By Jeff Gilbert

NORTHVILLE, MI — (WWJ) The growth of video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu is having an impact on the back seats of cars, as companies work to upgrade video entertainment systems to make them more like the things people are getting used to in their homes.

“Increasingly, audio-video communications, or infotainment products is more of a driving factor in peoples purchase of vehicles,” said Doug Ray, director of audio-video communications products for Mitsubishi Electric.

Mitsubishi Electric–which provides electronic systems for several major carmakers–is showing off a new system it calls FLEXconnct, which takes video on smart phones and tablets and puts it onto video screens in the back seat of a vehile.

“I’m thinking the biggest change we’re seeing is that more and more, we’ve gotta be able to support consumer devices,” said Ray. “We’ve gotta be able to support content that people have on their devices or in the cloud. Figure out how to bring that in the car, and make it a seamless experience.

The concept system being shown by Mitsubishi Electric has three screens in the back seat, two of which are touch screens. It allows passengers to share video, or watch thing independently. The system includes a camera, which could be used to monitor small children in the back seat, or even–long term–for video calling.

“People have started moving back away from having physical media, to keeping their entire collection of music or video on their phone or on their iPad,” said Gareth Williams, Mitsubishi Electric’s strategic technologies manager. “We’re following that trend.”

The first in-car video systems started appearing on vans and minivans in the late nineties. They were quickly replaced by DVD systems, which gave way to BlueRay systems on the high end. Williams says this is the next step.

Mitsubishi Electric has received a lot of interest from potential customers. But, there are no commitments.

But, Williams says, it wouldn’t take them a terribly long time to get their system on a production vehicle.

We’re ready to work with our customers, OEM’s now. I think if we started today, developing a production program, it would probably be model year 2018.

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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