LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – What started as a novelty Elon Musk offered to Tesla (TSLA.O) owners has turned into a table stake for the next generation of electric vehicles.
Automakers from Sony Honda to Hyundai are showcasing how they’re reimagining the in-car entertainment experience, including offering video games during the ride, at this week’s CES 2023 technology trade show. They are positioning the time people spend in their cars as a profitable recurring revenue stream.
“This is an area that can be rolled out very quickly,” Dirk Hilgenberg, head of the CARIAD software division at Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), told Reuters at CES. “You could just host a third-party app for your streaming service, or create a collaborative platform. Guaranteed constant volume, guaranteed constant revenue.”
Car radios have been a staple of automotive entertainment for decades, but Tesla cars can play popular video streaming services like Netflix (NFLX.O), YouTube and Hulu while parked or charging. The ability to watch has reset consumer expectations.
In December, Tesla issued a “holiday update” to its software, adding access to 1,000 PC games through the Steam platform.
Other automakers followed suit. In October, BMW (BMWG.DE) announced a partnership with his AirConsole to bring casual gaming to the company’s cars. Stellantis (STLA.MI) last year announced plans to add Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) Fire TV for Auto to its new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs.
In Las Vegas, South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) said it will use technology developed by Nvidia (NVDA.O) with a PC gaming chip to stream games in cars.
Nvidia’s cloud-based gaming service, known as GeForce Now, provides access to over 1,000 titles from PC game stores like Steam and free-to-play games like Fortnite. China’s BYD (002594.SZ) and Swedish electric car brand Polestar also he’s working with Nvidia.
Japan’s Sony (6758.T), the maker of market-leading PlayStation video game consoles, said at CES on Wednesday that the company’s newly named Afeela electric vehicle will be powered by the same Unreal Engine used in video games. Announced that it will be equipped with 3D technology.
Sony promised “best in class” movies, games and music, but gave few details about the vehicle it’s co-developing with Honda Motor Co. (7267.T).
“Continuous software updates and high-performance computing are necessary to realize intelligent mobility,” said Yasuhide Mizuno, CEO of Sony Honda Mobility, at the trade show.
The automotive industry has been working on ways to safely introduce these new features and limit occupant use while the vehicle is in operation.
Tesla has come to the attention of regulators in 2021 following reports of a feature that will allow drivers to play games on tablet-like touch screens in cars. Tesla disabled this feature while the car was in motion.
Hilgenberg said Volkswagen is developing a vehicle that can drive itself on highways and in heavy traffic. This could give drivers and passengers more time to watch videos and play games. If so, he said, it can stop showing games and videos to the driver.
Still, these are features that consumers want, so VW is seeking a partnership at CES.
“In some areas you’ll see people say, ‘You don’t have it? I won’t buy it.'” It turns out to be a factor.”
Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski and Joseph White in Las Vegas Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis
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