How Connected Cars Are Changing The Road

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Car Stuff

Flashy technology makes good headlines. The Apple Vision Pro is a big swing into the future with futuristic VR headsets. Tesla’s Autopilot technology is an enormous game-changer if it ever fully rolls out. AI has already started to affect the way many people work, study, and search for information. Headlines breathlessly cover every detail of their development, release and errors as these technologies progress. But there’s a topic that gets far less coverage that is already almost completely rolled out, and affects our lives significantly. Especially for Texans, where we’re used to spending a lot of time behind the wheel. Over 90% of new cars in the US are connected vehicles. A connected vehicle is one with either a built-in internet connection or a connection using a tethered system like CarPlay or Android Auto.

What’s new about connected vehicles?

Not needing a cord. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have been gradually gaining adoption since 2015, however, only in the last 2-3 years have most manufactures switched to the wireless versions. The reality is that the auto industry isn’t in the business of changing things if they don’t absolutely have to. It’s extremely expensive to make design changes, and typically manufacturers drag their feet on big changes until they know the technology is going to stick around. BMW even infamously charged customers $80/yr to use CarPlay until 2019. Charging to use the technology was a reaction to their desire to pay for the cost of installing the technology. They didn’t see the bigger opportunity…. advertising.

car showing an ad on the screen

Is my car going to force me to watch ads?

The current reality is that the ads aren’t being shown to us on the screen. You’re probably not going to see your screen become a billboard for shampoo, because that would be too intrusive [for now]. However, you’re probably already interacting with ads part of your commute. If you use Google Maps, you might have already noticed that when you look for food options nearby, many of the results will be “Sponsored”. Those are ads. And Apple Maps is working on beefing up their version in Apple Maps.

Watch an ad to start your car

Advertising is always going to go where people’s attention is focused. Advertising is a $700 billion dollar a year business. There were ads on the radio when that was the only thing to listen to while driving. Satellite radio was introduced with no (or fewer) ads, but is a paid service. The sides of roads are covered in billboards. Now in the streaming era, there are ads on Spotify, Pandora and YouTube — unless you pay to not hear them. Your attention while driving is especially valuable, because you’re likely stuck in the vehicle for the duration of the ad.

Will you actually have to watch an ad to start your car? Well, not immediately. Android Auto (Google) and CarPlay (Apple) are currently still fighting for their share of the market. They want drivers to want to use their product. They want drivers to want their new cars to be equipped with their technology. If they were to start forcing ads now, you might not get hooked on their technology. For now you get an awesome product for no additional cost.

As with everything they do, it eventually has to generate money. Whether that be an ad, subscription, or selling your data… there’s always a cost.


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