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Rear Seat Entertainment Systems: Modernizing On-Road Passenger Entertainment

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "It's not the destination. It's the journey." The quote emphasizes the importance of enjoying and appreciating the experiences and moments while reaching a goal, rather than solely focusing on the result.

However, by considering the quote literally, the automotive industry can reap benefits by offering customers the most comfortable journey.

For an automotive OEM, doing so will open up ample business opportunities to keep their customers engaged and entertained throughout the journey. One such opportunity that's been tried and tested in modern cars as a premium feature is that of a rear seat entertainment system (RSE).

The initial iterations drew inspiration from the airline industry’s in-flight entertainment systems.

Since engineering avenues such as embedded systems were still taking baby steps, the rear-seat entertainment systems of the past generally consisted of a screen that unappealingly fit into the back of the headrest, paired with a bulky DVD player and headphones for input and output.

The Need for a Modern Rear Seat Entertainment System

With portable entertainment devices such as tablets, mobile phones, laptops, and handheld gaming consoles becoming more common, one may question the need for a rear seat entertainment system.

Using rear seat entertainment systems, one can practice posture awareness and control during their journey as such systems have:

  • Ergonomic Design: Car back seat entertainment systems are integrated into the headrests or ceiling, allowing passengers to maintain a more natural and comfortable posture while viewing the screen. Doing so will help reduce strain on the neck and shoulders compared to holding a tablet or smartphone for an extended period.

  • Fixed Viewing Angle: Unlike handheld devices that require users to adjust their posture to find an optimal viewing angle, rear seat entertainment systems offer fixed and optimized viewing positions.

Selecting the Right Rear Seat Entertainment System

While selecting a rear seat entertainment system, it’s important to consider the below mentioned components and parameters.

The Connectivity in In-Car Passenger Entertainment

The connectivity is enhanced due to powerful network connections integrated within the vehicle. Communication protocols such as Ethernet, Wifi, or Universal Plug and Play can support interactions.

  • Ethernet: Ethernet is a widely used wired networking standard. In-car Ethernet can establish a wired connection between different components in the vehicle, and the entertainment system. This can provide a reliable and high-speed connection for data transfer.

  • Wifi Protocols: Wifi protocols define the standards for wireless local area networking (WLAN). These protocols allow the rear seat entertainment system to connect to the car's Wi-Fi network for various purposes, such as streaming content, accessing online services, and software updates.

  • UPnP (Universal Plug and Play): UPnP is a set of networking protocols that allow devices to discover and interact seamlessly. It could enable communication and content sharing between the car's main infotainment system and back seat entertainment systems.

The Display

Display units have transitioned from being bulky and grainy TFTs to becoming compact, elegant, and vibrant LEDs/ OLEDs. This evolution has facilitated the provision of top-notch display units crucial in delivering content with superior clarity.

In addition to superior image quality, these systems are integrated with capacitive touch screens that enable seamless passenger and system interaction. Touchscreens eliminate the need for additional hardware like a remote to operate the rear seat entertainment module. There are 2 common orientations for the fixture of the display units, they are:

  • Headrest Displays: These systems often incorporate screens into the back of the front seat headrests. These displays can be integrated directly into the headrests or added as aftermarket options, providing personalized entertainment for rear-seat passengers.

  • Ceiling-Mounted Displays: The screens are mounted on the ceiling, providing a central viewing point for all rear-seat passengers. These larger displays are often used for a more immersive viewing experience.

  • Foldable Displays: Foldable Displays could be mounted in two ways, at the back of the headrest or on the ceiling of the vehicle. The latter provides a rather social viewing experience with the provision to alter viewing angles for convenience.

    When not in use, the display can be folded away or retracted, creating a more streamlined and aesthetically pleasing interior. The flexibility of foldable displays adds a level of convenience and innovation to Automotive passenger entertainment systems.

Viewing Personalized Content on Rear Seat Entertainment Systems

OTT platforms, YouTube, Reels are the go-to content repositories for travelers on the go! The popularity of these online content repositories arises from their ability to understand user preferences and offer relatable content. Using car rear seat entertainment, passengers can easily access their favorite content, be it short or long form by having accessibility to these popular streaming networks.

But how does backseat entertainment, which mimics as a back seat tv for cars, manage to provide personalized content when the passengers keep switching?

Rear seat entertainment systems let users create profiles just like any other device through which one can consume content. Based on user preferences, the engine behind the system offers on-demand personalized experiences and content recommendations.

Another feature of the rear seat entertainment system that makes it unique is its ability to mirror content with fellow passengers. This enables a social viewing experience and makes the journey more enjoyable.

Selecting one with the ability to seamlessly sync with your smartphones is an added advantage.

In addition to this, if the rear seat entertainment system provides connectivity through HDMI, Bluetooth and USB, it’s ticking most of the boxes!

The Operating Systems (OS) that Run Rear Seat Entertainment

The automobiles in the market today are equipped with smart technologies such as climate control, predict traffic and anticipate maintenance just to name a few. These intuitive features get their ability to function mainly due to the powerful OSs that run them in the form of iOS or Android. The chosen operating system depends on how well it performs, how reliable it is, what kind of customization is needed, and how well it can integrate specific features. In the past, OEMs have used the following operating systems to run their rear-seat entertainment systems:

  • Linux: Linux brings flexibility and customization to these systems, allowing car manufacturers to create unique and optimized experiences.

    Known for its stability, security, and cost-effectiveness, Linux supports multitasking and a wide range of software. It benefits from community-driven updates, ensuring a reliable and feature-rich entertainment system for passengers in the rear seats.

  • RTOS (Real-Time Operating System): Rear seat entertainment systems may incorporate real-time operating systems to ensure timely and predictable responses, especially for critical tasks such as multimedia playback and user interface interactions.

    A popular RTOS that is used here is QNX Neutrino that is core to the functioning of QNX Car Platform. These systems running on QNX Car Platform offer a top-notch entertainment experience with real-time responsiveness, high reliability, and robust security.

    QNX's multicore processing and scalability make it adaptable to various multimedia tasks, ensuring seamless and efficient performance.

Accessibility of Rear Seat Entertainment Systems

The creators of modern rear seat entertainment offer a holistic and connected experience for the customers by allowing them to create a journey content playlist. Passengers can do so by using the IoT Mobile Apps that OEMs and Third-party vendors provide as a part of their passenger entertainment system.

This mobile app can also act as a remote. With the devices around us becoming smarter, rear-seat entertainment systems could also integrate digital assistants such as Google Assistant to enable speech as an additional option to receive commands and completely go hands-free.

Business Opportunities and Partnerships OEMs can look for using RSE

A rear seat entertainment system is not just back seat tv for cars, it is so much more.

OEMs can seize compelling business opportunities and cultivate partnerships that modernize the rear-seat entertainment experience and cater to the unique needs of working professionals.

These strategic initiatives not only elevate in-car entertainment but also create unique offerings tailored to the demands of modern professionals on the move.

From an OEM perspective, the following collaborations could add to the existing source of revenue streams:

  • Collaboration with OTT Platforms for Exclusive Content The passenger princesses and princes of the world can immerse themselves in exclusive movies, series, and premium content through the rear seat entertainment system. By collaborating with leading OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO+, Lions Gate Play, and many more, OEMs can offer relevant and trending content to their valued customers.

  • Partnerships with E-commerce Websites for Digital Commerce The passengers can experience the future of digital commerce using the rear seat entertainment system. By integrating ecommerce platforms, the vehicle becomes a mobile marketplace, enhancing the overall customer experience.

  • Integration with Educational Platforms Allow passengers to enhance their professional development during commutes by adding educational modules in the rear seat entertainment system.

  • Health and Wellness Partnerships Studies suggest that on average a person spends close to an hour travelling. As the passenger must remain stationary during their time of travel, rear seat entertainment systems could be the perfect answer for them to stay in touch with their health and spiritual side through guided meditation sessions.

  • Work On-The-Go Using a laptop or a workstation to make work calls or complete tasks on the go has become a common sight in metropolitan cities. Cars equipped with rear seat entertainment systems can offer passengers an additional screen to add to the layer of convenience. Some of these entertainment systems can run software essential for any professional, such as MS Office.


Rear Seat Entertainment Systems (RSE) redefine the on-road experience, blending comfort, connectivity, and innovation. From ergonomic designs to advanced operating systems, the evolution is evident. Strategic collaborations offer OEMs diverse business opportunities, creating a holistic journey for passengers.

As we drive forward, let's ensure these entertainment systems not only entertain but also enhance our journeys, making every mile a captivating chapter in the evolving narrative of automotive technology.

Amruth Ganesh Achar

About the Author

Amruth is a content writer and marketing professional from the realm of ecommerce and IoT. The ever-evolving nature of these sectors, helps him keep in touch with his passion for research and learning. His role involves seamless collaboration with peers and technical experts to create customer-centric marketing content. Beyond the professional sphere, Amruth enjoys badminton and values quality time with friends and family. Ever eager for new challenges, he welcomes both mastering new sports and mountainous adventures with open arms.

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