Drive-In Theaters Or Driving Theaters? Today’s On-Board Vehicle Entertainment

There was a time when a static-filled sound box and a bag of greasy drive-in popcorn had to suffice for vehicle theater entertainment. Today’s vehicle manufacturers have taken the theater experience of yesteryear and brought it into the 21st century with a virtual in-car entertainment system. Portable device interfaces, media players and satellite television are just a few emerging technologies for an automotive engineer to consider integrating as an attractive magnet for potential car buyers.

Portable Entertainment

Functionality and integration of portable entertainment has become more than just a feature for luxury vehicles. Portable device interfaces allow drivers to access their home music library or a video game via their automotive system using a USB port. MP3 players connect directly to a vehicle radio and allow control of music selection while song title, artist, album and elapsed time are conveniently displayed on the radio. SD Card Playback, a navigation database interface, can also be used to bring music into the vehicle.

That’s Infotainment

With the advent of media players, today’s driver can integrate a variety of entertainment and information content to his or her preference. Music from multiple sources can be searched and played using a single interface. And those interfaces are controlled via voice, soft keys, a central control knob or steering wheel controls. Want to hear only reggae or pop while driving home from work? A “Similar Songs” button looks into the database and selects similar songs for play. Other media player features include Bluetooth® audio streaming, DVD-V/ROM, MP3 and full-featured navigation capabilities.

Best Seat Isn’t Even in the House

“Are we almost there?” is likely to turn into “We’re here already?” for those who discover the best seat in the house is at the rear of a vehicle. Rear-seat entertainment allows passengers to enjoy movies, music and video games via an LCD color monitor, which offers a crisp and clear picture, even at extreme viewing angles. Factory-installed systems include a DVD player, which forms the core of the system and can also read music, data files and photos. Illuminated keys let the viewer keep control of the DVD player, even in the dark.

After short journey breaks or after the engine has been switched off, a special module enables the system to know exactly which content was played last – so users do not have to go searching through the last film or music program.

Soon, consumers may also begin to see video/wireless systems that deliver separate options for the driver, front-seat passengers and the rear-seat positions. Drivers might listen to satellite radio, while passengers separately employ headphones to listen to MP3 players or watch DVDs.

TV on the Open Road

Satellite television allows passengers to leave DVDs at home and instead enjoy digital-quality entertainment channels on the open road. Various systems can provide access to more than 100 programming channels and more than 50 channels of satellite music. In addition, families can catch the big game, traffic reports or local news stories from the comfort of their vehicle via local networks. Satellite TV also integrates with various in-vehicle backseat video systems.

Popcorn Optional

Today’s on board car entertainment system provides seamless experiences in music, movies, television and more. Greater freedom from home to the open road means access to entertainment, navigation and safety features from behind the wheel. With all of these options, drivers may discover the best seat in the house is actually parked out in the garage.

Mike Trudel, Freelance Writer
Delphi Corp. is poised to apply its expertise and know-how to provide vehicle manufacturers and consumers with in-vehicle connectivity. To learn more about Delphi Corp. , please visit or

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