Mercedes-Benz Lets Drivers Choose Between Alexa And Google Assistant

What Happened
Alexa and Google Assistant will be duking it out on Mercedes-Benz vehicles, as the German automaker announced on Friday it will be integrating both voice assistants into all of its 2016 and 2017 models in the U.S. Starting today, Mercedes owners can instruct their Google Home or Amazon Echo to remotely start or lock their vehicles, as well as send addresses to their in-car navigation system. Users will need to have an active “Mercedes me” account and link it up to the Google Home or Amazon Alexa app for the integration to work.

What Brands Need To Do
Mercedes is not the only auto brand that are giving consumer options to choose when it comes to digital voice assistants. Hyundai, who just added support for Google Assistant last week, was the first auto brand to roll out Alexa integrations back in November. As more auto brands start actively pursuing the potential of in-car conversational interfaces, more and more consumers will become addressable via these voice assistants, and brands will need to seize the initiative to navigate the emerging opportunities and challenges of shifting from a screen-based interaction to a voice experience.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett ([email protected]) to schedule a visit to the Lab.



Source: Engadget

Ford Partners With Slingbox To Bring Live TV Into 2018 Expedition Model

What Happened
Ford is revamping its in-car infotainment system by integrating traditional TV service into its vehicles, starting with the 2018 Expedition model. To support cable streaming capabilities, the auto company struck a partnership with Slingbox, an OTT streaming set-top device manufacturer. Screens will be built into the back of the Expedition’s headrests, providing non-stop live TV entertainment to passengers on the road.

What Brands Need To Do
The development of connected cars is quickly turning cars into media hubs on wheels. According to market research firm Gartner Inc., there will be a quarter billion connected vehicles on the road by 2020. This not only represents a huge growth area for media companies and entertainment brands, but also opens up a new marketing channel for brands to reach more consumers.

The development in driverless cars is an important market trend that The Lab cares about, primarily because of the incredible amount of new media time it can potentially free up. The average daily commute time in the States is currently about 50 minutes. If and when driverless cars are adopted by mainstream car-owners, it would make it possible for media owners and advertisers to visually connect with consumers on the go through in-car media such as digital video and video gaming.


Source: TechCrunch

Hyundai Extends Alexa Integration To Its Connected Car App

What Happened
Back in August, Hyundai became the first mainstream auto brand to integrate with Amazon’s digital assistant service with an Alexa skill for its Genesis models. Now, the South Korean automaker is extending the Alexa integration to all Hyundai models compatible with its Blue Link connected car app. With this expansion, Hyundai owners can now ask Alexa to carry out most of the remote control functions that Blue Link app serves, such as starting/stopping the car, setting in-car AC temperatures, and locking/unlocking the doors.

In related news, Hyundai is also teaming up with a car-sharing startup WaiveCar for an ad-supported car sharing pilot program in L.A. that allows interested consumers to drive the IONIQ, Hyundai’s first electric vehicle, for free.

What Brands Should Do
With this Alexa integration, Hyundai has found a way to plug their connected cars into the smart home space and open up new possibilities for them to connect with customers at home. As automakers experiment with smart home device connectivity to expand the reach of their services, other brands should take note and start exploring this space to reach customers at home as well.

The Lab has extensive experience with building Alexa skills and helping brands navigate the new realities that conversational interfaces are set to bring. If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out and schedule a visit to the Lab.


Source: Engadget & TechCrunch

CES 2016: Delphi To Bring Car To Car Connectivity To Aftermarket

There has been a number of connected cars in market now, but soon your smart car will be able to talk with other cars as well, thanks to Delphi’s V2E™ “Vehicle to Everything” technology. Based in Gillingham, U.K., Delphi will be launching its industry-first Vehicle to Vehicles (V2V) tech on the 2017 Cadillac CTS, called Super Cruise.

Beside enabling cars exchange data for traffic planning and other real-time information, Dephi’s V2E technology will also enable  Vehicle to Pedestrians communications to allow drivers to send an alert to a pedestrian’s smartphone if they’re looking down at their devices and not watching the traffic. It can also communicate with traffic lights to anticipate the change of signals , as well as getting real-time road information to avoid blind corners.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.


Header image courtesy of Delphi’s press release kit.

Why Some States Are Loosening Legislation Around Self-Driving Cars

What Happened
Legislators in California, Texas and Virginia are warming up to the autonomous car business by loosening regulations, as well as building research centers and testing facilities, all in a bid for the fast-growing industry, along with the new jobs and tax revenue that come with it.

What Brands Should Do
Legislation issues have long been a roadblock in the development of self-driving vehicles. Now that lawmakers are realizing its inevitability and are getting on board, the time is right for auto brands to seize the opportunity and leverage such new-found interest into concrete legislative benefits.


Source: New York Times

Event Recap: District Dialogue – Future of Transportation

Last week, the IPG Media Lab attended a panel discussion around the future of transportation. Panel members, including founders of car-sharing services, venture capitalists, and a public transportation guru, addressed multiple topics such as car connectivity, self-driving capabilities, and security. From a marketing standpoint, this territory is ripe for opportunity. However, real world applications won’t be implemented until cars are more capable of driving themselves, thus shifting a driver’s attention from the road and towards the augmented windshields and screens within the vehicle. The panelists agreed that we are only 5-10 years away from this reality.

The primary barrier to autonomous cars is not the technology (which already exists in agriculture and mining vehicles) but the physical infrastructure and government regulations that the cars and manufacturers must navigate. Steps have already been taken to challenge legal boundaries and push for more flexibility for innovation. For example, Uber successfully fought off the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s attempt to limit new driver applications in New York City earlier last month, which set a precedent that regulations cannot impede customer experience or value.

There are companies that are already working to create branding opportunities within vehicles. Two companies that are attempting to crack into this space are and Automatic. They are creating devices that plug into a car’s data port so the user can access apps and in-car WiFi. Such devices incorporate platforms for developers to build apps that are connected to the car and can also be accessed via mobile devices. Brands could potentially align with app developers to create unique user experiences within vehicles.

During the panel discussion, there was one tongue-in-cheek comment made that cars are essentially “computers with wheels.” Although this comment was made in jest, it speaks to the wide range of capabilities for brands to reach users in cars. As cars become more autonomous, drivers will become passengers and their attention will shift from operating the vehicle to operating systems. Brands will be able to collect and utilize actionable data to reach consumers on the go.

New BMW 7 Series Debuts Gesture Control

What Happened
BMW has added in-car gesture control to its new 2016 BMW 7 Series. Enabled by 3D sensors installed on the car ceiling above the center console, the new feature will track hand motions to enable convenient shortcuts for changing the volume, taking phone calls, and other simple in-car commands, all without drivers taking their eyes off the road.

What Brands Should Do
With this new feature, BMW is embracing motion-sensing gesture control, a new advanced interface for its in-car systems that are currently dominated by touch screens and voice control. For brands, especially those exploring connected cars and home automation, figuring out the right interface that provides the most user-friendly experiences while enhancing driver safety should be a top priority.
Source: Bloomberg

By The Numbers: What Consumers Want Out Of Connected Cars

It’s estimated that by 2015, more than half of global vehicles sales will be made up of connected cars. As the connected car is still a relatively new concept for buyers, it will be crucial for manufacturers and brands to determine which features truly interest them.


Not surprisingly, the “driving assistance and safety” category is top of mind. The “infotainment” features that the auto industry is attempting to upsell, however, are not as important in comparison.


Looking closer at the infotainment features, it is clear that in-car music streaming, which replaces traditional car radio, enjoys high popularity among connected drivers. (No wonder Pandora has been aggressively vying for the market.) Downloading media content, in comparison, is most likely hindered by the high cost of data plans in connected cars, which remains a major obstacle for connected car adoption.


A look at the big picture, though, reveals that the majority of U.S. car owners don’t really understand the full capabilities (and possibilities) of the connected car. The auto industry will need to do a better job at familiarizing car consumers with the great benefits of connected cars if they wish to stay ahead of the curve.

On Trend: Car Radio Going Digital

Earlier this week, Clear Channel, the media company that owns most of America’s big broadcast radio stations, changed its name to iHeartMedia, after its fast-growing digital-radio platform iHeartRadio. This rebranding effort puts Internet-based radio front and center, which makes sense in today’s digital age, when digital newcomers like Pandora and Spotify are challenging radio’s relevancy.

The car is the last bastion of traditional broadcast radio because very few cars have access to the Internet. But that’s about to change, as more cars become connected to the Internet and more digital radio services become available. According to a recent study by Edison Research and Triton Digital, over a quarter of U.S. smartphone owners has streamed radio from their handsets in cars, a sharp increase from a mere 6% just 4 year ago.


In fact, the gradual shift towards Internet-based radio is so evident that even Sirius, the biggest subscription-based satellite radio operator, is reportedly eyeing the move to digital radio. Right now, Sirius heavily relies on their partnership with automakers to get their satellite-radio receivers installed in the cars. But that will have to change if it wishes to compete with the likes of Pandora, which can be easily accessed from mobile devices.

That being said, broadcast FM.AM car radio will probably hang around a bit longer, because it’s free, easy to use, and benefits from a strong broadcast signal. As Internet connectivity in the car improves, however, the trend towards digital radio dominance is basically inevitable.

Google Leads In Autonomous Cars Influencers

When asked about driverless cars, which company do you think of first? According to a new study by Appinions, Google is dominating the current buzz over the most prestigious automakers in the market. As the ultimate form of connected cars, autonomous cars have been in public consciousness for a while now, mostly thanks to Google’s experimental efforts. With such high level of technology involved, it’s hardly surprising to see the tech overlord certified as the most influential player. Clearly, auto companies have some catching-up to do if they want to have a say in this growing market.