Everywhere you turn today, something is being labeled a “smart” gadget. First our phone became smart, then our glasses, then our watches, then our thermostats, and now our cars are finally becoming smarter. Cars have always had a very sophisticated computer technology in them, but the folks over at Google feel that it is time to integrate the consumers’ cell phone technology onto the vehicles media centre screen.
On June 25th this year, Google officially announced at its annual I/O event that it is joining the automotive applications market with Android Auto. In their announcement, Google showcased what Android Auto can do, how it is connected to the vehicle, and left the imagination open to consider what other applications can be integrated into the system. Currently there are 28 car manufactures onboard with the concept of integrating the cell phone’s display into the dashboard of the vehicle to help reduce overall driver distraction. The Open Automotive Alliance consists of Abarth, Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, RAM, Renault, Seat, Škoda, Subaru, Suzuki, and Volvo agreeing to work with Google to integrate Android Auto into their vehicles. With cell phones being integrated into cars it begs to ask the questions “what can it do now, how does it connect, what could it do in the future, what is the competition doing, and how can all of this benefit marketing?”
What can it do right now?
Currently out of the box, Android Auto allows you to use Google Maps, send text messages via voice command, audio readings of text messages, play music, and send or receive phone calls. The interface can also access your scheduler, but it does not display the information on the screen and is only returns information via voice. All vehicles will have a voice command button on the steering wheel for the user to be able to interact with Android Auto. Also for safety reasons, when the vehicle is in park the driver can type on the screen. Inside the play music function, the application has the ability to load several different outlets such as iHeartRadio, Joyride, MLB at Bat, Pandora, Pocketcasts, Songza, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio, and Umano.
How does it connect?
The way that the Android Auto interface connects with the cars computer is by using a USB connection between the phone device and the vehicle. For you to be able to take advantage of Android Auto, you must have a brand new vehicle that supports Android Auto and the latest handheld device that supports Android L firmware. In the future, it is expected that Android Auto will be able to connect via Bluetooth or WiFi.
What could it do in the future?
The third party application producers will have their access of Android Auto subjected to some very strict measures. The restrictions come from both Google and the car manufactures; as there are certain styles and user interaction tests that third parties have to meet or exceed. Thus far, Google has picked only a select handful of companies to be included in the initial roll out of Android Auto. Nonetheless, that does not mean applications will be far and few, just that the applications will be heavily tested and locked down to protect drivers from being distracted.
What this concept can lead to is the ability to integrate third party applications that can have heads up information such as traffic congestions, the ability to interconnect with other cars nearby, or even have stoplights connected to help predict the length of time until the light changes. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg for developer to begin implementing and be able to pass safety standards.
Who is the competition?
Apple’s system is very similar to the Android Auto when it comes to the ability to connect functional applications from the phone to the car. As of right now, the only functions that are enabled to be displayed and accessed on the screens in vehicles are massage, maps, music, and phone applications. The vehicle is able to connect to the device via the Lightning port. Currently, there are 33 automotive manufactures onboard with supporting CarPlay in new vehicles. This list consists of Abarth, Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, Ferrari, Fiat, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, RAM, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, and Volvo. One of the first vehicles to include CarPlay is Ferrari’s FF, which debuted at the Geneva International Motor Show in March.
Microsoft Windows in Cars
Just recently, Ford decided to drop association with Microsoft and opted to rely of Blackberries QNX system for internal controls. However, Microsoft has started to head in the same direction as CarPlay and Auto by mirroring handheld device screens on the cars entertainment screen. In April Microsoft revealed during its Build conference presentation of Windows and the Internet of Things, they are developing software called Windows in the Car that utilizes MirrorLink technology. In the preliminary beta stage, it displays the use of maps, phone calling, messaging, music, voice readout, heads up display of traffic zones, and climate controls. The demo of Windows in the Car is just a concept, which is just beginning to earn adopters such as Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen. It is also unclear how Windows in the Car will connect to vehicles.
How does this help marketing?
This is when part of the article begins to head towards a slippery slope to try to answer the fundamental question of how Android Auto can benefit marketers. Advertisers already have a hard time breaking through to people in cars because listenership is dropping significantly for radio broadcasts and billboards are becoming ineffective due to desensitization. Consumers’ are opting for their own connected media or using commercial free satellite radio. A way that advertising can enter the vehicle is combining audio with instant call-to-action within the vehicle.
Aha Radio is the first example of advertising being integrated into a radio station with the ability for the listener to directly claim offers while driving. In the demonstration video produced by PlaceCast, the driver is able to claim an offer for Quizno’s while driving. The offer is then immediately Emailed to them to claim at the nearest location based on the vehicles GPS. This is a great example of how marketing can begin to integrate into the vehicle without causing a distraction.
This is a moon shot idea, but it could become a realistic idea one day if location marketing continues to grow. Combining the use of GPS, maps, searching, and mobile technology into a single application will allow marketers direct target consumers while travelling. When a connected user is travelling within a city and have identified a list of liked and disliked brands or topics, the software can help deliver small pin alert offers as the driver enters a geofencing for a business. Like the Aha Radio example, the software could “push alerts” which can be easily accepted and sent directly to the drivers Email address to redeem immediately.
With laws changing to prevent people from using handheld devices while driving, the concept of Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Microsoft Windows in Cars all address the need of being able to use a device hands free in a vehicle. The real creativity will be for developers to integrate call-to-action marketing in the vehicles while reducing the chances of distracting drivers.