How Rush Hour Will Become the New Primetime

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Author: Rob Beeler.  Source: MediaVillage

In five to ten years, the experience for everyone in the car -- including the driver -- is going to radically change. Media companies and advertisers alike are starting to imagine what that might look like. It's a new frontier that is only starting to be explored.

A few things need to happen for this transformation to occur. The first is we need more bandwidth to get data and content into a car. Right now, cellular connections use 4G ("fourth generation") to connect us to our beloved internet. 4G is fast enough to have created the world we live in now. However, it's not fast enough to give us everything we want. I can watch Hulu on my train ride home, but I know I'll experience some lag or outages along the way. It's close but it's not as reliable or as high quality as the televisions in my home.

To the rescue is 5G, which promises speeds that will make our connection to the internet fast enough for a reliable stream of high quality video to all of our devices. Companies like AT&T are spending billions to replace 4G towers with 5G upgrades. They are also thinking about the implications 5G will have on the automotive experience.

At Charter's Spectrum Reach, Senior Director of Automotive Product Marketing Patricia Pidgeon believes 5G will also transform the automotive industry's business models. "5G will usher in a new level of vehicle safety: think vehicle warnings, augmented reality and imaging displays," she said. "It will pave the way for a better driving experience as a whole, enabling optimized speed for traffic lights and advanced signage assistance. Cars will learn about other cars and their location to warn drivers about the situation on the road in advance."

Beyond safety, Pidgeon also said that 5G means we can expect smart vehicles, or the "ultimate driver experience." In fact, "cars equipped with internet access and with a wireless local area network will be able to share internet access with other devices, both inside and outside the vehicle," she explained.

The delivery of high quality video content right into our cars will change our consumption habits. People will still want to watch their own shows but won't be satisfied with their phones. They will want a bigger screen. Perhaps riding in a car will be like riding in a plane with everyone having their own television. Maybe that doesn't happen, but if people move from interacting on smaller screens to sitting back and watching on larger ones, the advertising experience will be more like television than it is on mobile. This TV experience will be like OTT, allowing for more personalized advertising. That's a huge opportunity for content creators and advertisers alike.

Digital media consultant Matthew Goldstein, takes it one step further. "In the new sharing economy, a ride in a taxi or Uber could be free in exchange for watching a certain number of ads or if a purchase is made shortly after the ride," he said. "We won't be tipping our drivers -- they'll be getting a commission off their sales."

That is, of course, if there is a driver. We can certainly debate if and when autonomously driven cars will become a reality, but it won't be because of a lack of effort. Many companies including Dyson -- yes, the vacuum cleaner company -- are experimenting with how to manufacture and program self-driving cars.

I, like many people, find it hard to imagine a world of self-driving cars. However, we ignore how quickly new technology is adopted in this day and age. In this video, after illustrating the massive disruption in just one decade by automobiles on the horse and buggy, futurist Tony Seba makes viewers not only realize autonomous cars are just around the corner but how even the idea of car ownership will seem antiquated.

Even if not all of his predictions come to pass, assume that some will. If as a driver I'm able to take my eye off the road and safely consume content on a screen, it changes everything. Being caught in traffic won't necessarily be a miserable experience; I can always catch up on the news or my soaps. Perhaps rush hour will become the new primetime for television.

The advertising opportunities are huge. For a very long time, people speaking about the future of location-based marketing would cite a specific example. Imagine, they would say, walking by a Starbucks and getting an alert on your phone with a coupon offer. My response has always been how annoying that would be. I don't want my phone interrupting me with ads as I walk around. But that thinking shifts if that same ad is delivered to me as part of a television experience in my car. Imagine a commercial for a restaurant up ahead on the road. In that scenario, the ads are timely, relevant and powerful.

The goal, of course, is not to always be staring at a screen. I enjoy seeing the country as I drive. We as a family on long drives will put our screens away to talk and see the world as we drive through it. "Are we there yet?" may be an annoying question, but I prefer it to everyone being in their own viewing bubble.

That being said, a new viewing experience is coming, and it'll be in our cars. It'll be interesting to see who drives these new innovations (pun intended).