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Automakers will soon be battling your phone for screen time

With Sony and Honda entering into a Memorandum of Understanding to create and sell an electric car by 2025, the internet is full of varying takes on whether or not this is a good or bad thing.

Sony doesn’t make cars now, so it makes sense that if the company wants to sell a car, it’ll have to partner with someone who does. It also makes sense for Honda to be that partner, as we haven’t really heard much about Honda’s EV strategy other than potentially a couple of cars that are built with GM’s Ultium battery technology.

Now I’ve decided that I’m going to throw my take into the fray with why I think this is a good idea, and why I think Sony will be able to do some things even better than Tesla does.

A designer friend of mine and I once had a discussion about Tesla’s infotainment system, and all of the games and tricks it does. Things like Fart Mode, Boombox, and games like Sonic The Hedgehog are stuff that people talk about, but it’s more than that. It keeps people engaged with the screen in the car, and not the screen on the phone.

While you are sitting and charging your car, you need something to do. Opening up your phone is the logical choice, and now you are out of the car’s ecosystem. Firing up a game on the infotainment system, like you can in Tesla cars, keeps you in Elon-land.

Right now, that might not mean a lot, as Tesla is just providing entertainment and the word-of-mouth advertising that comes with owners telling others about the games. But Elon is also training drivers to go to the screen in the car first.

A Sony car would also lean heavily on keeping drivers engaged in the vehicle, and to defaulting to their phones. Obviously PlayStation integration is a smart move, and a move Sony will likely take.

Once you’re trained to stay on the screen, then you’re now a captive audience to the automaker. You could make purchases through the PlayStation store, such as buying a new game or getting a DLC. Of course it’d sync with your PlayStation online account, so all of your achievements and saves are automatically synced.

Tesla is working with game developers to bring titles to its infotainment system, but if Sony’s hardware can run PlayStation games natively, it’d have a serious competitive advantage in getting content out.

“Is this all just a money making scheme?” Businesses are in business to make money, and the screen in the car is the next battleground for attention. Attempts up until now have failed simply because people aren’t in their cars for any extended period of time not moving.

That’s different with an electric car. Even if you’re sitting to charge for 10 minutes, it’s 10 minutes of opportunity that didn’t exist before.

I hope that it doesn’t end up being an ad-infested wasteland, but it is possible that we’re going to see some truly new and innovative stuff here soon. That could be fun.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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