In the previous blog, we looked at data from vehicles and why vehicle manufacturers want to gather the information. We also looked to understand data from a ‘per-duty-cycle’ perspective rather than ‘per-day’. In this blog, we’ll look at In-Vehicle Infotainment. What is this and what data volume does it represent?

Let me ‘infotain’ you

In-car entertainment, or what is known as In-Vehicle Infotainment is one of the set of applications that may contribute to the download data stream. As with other forms of consumer entertainment, the methods by which consumers access their entertainment has and will, continue to change. Not that long ago, many cars were fitted with a CD player as part of the integrated car audio system. The CD player is relatively rare in new vehicles, replaced by a USB port or a Bluetooth interface with media streamed from a paired device. The in-vehicle infotainment unit continues to evolve with many including high-resolution touch-screen capabilities, an automotive navigation system, some offering broadcast television receiving functions and more advanced solutions including the ability to run smartphone-like applications.

In the Automotive industry, a debate about the vehicle manufacturers role in the infotainment value-chain is underway. One viewpoint is that the vehicle manufacturer has no real role to play anymore. The car is essentially an advanced paired Bluetooth accessory. Users will play media from a connected smartphone with some infotainment systems offering connection solutions such as Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Navigation services will be delivered to the connected personal device, doing away with the need to offer an integrated navigation service within the vehicle. A key tenant of this approach is that the user pays for their consumption of media and navigation services, using their personal data plan associated with their personal communications device.

The alternative position is that the vehicle manufacturer can participate in the infotainment value-chain, by offering a variety of integrated and connected experiences, such as versions of applications such as Spotify and Google Maps. Some vehicle manufacturers include such services as part of cellular data plans that the owner may purchase, independent of any personal communications device that they may own, while others include a cellular data plan as part of the initial purchase, with a data plan renewal being offered after an initial period (often 1-3 years). The user is paying for the data, directly or indirectly but by being in the value-chain, the vehicle manufacturer may be able to obtain additional revenues by monetizing their customer base.

In respect to the data volume to and from the vehicle, if infotainment is delivered via the user’s communication device, the data stream is from the cellular service providers to the communications device. As a result, this does not contribute to the vehicle data volume. If the media is delivered via an integrated infotainment system, the data-flow is often from the infotainment service provider (such as Spotify) via the vehicle manufacturers digital real-estate, through the cellular service provider and on to the vehicle. In some cases, the data stream may be from the infotainment service provider through the cellular service provider and on to the vehicle. In the latter approach, the vehicle manufacturer is out of the chain and therefore unable to monetize the data stream.

So, what does the data stream volume for these services look like? Spotify offers a good example of a popular music platform that offers adaptive streams where the ‘quality’ of the stream can change based on the quality and bandwidth of the network connection. With streams ranging from 96kbps to 320kbps, the data volume being sent to the vehicle (or connected communications device) equates to 40MB/hour to 150MB/hour. Key to note that the primary direction is from the cloud to the streaming client application.

Companies like Spotify are rumoured to be investing in a ‘connected’ media experience, however, is cellular coverage sufficient to support mass usage of streaming media on the move? Will consumers need to change their data-plans and potentially pay more per month to support this, or will they download content (via WiFi) for use in the vehicle and listen ‘offline’?

When considering navigation services, many integrated solutions retain map information on local storage within the vehicle. Periodic map updates may be provided to the vehicle over a cellular connection. Others rely on the vehicle being serviced, with a garage technician performing an update operation. ‘Layer information’ such as live traffic congestion updates and road construction notifications are received by the vehicle over the integrated cellular interface. According to TomTom, such layer information updates constitute ~7MB of data per month (233KB per day). Vehicles (and smartphones) also contribute to the collection of traffic information not only through vehicle telemetry but also through methods such as ‘Floating Car data’, that use the integrated cellular connection to determine location, speed and direction of travel.

‘Live’ navigation services may be included in the vehicle’s infotainment system or operate on a personal communications device. Google Maps, as an example, uses about 0.67MB of data every 10 miles and 0.73MB of mobile data for every 20 minutes. With the average one-way commute in the United States taking ~26 minutes with a distance of 21.5 miles, the result is a download of ~2.419MB. Live traffic information is derived from the GPS-determined location of the devices using the Google Maps application.


In the next blog post – we’re going to focus on what your Connected vehicle is reporting to the manufacturer. What is this and what data volume does it represent?


Joel Obstfeld

Distinguished Engineer

Chief Technology & Architects Office