Honda Dream Drive: In-car Shopping, Marketing, Gamification

Expanding on last year’s concept, Honda is reintroducing “Dream Drive” for this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Previously a platform intended to provide passengers with augmented and virtual reality experiences, Double D now focuses primarily on in-car purchases. In fact, the service seems identical to General Motors’ Marketplace.

That’s right, Honda is entering the dark realm of in-car consumerism and twisted corporate partnerships.

The automaker is already working with Mastercard, Visa, and PayPal to build Dream Drive into a reality. As a byproduct, stored credit card information should make shopping while driving a little safer. Unfortunately, this kind of service comes with a host of issues that leaves us feel more than a little nervous.

Honda is keen to assuage our fears.

The biggest issue is safety. Paying for fuel and parking from the comfort of the driver’s seat is fine, but Honda also wants people to be able to make last-minute reservations at their favorite restaurant or shop for movie tickets while on the go. While this may be convenient, we’re not convinced it’s any safer than someone trying to manage the same activity via their phone.

The manufacturer handles with this by minimizing visual distractions and trying to implement voice commands wherever possible. Many features can be accessed by saying “OK, Honda,” plus the applicable request. It’s not clear how robust this aspect of Dream Drive will be.

Honda is partnering with companies like Chevron, Phillips 66, AAA, Parkopedia, Arrive, Atom Tickets, Grubhub and Yelp to handle the new business, but it’s also dealing with Univision Music, iHeartRadio, Silvergate Media, DC and Lego Group to build a media library to occupy restless passengers. Everything from music to comics to games are said to be available once the services officially launches.

While Dream Drive is still technically just a prototype, it’s one the automaker and its partners are throwing a lot of weight behind. The system is already compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

We imagine Honda, and just about every other industry player, will have their own in-car shopping service long before autonomous driving technology make such a service truly safe to use. But safety isn’t the only issue that needs to be addressed.

In-car marketing is poised to become a real problem, and soon. As safe as Honda and General Motors want to make these systems, their business partners will no doubt want to duke it out for preferential treatment in the menus to ensure you buy from them. This could swiftly evolve into some very distracting center displays if the automakers can’t exercise restraint.

Honda also said it wants to bake in some kind of rewards program. How exactly this would work is unclear at this stage. Presumably, repeated transactions will garner some kind of financial benefit toward subsequent in-car purchases. However, there is also some gamification going on with the Dream Drive app that simply awards passengers and drivers with “points” just for using it. Those points can be collected and used for … something.

“The gamification of everyday travel experiences with rewards points provides Honda with a unique opportunity to connect with its drivers and passengers, to establish a more personal engaging relationship with them, and to enhance customers’ daily lives with the automotive industry’s first frequent driving and riding program,” explained Bryan Biniak, CEO of Connected Travel. “Honda drivers and passengers earn points from common activities as well as extraordinary experiences created with market leading brands and developers, and then redeem their reward points at their favorite local and online retailers.”

Honestly, we don’t think Honda knows at this point. But it’s likely learned from mobile games using predatory micro-transactions that parsing out rewards over time is a good way to keep customers invested. Better to have the system in place and not use it than ignore a potential money-making scheme during the development phase.

There are also inherent security concerns associated with vehicles that are perpetually connected to the internet, endlessly transmitting data into the ether. But Honda says it’s tackling this problem with all the seriousness in the world. Of course, we wouldn’t expect an automaker to say otherwise.

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[Images: Honda]

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