Although you can already unlock, set navigation, and alter the climate control of your car remotely via smartphone apps, it's still a new frontier for most people. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg; connected and autonomous vehicles will soon reshape how we spend time on the road.
The music playing from your Echo will continue seamlessly from your living room to your car, and you will make purchases through natural voice recognition and fingerprint scanning technology on your steering wheel (if you still have one). Your insurance premium will be calculated and automatically paid each day you use your car, depending on your driving style and location. You will create playlists, stream your favourite television programmes and play video games as your car navigates itself around traffic. On a normal commute, you can answer emails, edit documents, accept car pool request notifications. A personalised digital advertisement will flash at you as your drive past. You may even arrive at the office four minutes early and £6 better off, having given Jenny from finance a ride to work.
Technology is paving the way for these visions to become reality in the near future. In 2015, Tesla unveiled its autopilot system, part of a suite of driver assistance systems which include auto lane change and autopark. Last year, Elon Musk stated that his company was two years away from full autonomy. Ford also expects to have driverless ride-sharing cars without a steering wheel, brake or accelerator on the road by 2021.
As the distinction between the driver and the passenger becomes blurred, the demand for increasingly immersive in-car entertainment will rise. But before cars become our 'third living space', there is a plethora of commercial, legal and even ethical considerations to tackle.
Savvy market stakeholders are now seeking to capture a share of the significant revenue streams that will flow as a result of the proliferation of connected cars. In doing so, they are having to consider complex media rights and regulatory issues. How will audio and audio-visual content be licensed, stored, and delivered? Who will control access to media and entertainment in the car? These questions will be amplified further when autonomous driving is introduced, paving the way for car-pooling and car-sharing services to flourish. As content and interactive entertainment is streamed to the car, companies in the sector will fight to corner their share of this new and exciting market.
The many benefits enjoyed by drivers of connected cars are often also accompanied by rewards for those delivering services, not least in the form of valuable data sets. But with great data comes greater responsibility. As media consumption patterns and use of technology shift in-car, the potential for both conscious and unintentional collection of personal data by those who would not normally be in a position to do so increases. Those manufacturing, operating, providing services for and in relation to connected and autonomous cars therefore need to be aware of how they can and can not legally process data to avoid significant penalties.
Hurtling toward the future of four-wheeled transport is exciting, and negotiations between manufacturers, platforms, content providers and regulators - particularly around issues such as exclusivity and level of integration - are likely to have a big impact on consumers' purchasing decisions, particularly when considering that autonomous and semi-autonomous cars are set to deliver an extra hour of free time to each drivers' day. Those companies who lead the way in delivering content, entertainment and services to car drivers and passengers will have to navigate through a complex contractual and regulatory environment, although few disagree that the potential for the in-car market is huge.