Autonomous Cars Could Jumpstart A New Drive-Time Marketing Paradigm

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Steve Sachs, CEO at OneSpot.

Each day, millions of Americans grab a cup of coffee, jump into their cars and turn on the radio to hear the weather, day’s news or music before repeating this in reverse at the work day’s end.

In radio industry parlance, these key windows are known as “drive time” – prime on-air real estate for advertisers. Listeners are captive in their cars, commuting to and from work an average of 26 minutes each way, or nine full days a year. For the nearly 4 million US “mega commuters” who spend three hours a day on the road – 90 minutes in each direction – it’s more than a month of commuting time that many argue could be put to much better use.

Well, with the imminent mainstreaming of self-driving cars, which many major auto manufacturers say will be ubiquitous by 2020 or sooner, a new era of commuting is on the horizon, bringing with it revolutionary marketing opportunities driven literally and figuratively by artificial intelligence, deep learning, predictive analytics, sensor technology and virtual reality, the limits of which are potentially infinite. 

Autonomous transportation promises to not only make commuting safer, but could also usher in a new drive-time marketing paradigm brands should be ready to embrace.

Real-Time Ride-Time Marketing

Consider that every hands-free car ride becomes a new travel and entertainment experience, personalized in real time. Cars sit at the ready to roll out immersive content tailored for each rider, continuously learning and honing food, dining, shopping, entertainment and brand interests through interactions across car, mobile, desktop and email channels and natural language processing of in-car conversations.

For example, if a rider wanted to grab breakfast on the go but is undecided about where to eat, he or she could say, “breakfast route to work” a la Alexa or Siri, and the car could chart a course while 360-degree live images were projected on the vehicle walls showing what’s cooking at nearby restaurants with flash promotional offers for orders that are picked up by a specified time.

With no need to pay attention to traffic, journeys become highly social experiences both in-car for the travel companions and with the rest of the connected world. Food destinations might encourage “referring a friend” in exchange for a discounted meal, which could be easy if riders receive automatic alerts notifying them when personal contacts are on the road nearby.

Or incentive points could be provided for referrals via car-to-car communications between opted-in passengers also commuting in the same direction. Fueled with food, ride time is open to pursue a myriad of activities, from researching home repair projects and curating professional wardrobes to participating in virtual business meetings from the road. It could even mean making a dent on completing local errands, such as driving by the dry cleaner or sporting goods store and automatically prepaying via the car for items picked up.

Potential Challenges

While connected cars are potential analytics wonders – by some accounts uploading 25 gigabytes of data to the cloud hourly related to travel route, speed, road conditions and car health – questions still need to be addressed regarding consumer privacy, including the ownership and security of that robust information.

In addition, connecting any device to any data collection and analysis platform, including those in connected cars, requires authentication and authorization capabilities. With various “operating systems” on the road that likely will not be interoperable, brand-to-car-to-brand communications may not be simple, and the entire regulatory landscape is still not defined.  Which federal, state and local laws will govern on-the-road marketing and transactions?

Challenges aside, even when the delivery vehicle is indeed a vehicle humming down the road with practically unlimited potential routes, consumers will as always continue to choose and control the brands with which they interact.

It may sound like fantasy, but development of this new channel is on the move. A new drive-time marketing paradigm is on the horizon, but brands should proceed with the caution that the same rules for fostering customer relationships will apply.

Follow OneSpot (@onespot) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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