Unlocking the Hidden Potential: Beyond Transportation, What Else Can a Car Be?

The development of intelligent cabins and the diverse demands of users have brought unprecedented opportunities to Chinese car manufacturers. The concept of creating a "third space" has now been put into practice by many automotive brands.

Marie Chen Jan 2024 · 15 min. read


You may see your car as only a means to get from A to B. But advances in automotive technology are transforming vehicles into much more than just a mode of transportation. As central control screens, dual screens, and even multiple large high-definition displays become standard features in new electric vehicles in China, automakers are reinventing the role of the connected car cabin.

No longer satisfied with basic transport functions, consumers are increasingly demanding environments equipped for work, entertainment, and daily living on the move. With screens only continuing to grow in both size and number, cars are poised to revolutionize what it means to travel and spend time in transit. Continuous innovation is unfolding new possibilities for intelligent and customized in-car experiences.

Compared to traditional cars, new automobiles are more like an extension of home and household appliances. They possess multiple attributes such as socializing, entertainment, and work, gradually transitioning from simply being a "means of transportation" to a more relaxed "third space." Many working individuals find themselves in scenarios where, after a busy morning of work, they choose to rest and relax in their cars during lunchtime. In contrast to the public spaces of offices, the private space provided by the car allows them to listen to music, play games, watch movies, meditate etc. without disturbance, becoming an extension of their everyday life

The development of intelligent cabins and the diverse demands of users have brought unprecedented opportunities to Chinese car manufacturers. In order to highlight product differentiation, many automakers and technology companies are continuously developing new car usage scenarios. In fact, the concept of creating a "third space" has now been put into practice by many automotive brands. Numerous new concepts have started to emerge, such as gaming cabins, music cabins, theater cabins, and so on, bringing even more imaginative possibilities to intelligent cabins and thereby redefining the role of vehicles in people’s lives.

Immersive Car Cinema

From 2.7 inches to 6.5 inches, and now up to 19 inches or even 48 inches, car screens seem to have no limit in the minds of major automakers. Larger screens and higher resolution inevitably bring users closer to the cinematic experience they envision.

Launched in 2021, Xpeng P5 has already supported a theater mode where the front seats can be folded down and connected to the rear seats, optimizing space utilization. It can also be customized with a projector and screen, transforming the car into a cinema.

[Theater Mode of Xpeng P5 allows the front seats to fold down, creating a private cinema experience.]

The newly released Xpeng SUV G9 has cooperated with the Chinese video platform iQiyi, creating a unique immersive 5D cinema experience (Xopera). It integrates in-car low-frequency rhythmic seats, ambient lighting, air conditioning, and fragrance with audiovisual content, allowing for movies to be seen, heard, smelled, and felt.

Li Auto L9, also known as the “Daddy Car”, has created possibilities for the rear-seat entertainment area, catering to the movie-watching and entertainment needs of family users. Its rear display has a size of 15.7 inches and can even connect to AR glasses. By plugging the data cable into the USB-C port at the leg of the glasses, the 15.7-inch screen content from the rear cabin can be projected onto the glasses. This provides users with a visual experience equivalent to a 140-inch HD screen from a distance of 4 meters.

[Li Auto L9 allows content from the 15.7-inch rear display to be projected onto AR glasses, creating a virtual 140-inch screen.]

Karaoke Entertainment

Besides watching movies and listening to music, in-car karaoke has become a new form of entertainment inside vehicles. The gradually upgraded sound hardware, sophisticated karaoke systems, and high-definition visual effects have all made mobile karaoke a reality.

Li Auto supports a three-screen linkage between the front and rear rows in Karaoke mode, equipped with an original wireless in-car microphone for multi-microphone singing. It also supports features such as voice modulation and voice beautification.

[Li Auto L9 offers a connected three-screen karaoke experience complete with a wireless microphone.]

Besides, In the latest OTA version released by NIO (Bayan 2.4.0) in Jan. 2024, a feature called ‘Karaoke without microphones’ has been introduced. This is achieved by using the car's roof microphone to individually capture audio from all four seats in the car. The vocals and background music are then combined and played back, eliminating the need for additional microphone purchases.

[NIO's karaoke mode uses roof microphones to capture each singer's voice without additional equipment needed.]

Portable Working Place

AITO integrates the in-car ecosystem with its smartphone and PC ecosystem, supporting the interaction among them. This facilitates mutual functions, content sharing, and makes dual-screen collaboration simpler. Users can not only seamlessly connect the content from their smartphones to the car's infotainment system, they can also integrate their Huawei PC with the Harmony OS cabin. The central control screen can function as a mirror or an extended display of the PC screen, significantly boosting the working efficiency in car. Additionally, once the two devices are connected, the car’s audio system becomes the speakers for the laptop. If users happen to have a video conference in the car, they can directly utilize the car's audio system for the video conference, and the sound zone recognition and differentiation technology ensure the privacy of meetings. This allows professionals to work efficiently even while driving.

[AITO allows seamless collaboration between a smartphone, PC and infotainment system for enhanced productivity on the road.]

Comfortable Living Room

The idea of converting the car cabin into a second living room has gained considerable popularity. The one-click bed-making feature and the beauty feature of Xpeng G9 have become its compelling selling point. The Xpeng G9 caters to various sleeping needs, whether for short breaks during work or long-distance journeys. It is equipped with an official accessory, a mattress kit, which, when placed in the trunk and connected to the power source, enables a one-click bed-making function. With a single press on the central control screen, the front and rear seats can fold down. Users can also choose only to fold the rear seats and the mattress is automatically inflated. The mattress has a length of 2.03 meters, offering a convenient and immersive sleeping environment in the car.

[Xpeng G9's one-click mattress kit turns the car into a portable home, accommodating relaxed breaks on the road.]

At the same time, the front passenger’s entertainment screen is equipped with a beauty feature, which requires the use of the seat and the makeup mirror inside the co-driver's sun visor. Once activated, the co-driver's seat will automatically adjust to the highest position to ensure the optimal distance between the user's face and the makeup mirror. The lighting around the makeup mirror can be adjusted infinitely between cool and warm tones, resembling the experience of doing make-up at home.

[The Xpeng G9 offers a "beauty mode" complemented by adjustable lighting and optimized seating for applying makeup on the go.]


The innovative cabin concepts explored in this report open a window into the enormous potential for vehicles to reshape daily experiences on the move. As screens proliferate and autonomous features advance, smart cabins will break free of constraints to deliver borderless entertainment, collaboration and wellness everywhere life takes us. Cars are poised to evolve from transports to always-with-us third places fully integrated into living, working and playing each day.

The hidden potential of intelligent cabins remains only limited by our imagination. Future vehicles promise to continually fuse the boundaries between transit and other life pursuits. As technology reshapes mobility, connected cars will spark fresh innovations uplifting modern mobile lifestyles worldwide through diverse, personalized in-motion experiences. A new era has begun redefining the relationship between people and automotive technology.

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