Audi Wants To Make it Easier to Pay Tolls

Companies like EZPass on the East Coast, FasTrak in California and TxTag in Texas have been helping people get through tolls faster with electronic tag devices for years. But soon, they’ll be in competition with cars that have electronic toll technology built in.

Starting with their new electronic vehicle e-tron, Audi is launching what they’re calling “Integrated Toll Module.” The technology leverages a toll transponder within the car’s rear-view mirror. Drivers will be able to pair their cars with wireless toll payment accounts, eliminating the need for a physical electronic tag.

audi e tron features integrated electronic toll tag technology module

The system places a toll transponder into the car’s rear-view mirror. From there, drivers will be able to pair their vehicle with their wireless toll accounts So there’s no more need to mount and deal with physical electronic tag devices on the upper portion of the windshield, or on the front license plate.

Audi says its Integrated Toll Modules are already compatible with existing toll agencies, meaning it will be easy to register new accounts and to drive cross-country between different toll authorities.

Why It’s Hot

Paying for tolls is a major hassle and source of traffic. Having technology built into cars to alleviate this problem can make many drivers’ daily commutes and longer trips significantly more pleasant.


Car Search Site Offers REAL People As Concierge

For those of you in search of a new car, like I recently was, you’ll know how much of a pain it can be.  First you have to know what features you want, figure out your budget, etc.  Then, you have to actually go to the dealership and test drive, spend hours haggling, etc.

There’s a new website out there called Copilot Search.  It will help you along the entire car buying process, offering a discovery engine (if you don’t know what car you want, but know what FEATURES you want, it will scape everything available and provide you with recommendations).  Next to that, they have the same tools as dealerships do, so you can truly identify what you should be paying.  What’s most amazing about this site though, is the one on one free concierge service.  When you sign up, there is a real person that can help you through the car buying experience and make your most educated choice.  In a world where chat bots are everywhere, this is taking a step back to truly servicing a customer and their needs, when they’re preparing to spend tens of thousands of dollars.

Why It’s Hot

Sometimes I think businesses get too focused on technology and forget about how to truly service a customer.  This site has strong service (I actually didn’t think my “copilot” was real… that’s how rampant chat bots are- but then I had an actual conversation with him on the phone!) and offers something that has been lacking in the car buying space.  Before I discovered it, I had a spreadsheet (yes, I know I’m anal retentive!) of the features I wanted and the vehicles I was thinking of.  I actually didn’t even know the car I ended up buying existed until I found Copilot and used their Discovery Engine (you don’t know what you don’t know).  As people servicing brands, we always have to keep in mind that service has to be #1- if the technology that exists now creates a lackluster experience, it may not be worth it in the long run.

Note: I’m not getting paid to support this site!

Mission E

Porsche’s first fully electric car is set to hit the roads in 2019. Although revealed back in 2015, the car is finally in its final development stages. The Mission E is said to go 300 miles on a single full battery, a top projected speed of over 250 km/h (155mph) and goes from 0-100 km/h in 3.5 seconds. It’s starting price is also likely to start around $80,000 USD. So what does this mean for Telsa and its Model S that also reaches top speed of 250 km/h and goes from 0-97 km/h in 3.1 seconds? Well, for starters the Model S is still going to be in a lower price range, meaning Porsche may still dominate in the category of high-class luxury.

Why it’s hot:
The microsite for Mission E is quite the experience, it almost makes me want to get one, but unfortunately being broke doesn’t help. It’s designed to feel incredibly futuristic and advanced, giving off an elegant, sleek, and luxurious feel.

Flying cars? Almost.Porsche - Mission E[+][+]


Fast and Furious the Ride: Faster and Furious-er

fasForget the commercials you’ve seen on television, the “Fast and Furious – Supercharged” ride at Universal Studios Hollywood is totally different than you’re expecting. The tram drives into a car garage similar to what you would see in any of the Fast and Furious films. The startling part takes place when actors Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriquez (in the roles of Dominic Toretto and Letty Ortiz) literally appear before you.

“It’s done with new technology which was developed by Universal Studios to deliver a real dimensional experience and the ability to look like realistic actors walking around,” said Executive Show Producer Chick Reynolds.

Then, as you’re appreciating the technology that placed these actors in front of you, you begin to race through the streets of Los Angeles going 100 miles per hour, being chased and dodging debris being flung at you.

All of this happens while the tram you’re sitting in hasn’t moved at all. According to Reynolds, it is a combination of flight simulation, synced with motion and adding wind queues to trick the brain into believing it’s real.

Source: ‘Fast and Furious’ Ride

Why It’s Hot: New advancements in technology not only make our lives easier and more efficient, they also transform the previously redundant into something magical and exciting – it’s rides like these that remind us to step back and smell the roses, to have a little fun in our rapidly moving lives.

Uber Courts Short-Term Drivers with Pilot Leasing Program

In order to be an Uber driver, you need wheels. And the nicer wheels they are, the more likely you are to be well-rated and continue to getting business. Knowing this, Uber is beginning a pilot program called Xchange Leasing to offer drivers more flexible lease terms and hopefully increase its supply of drivers.

For a deposit of $250 and a higher monthly payment than typical lease, drivers can secure a lease on 2013 Toyota Corolla in a three-year lease. To coax drivers into the higher monthly costs, terms of the deal do not limit drivers to a mileage maximum. Drivers can also break the three-year term for a $250 penalty fee. Drivers will also have the option to buy the vehicle at the end of their lease term.


The pilot is currently running in California, Maryland and Georgia.

Why It’s Hot

Uber’s new pilot is an interesting approach to solving a major barrier to growth: its supply of drivers. It may not be an advantageous lease deal for everyone given the higher costs, but the added flexibility to “get out” could be an attractive way of getting over the trial burden for some would-be drivers and help the service expand into new markets quickly.

Via re/code

Volvo Designs a Luxury Rear-Facing Child Seat



Volvo‘s design team has re-imagined child safety in vehicles and come up with the Excellence Child Seat Concept, which offers a number of new functions. They have thought about how the space left by removing a front passenger seat could be utilized, adding in a child seat that swivels counter-clockwise when the child is being strapped in and then locks in a rear-facing position.

Storage for small items is located beside the seat, with an area underneath for diapers, blankets and other larger items, and enough space for a tote bag at the front of the seat under the dashboard. For extra comfort and convenience, the Excellence Child Seat Concept offers a function to let small children safely lean back and sleep, while the heated cup holders in the XC90 Excellence help keep a bottle warm.


Volvo’s clear safety position is that small children should travel rearward facing as long as possible (at least up to the age of three), due to the lack of muscular strength in the necks of small children and the disproportionate head size and weight in relation to the body. Also, being able to maintain eye contact with their child from the rear seat could help make things easier for parents during a car journey.

This concept aims to add a luxury touch to Volvo’s portfolio while redefining the way a car’s interior can be used to suit customers’ needs.

Tisha Johnson, Chief Designer of Interiors at Volvo Cars Concept and Monitoring Centre, said:

We started by asking ourselves if we could make life easier for parents and safer for their children when it comes to the child seat experience.

We focused on three key benefits: making it easier to get the child into and out of the child seat from an ergonomic and comfort perspective, providing the child with a safe rearward facing seating position that enables it to keep eye contact with either the driver or the rear passenger and of course including enough storage for those vital child accessories, such as diapers, bottles, wipes, and so on.


Why It’s Hot

This is a good example of a brand picking something to stand for and going with it. It’s also more than the car seat function — it’s the style and the extras in terms of storage and convenience that they’ve included as well.

You have to wonder if it’s a good long-term purchase, though. If you keep a car for 10 years on average, but your child needs a car seat for only 3, is it a good investment? Maybe lease this one? Or have a few babies 3 years apart?

Innovative OOH from Audi in Germany

This Audi Emits Nothing but Water Vapor, So Its Billboards Are Made of That Too.


Innovative products deserve advertising that itself is innovative. This Audi campaign from German agency thjnk does a nice job of that.

The Audi A7 Sportback h-tron uses a fuel cell coupled with a hybrid battery and additional electric motor in the rear. Notably, nothing but water vapor comes out of the exhaust. And so, Audi created billboards that similarly leave nothing behind.

It’s clever and intriguingly produced, though it’s not quite clear how the effect is achieved. In any case, it’s perhaps most reminiscent of 2012’s “Invisible Car” campaign for Mercedes,which also promoted zero-emission fuel-cell technology—by draping the car with an LED “costume” that made it look invisible.

Source: Adweek 

Why It’s Hot: I like the alignment between the product claim to fame and the execution of the OOH ad — it’s a good way to get consumers to “get it” while also grabbing attention and intrigue.

Google Brings Us One Step Closer to Driverless Cars

As a convenient new year follow-up to my previous post on Google Cars, Google unveiled last week the most recent installment in the driverless cars project. The tech giant has been road-testing autonomous cars since 2012. In response, lawmakers in Michigan, Nevada, California, Florida, Texas and Washington D.C. passed legislation permitting and regulating the use of autonomous cars on public roads.

Google unveiled its first full prototype for a self-driving vehicle. Though they have been testing their autonomous driving equipment in Lexus SUVs and Toyota Pruis models, Google opted to design their own car and announced that decision last May. The new design is compact and designed to be fuel efficient.

The driverless prototype and the test models are loaded with equipment that, at least in theory, make the car far more “aware” and safe on the road than an average human being:

  • A LIDAR system that maps the surrounding area in 3D to precision within a single inch, allowing the car to “see” without headlights
  • Upgrades to the lane, parking and collision prevention assistance already installed on high-end human-driven cars, all of which were the first steps toward fully automatic driving.
  • GPS connection to plan routes, which may soon be expanded to include collective route planning in a vehicular “hive mind” that optimized commute speed
  • Connectivity to server farms for high-load tasks so the car never suffers from lag.
  • Radar to measure the speed of nearby vehicles
  • Internal sensors to track car speed and direction to figure its position according to dead reckoning as well as GPS connect

It’s also worth noting that a driverless car never suffers fatigue, gets drunk, uses drugs or answers text messages while in motion. Since over 90% of traffic accidents and fatalities are attributable to driver error, it’s likely a highway full of autonomous cars will be safer than the ones we drive now. The performance record of Google’s test models support this hypothesis.


Why It’s Hot

I love the prospects of this for so many reasons. This is big news from a safety perspective and a great example of how technology can really change the way we live. There are definitely hurdles ahead in terms of behavior change, but I can absolutely picture myself in one of these asap!

Volvo Tells Millennials It’s Okay to Look Back

Millennials have been called the largest and most influential generation of consumers ever. The generation of people now 18 to 34 years old represents an estimated $1.3 trillion in spending. In the U.S., by 2030, Millennials will likely outnumber baby boomers 78 million to 56 million—and they are forming lifelong shopping preferences and habits now.

This group is known to identify with brands more personally than others – making it imperative that companies cultivate and foster a relationship with these individuals to ensure life-long brand advocacy. Recognizing that the first Millennials are reaching peak buying power, some companies are seeking to resonate with this audience by playing up the feeling of nostalgia in campaigns.

Volvo’s new spot manipulates their millennial target into feeling reminiscent of the days they spent growing up in the third row of a Volvo station wagon. The voice over drives the spot home stating, “And really, who wants to look backwards, when you can look forward?”

Possibly one of the best examples of brand positioning towards the Millennial crowd through nostalgia is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer spot “Child of the 90s.” Although this became a viral sensation, reviews were mixed if it was successful in winning back a generation now loyal to Firefox and Chrome.

Why It’s Hot

As a quintessential Millennial and a marketer, Volvo’s spot strikes a cord, but will I’m not yet convinced it has the legs to encourage fellow Millennials to go out and purchase a Volvo. My generation is unpredictable, we value authenticity and we have a BS-radar more keen than others leaving it up to debate how best to capture our ever-fleeting attention. Brands must find an original approach when relating to young consumers, and although Volvo’s forward-and-backward metaphor is pseudo-philosophy, it got me thinking that maybe nostalgia is the right first step to grab and keep a brand top of mind.

Read more here. 

Google Takes the Driver Completely Out of the Equation

Google has begun building a fleet of 100 experimental electric-powered vehicles that will dispense with all the standard controls found in modern automobiles. In the two-seat vehicle, the only things the driver controls is a red “e-stop” button for panic stops and a separate start button. The current plan is to conduct pilot tests in California, starting with ferrying Google employees between buildings around its sprawling corporate campus here.

This is a change from the “original” plan for self-driving cars with a mechanism to return control of the steering wheel to the driver in case of emergency. Google engineers realized that asking a human passenger — who could be reading or daydreaming or even sleeping — to take over in an emergency won’t work.

In the future, Google hopes to persuade regulators that the cars can operate safely without driver, steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedal. Those cars would rely entirely on Google sensors and software to control them.

Source: New York Times

Why It’s Hot

Although relatively terrifying at first, I can imagine a time where self-driving cars are the norm and we can’t remember what it was like to get behind the wheel. If everyone has one of these vehicles, could we actually be safer?

Before it becomes even that widespread, there are interesting implications for public transportation alternatives, such as driverless taxis.