A car infotainment system comprises hardware and software that provides audio or video entertainment for the driver and passengers. These serve a wide range of helpful functions, from playing music to showing a reverse camera plus much more. Over the decades these systems have evolved significantly, and we are now lucky to be living in an era of unparalleled in-car connectivity and information provision.
It all began in the 1930s with the introduction of the AM car radio. While these radios were very cumbersome and expensive, they caused quite a stir and gave drivers their first taste of in-car infotainment. By the end of the decade, push button AM radios became de rigueur. The 1940s saw further evolution with the introduction of physical buttons on car radios to memorise drivers’ preferred stations.
By the 1950s, American car manufacturers started installing record players which allowed riders to pick and choose their own music. While the Chrysler version was an out-and-out flop, its British counterpart, the “Philips Mignon” was wildly popular and had many celebrity fans including George Harrison and Muhammad Ali. Eventually however these were phased out with the burgeoning popularity of eight-tracks and cassette players which were far better suited to in-car audio.
The next major innovation came in the 1990s with the introduction of built-in CD players. The lightweight nature of CDs and superior sound quality meant that it wasn’t long until they stole the market from cassettes. CD players are still a common feature today, however more and more new models are shifting towards MP3 players.
To learn more about the history of the car infotainment system, take a look at this rather fun and informative infographic below from Woodstock Motors.