IVEE Wants to Put Rear-Seat Infotainment Systems in Uber, Lyft

Tired of watching videos on your little phone screen while your Uber or Lyft sits in traffic? All that looking down make you car sick? What if your ride had an onboard entertainment system like a commercial airline, except with high-speed internet access? Aftermarket startup IVEE wants to give you more entertainment options on your next ride with a universal rear seat entertainment system.

Various automakers have offered rear seat entertainment going back decades, but always as a fully integrated system paid for at the time of vehicle purchase and installed at the factory. Taxis in some major markets like New York City have installed entertainment screens as part of the payment system than run short, prerecorded reels on loop. With a rideshare vehicle, though, you’re just jumping in the back of someone’s car.

Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft may have rules about which vehicles qualify for the service, but those rules don’t say anything about rear seat entertainment, so unless your driver owns a top-trim minivan or SUV and splurged for the entertainment system, you’re left to entertain yourself.

IVEE League

IVEE (which stands for In-Vehicle Entertainment Experience) has a solution for that. A 10-inch tablet fixed to a universal mounting system attaches to the head rest of the front seat bringing streaming video and music, games, relaxation guides, and eventually online shopping and a web browser into the back seat of any vehicle.

IVEE’s business model is simple, for now. The tablet, mount, USB cable, and a 12-volt adapter with two USB-A outlets is provided to the owner and driver of the vehicle free of charge. IVEE even pays for the data plan. Advertising on the system makes the money, a portion of which is split with the driver. IVEE CEO Alex Giannikoulis says the most active rideshare drivers can make $100 per month on 40 hours of driving, or $2.50 for every hour of driving. The only requirement for the driver is to wipe down the system between rides, same as other COVID protocols.

No Shock and Ad-Filled Awe

Unlike the taxi TVs, the IVEE system doesn’t start playing ads and videos automatically. The rider has to actively use the system or it’ll go dark after a preset amount of time. Giannikoulis says 31 percent of riders so far start playing with the system without any prompting, so the system doesn’t have to get in your face. Once in, static ads are scattered throughout the interface not unlike the landing page of Amazon Prime. Some videos are actually sponsored content, but they’re contextual, so if you’re looking at breathing exercises, you’ll get an ad for something like a wellness coaching service.

Riders can interact with the system via the touchscreen or voice control. Streaming music is available even with the screen off. Dig into it and you’ll find five additional modes: Watch, Work, Relaxation, Learn, and eventually, Explore.

Watch lets you stream video from media partners and the internet, and in the future IVEE hopes to integrate apps from the biggest streaming services. If licensing agreements work out, IVEE will pre-load some shows and movies on the system so you don’t have to worry about your connection, and the company is looking at ways to allow you to pause a video in the car and pick it back up later at home on your own device. Down the road, IVEE is also looking at ways to allow you to cast from your phone to the screen. Currently, TV shows and movie trailers are pulled from a premium YouTube subscription.

Limited Browser Experience

While the system will soon have a web browser, IVEE has instituted some controls on it. Besides obvious filters like blocking sexually explicit websites, the system is designed to prevent you from entering personal data when shopping online. This way, no one can hack a RSE and get any valuable personal information. When you’re ready to check out, the system will generate a QR code or send an SMS text message to your phone where you can complete the transaction on your own phone.

Just to be safe, though, IVEE is also working on an automated program to recognize when a rider leaves the vehicle and reset the system to its defaults.

The system will also be able to be set up with child controls limiting or disabling the system, and could in the future offer video and audio recording controlled by the parent who wants to ensure their child has a safe ride.

Along with entertainment and web browsing, the system will also come with pre-loaded games, educational programs, and relaxation programs. For those willing to pay, IVEE will also offer premium options like an ad-free experience.

Magic Fingers

The big one, though, is the optional seat massager. Built by auto parts supplier Brose, the pad slips over the factory seat and can deliver various massages or an immersive audio or video experience, vibrating along with low frequency sounds for a 3D effect. The vehicle owner decides what to charge for premium features (with data from IVEE to provide guidance), and user data so far shows more than 35 percent of riders are willing to do so.

As of right now, the RSE only plays audio through its built-in speakers or headphone jack (plus the seat, if selected), but IVEE is working on Bluetooth programming that would allow it to play through the vehicle’s speakers.

Similarly, while IVEE’s goal is to personalize the experience as much as possible, right now, it’s a generic interface. In the future, the company hopes to create a user profile that the system could temporarily download, either by linking it to your Uber or Lyft account or by scanning a QR code when you get in the vehicle. With a profile would also come the option of a subscription to premium features so you don’t have to pay separately on each ride.

When and Where

While the systems are currently provided directly to the driver/owner, IVEE is also partnering with premium rideshare businesses like Opoli that own their fleets. In those cases, the fleet operator can customize the experience with their own branding and personalization in every vehicle. The company is also targeting high-end hotels which operate their own shuttle services and has even seen interest from automakers looking to sell directly to these fleets.

For now, though, if you’re looking for an IVEE experience on your next ride, you need to either get really lucky, or travel to the company’s launch markets of Los Angeles and Miami and request a ride specifically from the local partner. In Miami, it’s both Uber and Lyft; in LA, Opoli. If the idea catches on, though, you could see IVEE systems in your average Uber or Lyft anywhere in the country in the future.

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