Streaming music has not reached the car

Radio and CDs still rule


The music industry has changed significantly in the last decade. We used to just buy CDs and listen to the radio. Now we have thousands of songs on our iPhone / iPod or we stream music from services like Pandora and Spotify.

We love the radio!

At Grin Technologies, Inc we are focused on making drivers lives easier by building a voice-driven car computer. Think Kitt and the talking car in Knight Rider. It’s Amazon Echo for the car. The experience should be simple, safe, and enhance the driving experience. Keep your phone where it belongs: in your pocket or bag.

We’ve been researching the status quo — how do drivers use smartphones and technology in the car? We surveyed 400 American drivers about how they use their smartphones in their cars. Our respondents drive at least three times per week, use a smartphone with a data plan, and are between the age of 16 and 60.

Are these drivers tethering their iPods? Are they streaming Internet or satellite radio via their smartphone? Not so much. We asked drivers how they listen to music in the car (check all that apply). 76% of respondents listen to radio and CDs, 34% play music from a smartphone library or iPod library, and 26% stream music from a smartphone app like Spotify or Pandora. And a mere 2% use satellite radio via their in-dash entertainment system.

Only 26% of respondents stream music in their car from their smartphone

Word of advice to car manufacturers; don’t phase out CDs players anytime soon. Just because Apple is getting rid of the CD drives in the Macbook doesn’t mean drivers are ready to quit CDs cold turkey. And radio still matters, despite the fact that AM / FM radio is a 100 year old technology.

Is that the Stones? Turn it up!

Why do only 26% of drivers use streaming services in the car? The Guardian reports that “by the end of 2014, 37M people around the world paid for streaming music, while 210M will be listening for free on advertising-supported services.” So why not in the car? Most likely the answer is that its awkward to connect our favorite streaming services in our car. First we have to tether or connect the smartphone via Bluetooth, then we have to turn on the phone, turn on the app, then select a station and press play. There is just way too many steps for drivers. It’s frustrating and unsafe.

Tapping through a built-in Spotify app in the entertainment system may be just as awkward. Integrated services may be the wrong approach, as we’ve seen with in-dash navigation systems. Only 8% of US drivers use in-dash navigation systems compared to 60% that use smartphone apps like Google Maps and Waze.

Would built-in Spotify help?

Obviously, the best case scenario would be to avoid all configuration friction. Simply get into your car, press a wake-up button on the entertainment system and say “Play Taylor Swift on Spotify” to your car without having to remove the smartphone from your pocket or bag. Your phone should be paired to your car’s speakers.

Some day your car should and will start to help you like a good co-pilot. Just don’t ask for Taylor Swift on Spotify. ;)