Shares of AT&T, Inc. rose by 1.85% yesterday after Reuters reported that the communications company wants to bring connected car owners exclusive content “including video and games” streamed onto personal mobile devices this year.
AT&T is working with eight OEM partners, including General Motors Co, Audi AG and Ford Motor Co. The idea is to provide internet access in the car, offer free or paid content exclusively for owners of those cars, and sell more data.
GM is testing content via its OnStar system, which, until this point has been used to connect drivers and live operators for turn-by-turn directions or immediate help in the case of an accident or a health issue. “The subscription-based service, which also sells data to drivers, has special offers and some exclusive content on apps such as Famigo, an educational app for kids, and TumblebooksTV, a children’s digital books app. It also has retail partnerships with Dunkin’ Donuts and travel booking site Priceline.com for location-based deals,” reads the story from Reuters.
AT&T is developing specific landing pages where “users” — note that you’re being called a “user” now, not a “car owner” — can log in to access content, get vehicle service updates and buy data, said Penrose.
AT&T’s senior vice president of emerging devices Chris Penrose said, “It’s no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle.”
The trouble for AT&T and auto manufacturers is the “in the back of the vehicle” part. There’s nothing saying that the person driving the car won’t be playing those games or watching the videos, when they’re supposed to be operating the car.
There’s a distraction disconnect between what’s ok on a mobile device and what’s ok when operating an automobile. A recent series of AAA videos showed how teens managed to drive themselves off the road with nothing other than texting. Throw in a little exclusive Angry Birds and you can look forward to more of this in the future.
Relying on voice commands to navigate menus can reduce some distraction, says MIT’s Bryan Reimer and Bruce Mehler in a study from earlier in 2015, but it doesn’t eliminate distraction.
The promise of autonomous cars is that they will make driver distraction moot, since they will take over the driving functions, but the reality of autonomous cars is years in the future, and AT&T will begin delivering content by the end of the year.