Your car may soon serve you ads – how about a pizza?

  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 09 Jan 2018

Here's what you do in your spanking new, Internet-connected car when you approach a red or yellow light: slow down way ahead, creep forward slowly – and make sure you never come to a stop. 

Here's why you do it: If you stop moving, your car will start serving you ads on the dashboard, maybe for anti-itch cream because it knows you're going shopping after a hike in poison oak country. 

Santa Clara auto-tech firm Telenav has just announced an "in-car advertising platform" for cars that connect to the Internet. 

Telenav wants to sell the system to major auto manufacturers. 

And although it's probably the last thing many consumers want, vehicle owners will pay more for connected-car services if they decline the ads. 

"This approach helps car makers offset costs related to connected services, such as wireless data, content, software and cloud services," a spokeswoman for Telenav said Jan 5. 

"In return for accepting ads in vehicles, drivers benefit from access to connected services without subscription fees, as well as new driving experiences that come from the highly-targeted and relevant offers delivered based on information coming from the vehicle." 

Auto makers including Toyota, Lexus, Ford, GM and Cadillac already use the company's connected-car products, the spokeswoman said. 

Telenav CEO H.P. Jin in a press release called the ad platform "an exciting new opportunity" for vehicle manufacturers to "monetise connectivity to cover service costs and even drive healthy profits while enriching the consumer experience with safely delivered, engaging and relevant offers." 

On the website for Telenav's "Thinknear" mobile-advertising products, the company boasts of its access to data showing where people are, and what they do in the marketplace. 

"We're talking about taking all the good stuff (the consumer behaviour stuff, the location services stuff, the data crunching stuff) and mixing it all together so you have the power to give consumers ads they actually want," promotional material on the site says. 

Telenav in its press release explained how it would put that data to use on behalf of advertisers. 

"Relevant ads such as coupons and recommendations are delivered to customers based on information from the vehicle, including frequently travelled routes, destinations, and time of the day," the press release said. 

"As an example, drivers can be encouraged to pick up a discounted pizza on the way home or be alerted to sales at stores near their destination. In addition, when the vehicle is low on gas, the platform points out nearby stations along the driver's route, potentially with discount offers." 

Most of the ads would be static, though some would be animated – and ads won't contain audio, the spokesperson said. 

To prevent driver distraction, "ads only appear when the vehicle is stopped, such as at car startup, traffic lights and upon arrival," Telenav said. 

"The ads automatically disappear whenever the car is in motion or when users interact with other in-dash functions such as music or phone calls." 

Of course, driver distraction won't be an issue in self-driving cars, and this technology suggests the captive audiences in those vehicles will likely be subjected to an ad barrage in robotic ride-sharing vehicles and automated cars whose owners decline to pay more to avoid in-car advertising. 

However, consumers appreciate ads if there's a fringe benefit to them, said Ky Tang, executive director of strategy for Telenav. 

"Telenav research shows users are receptive to ads when they get something of value in exchange." — San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service

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