YT on Volvos: Neat trick or safety issue?

Watching videos and driving a car aren't things that go well together. Actually, in a lot of countries, it's illegal. Yes, here too. That's why when you drive a vehicle with a video-capable (e.g. MP4 via USB, or a DVD) head unit, the movie will cut out if the parking brake is disengaged or if it senses the vehicle is moving.

Despite the oil-water relationship between video playback and driving, an automaker has announced that they will enable YouTube to be installed on their vehicles. And the strange part is that it's Volvo.

That's right: the automaker that has specialized in and pioneered many modern auto safety features is making the world's largest free (ish) video platform available to download and install in their vehicles. The announcement is part of the ongoing partnership between Volvo Cars and Google.

Volvo models with infotainment systems equipped with Google can get YouTube via Google Play. This will make YouTube the first video platform to be enabled on the company's models, marking the beginning of video streaming in Volvo cars.

Volvo to allow YouTube on their head units image

There is a catch though. Just like how OEM head units cut out the video when the vehicle is in motion, that will also be the case for YouTube on Volvo. That's for safety of course. You can only watch while the vehicle is stationary, and we reckon they'll make it difficult for owners to deactivate that safety feature. We don't think it will be like bypassing the parking brake sensor as some have done in older cars.

The second question is why, and the justification actually makes sense: it's for when you're charging. Volvo says that when traveling by electric car (which everyone is pushing for now) over long distances, there will be some downtime depending on the charging speed. So as you charge, you can watch.

“Allowing our customers to watch videos while charging or when waiting to pick up their children from school is part of our promise to make their lives better and more enjoyable,” said Henrik Green, Chief Product Officer at Volvo Cars. “With YouTube and other major streaming services coming soon, our customers can enjoy their charging break instead of seeing it as just a hassle – making electric car ownership that bit easier.”

Volvo also intends to seamlessly integrate their vehicles with Google Assistant-enabled devices, making the vehicles extensions of their smart and connected environment.