting on the fly, catch up on emails and download books and songs. Systems with 1080p and Blu-ray can be expected in the future as well.

Future growth potential
During the next five years, RSE most likely will change faster than it has in the past 10 years. The in-home popularity of Blu-ray is expected to move into the vehicle, along with all the gaming and Wi-Fi options to which consumers are growing accustomed at home and in the office. Because the improvements to RSE are meant for the rear passengers, the restrictions applying to the front seat with regard to distracted driving regulations should not slow the advancement of RSE, Bloch said.

While most RSE systems come in the form of a lone DVD player, those with Web access, gaming availability and live television are increasingly common. The newer systems offer more than just a DVD player, and the features in these new RSE systems could soon begin to rival those of front infotainment headunits.

For instance, the 2011 Jaguar XJ will sport a new RSE system that includes touch-screen technology via the remote control. For a $2,000 MSRP, Jaguar will install its latest 8.0-inch dual LCD screens mounted in the rear of front headrests.

Included is a rear touch-screen remote control that docks and charges in the rear center armrest, as well as a rear media interface for connectivity with a wide range of USB devices like iPods, MP3 players and USB mass storage devices. With such a system, rear passengers can watch DVDs or stream video via the rear media interface. The Jaguar system also offers dual digital Whitefire wireless headphones, enabling simultaneous reception of up to four audio channels.

Toyota, meanwhile, has an RSE in its new 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan that features a 16.4-inch-wide screen drop-down LCD, a DVD player, a 100W AC 120V outlet, an auxiliary input for gaming systems or other devices, and an iPod interface.

At present, the largest display for an RSE system anywhere allows for a split-screen view when two sources have been activated. Next are the 10.2-inch screens — seen on the new 2011 Audi A8, and whose RSE system will include its own AMI, a 20Gbyte HDD, two SD card slots, a DVD player, a Human Machine Interface (HMI) and connectivity with the rest of the vehicle.

For more information on RSE systems in vehicles and other infotainment systems please see iSuppli’s new Automotive Digital Entertainment site.