Marketplace also limits options. For example, a Starbucks customer can order from the car while it is being driven, but only a few choices, based on previous orders, will be displayed. And the format is standardized so drivers know where to look and what to do no matter which vendor’s page they open, helping them remain focused on the road.
Marketplace vendors either pay an upfront fee to be included or give G.M. a share of sales. It’s not a huge revenue stream, but it’s better than no revenue.
On a web page aimed at merchants that hope to sell directly to drivers, the automaker writes: “Marketplace is the spark to ignite a shift in how consumers are immersed into vehicle experiences. With a first-of-its-kind branded ecosystem, Marketplace enables businesses to seamlessly integrate into drivers’ daily lives.”
Other automakers are taking advantage of in-car communication on a smaller scale. BMW Connected now allows vehicle owners to speak to Alexa from the car, using the car’s onboard modem, no smartphone required. The automaker has not added vendors to its system, but car owners can ask Alexa to place orders.
Land Rover’s Touch Pro Duo system communicates via an in-car modem and can find filling stations and provide traffic information. Mercedes-Benz offers a system called Mercedes Me. An app that provides control functions is installed on a cellphone or other personal device, and the car communicates with the owner via the vehicle’s onboard modem. The system enables the creation of “geofence” boundaries. If the automobile is driven beyond a boundary, it sends a message to the car owner.
Audi has added a feature called Traffic Light Information, which “talks” to stoplights and can tell drivers how long they will have to wait before the light changes to green. It works only in the few cities, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and Washington, that have installed the necessary hardware.
While automakers and industry consultants are thinking about how in-car communication will work, others, like Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are thinking about ways to ensure that these features won’t introduce new hazards.