For the past century, technology and marketing have evolved in a symbiotic relationship, continuously elevating the human experience with new conveniences, entertainment and information. Cars led to billboards. TV led to commercials. The internet led to search. And now connected and driverless cars are forging new marketing channels that will, once again, enhance consumer lives in new ways. The connected, driverless car space is leading to a transformed work and entertainment environment powered by new technologies across search, AI, the cloud and IoT. Consumers are about to experience the car like never before. And no doubt advertisers will follow in their continuous pursuit to build close and relevant relationships with the consumers of tomorrow.
The car reimagined
Today’s innovative marketplace is forcing companies to re-evaluate their core values and products. For instance, what is Uber really selling? A cab ride? Or is it more of on-demand transportation with a focus on service? Or how about Jimmy Johns? Are they really just a sandwich shop? Or is it a disruptive delivery model that sends food freaky fast? Similarly, connected and driverless cars are reshaping the very notion of what a car is. Without the need for a driver, the car becomes something very different. The windshield and windows transform into interactive screens. The experience will resemble more of a flight, with ample free time for entertainment and work. Netflix and other internet powered subscriptions may have an early advantage in this new space ripe for the cloud and IoT. The car itself becomes a type of voice-powered bot that can engage in conversation and take action based on our requests. With your car as the ultimate place for “infotainment”, it’s easy to see why companies like Microsoft, Google – and even Apple – have set their sights on making your car the next frontier of search.
Voice goes “standard”
The driverless world may still be far off on the horizon. Some car makers are setting 2020 as their target year for change, including Volvo who has made the ambitious claim, “no accidents involving Volvo cars by 2020 .” But connected cars are here today, getting smarter by the second, offering drivers the seeds of convenience from digital assistant technology. Today’s cars are empowering drivers with a radically new, yet extremely familiar tool – their voice. Digital assistants act as voice-powered search engines infused with artificial intelligence to deliver more conversational, meaningful interactions. So now you can ask your car for restaurant suggestions, the nearest gas station, movie times, directions, how many Cheerios come in a Cheerio box – literally anything you can think of. Digital assistants such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant are becoming more prevalent in all areas of our lives, including the car. And Ford’s popular Sync technology, developed way back in 2007, is now included in all Ford vehicles to make voice a standard feature. At CES in January of 2017, Microsoft announced partnerships with Nissan, BMW and Volvo, bringing Cortana and the power of Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure to the car. The experience becomes even more powerful as your car connects with personalized data so that you can make calls, send texts, book appointments, update your calendar and other daily activities. As digital assistants become smarter and more capable companions, so will our cars.
Cloudy with a high chance of data
Cloud technology is transforming each and every industry from the ground up and the car is no different. Leading cloud platforms, such as Azure, are making amazing things possible. Think of your car as a rolling computer, constantly encountering and collecting data. Cloud services like Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services are storing and processing large amounts of data and transforming it through machine learning into magical experiences for the end user. Predictive car health reports, alerts of a storm up ahead, notification of a traffic jam will all be as common as tires and windshield wipers. And the cloud will not only enhance – but save – lives as it becomes applied to driver safety issues. Imagine seats that monitor your heart rate or real-time accident reports that send crash data to emergency teams. The question gets even more interesting as we look to the future and the driverless space. USA Today estimates the average commute time to be 25 minutes each way or 50 minutes a day. Perhaps more than any other industry, driverless cars stand to reshape our lives, giving us 200 hours of our life back each year. What will we do with that time? Your dashboard may transform into a screen where you can pull up files, watch movies, communicate via Skype or get work done via the cloud with Office 365. Work itself gets redefined as we enjoy new ways to engage with the data and world around us.
The driverless consumer
Will advertisers be able to leverage this new connected, driverless space to build stronger relationships with their customers? Absolutely. More than ever, consumers will rely on advertisers as trusted advocates to help them get things done in smart, effective ways. While digital assistants will likely not provide a laundry list of advertisers, they will function as the gatekeeper to your consumers, and deliver highly relevant, well timed content personalized to the needs of their user. Advertisers should begin thinking about how they can leverage voice search, local search, chatbots and skills to stand out in the next frontier of search. So, the next time a driver asks their car, “What’s the best seafood restaurant in town?” your fabulous new crab shack will be sure to come out on top. Another example may be, “Where can I get the cheapest gas within 10 minutes of here?” Of course, gas stations may not exist at this point, but that’s a topic for another time.
Are YOU interested in learning more about the connected car and how it fits into the future of marketing? Join me for my session at Digital Dealer 22 in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, April 11th at 10 am in Room 20. I’ll see you there.
 Adams, Tim. “Self-driving Cars: From 2020 You Will Become a Permanent Backseat Driver.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 13 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.
Author: Christi Olson
Christi Olson is a Search Evangelist at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. For over a decade Christi has been a student and practitioner of SEM; living and breathing through the evolution of the search updates (both organic and paid) that have kept us on our toes and adjusting our digital strategies. Christi is passionate about digital and has spent her career helping businesses solve their marketing challenges and goals through studying and analyzing data to develop actionable insights and strategies.