When everyone’s a passenger instead of a driver, the car experience really starts to change.
As we take more and more Lyft and Uber rides — and eventually once autonomous cars drive us around — the purpose of the car will transform. The space once centered on getting us from point A to point B is already becoming yet another portal to sell us stuff.
Services like Cargo and Vendy bring products like gum or earbuds into cars tied to ride-hailing services so you can have them there and then. It’s a vending machine in the age of ride-hailing apps. Uber has already exclusively partnered with Cargo as a side hustle for drivers. Grab in Singapore similarly has partnered with the in-car commerce startup with a captive customer base in the back seat.
The car becomes a vending machine.
While Cargo and Vendy purchases are offered only in ride-sharing trips, Alexa-enabled shopping “trips” will one day happen in your own car, too. Earlier this month, Amazon released a developer kit for Alexa to be directly connected to car infotainment systems so anything we’d ask our Amazon Echo devices to do can happen in-vehicle.
The car ride becomes an experience, not just a means of getting somewhere.
As Cargo founder Jeff Cripe said in a call this week, “as we spend more time in the car, we are hungrier for comfort, entertainment, and productivity.” The car ride becomes an experience, not just a means of getting somewhere.
For now, a car trip is the opportunity to offer people essentials like snacks and charging cords. But eventually when “cars aren’t cars anymore,” as Cripe put it, services beyond a ride will be in demand. We’ll see time in the car as a place to get work done or take a nap or catch up on the latest TV series.
Just as the flying experience can currently feel like a shopping bonanza with purchases required for everything from entertainment, internet connection, food, and pillows and blankets, in-car purchases will need to be tempered. Overwhelm the space and riders will push back.
Cargo collaborated with Snapchat earlier this year to offer unique Snapchat Lenses from brands that Cargo offers in its vending box, like Red Bull and RXBAR protein bars. This partnership showed how the car and our mobile phones (which are becoming an extension of the car) can quickly be overrun with promotions, ads, and branding. It starts to feel like too much.
Miami-based Vendy CEO Salomon Horowitz, who came from Lyft, said he sees ride-hailing services opening up opportunities like the internet did with e-commerce, social media, and even dating. Ride-hailing apps have opened up a new platform for in-car vending machines, advertising, and data collection.
“We’re going to spend more time in the car and we’re going to have to rely more on the car itself,” he said.
For Cripe “connected cars” could be used as a massive ad platform, but he said a car ride can also now give people back their time to do other tasks, like catching up on reading or work emails. Or as voice becomes more prevalent, the car becomes a space to tell a digital assistant to get things done.
User insights firm Alpha published a report earlier this year that asked what features people want in their self-driving cars. WiFi was a clear winner, along with a TV and a bed. People are trying to relax in the cars of the future.
What to do with all that free time in the car?
This week Shell and General Motors announced a partnership to pay for gas directly from certain Chevys, Buicks, GMCs, and Cadillacs’ infotainment screens built into the car dashboard. A three-digit code on the screen will activate a specific pump and then you can start filling up. Payment happens within the dash-app, where credit card info is already stored.
As cars are manufactured for a more connected reality, paying for anything and everything can happen without even getting out your wallet. Forget getting out of your seat.
The car has become, and will continue to transform into, a space where you can relax, shop, send some emails, watch some TV — anything but drive.