ATX Introduces In-Vehicle Audio Messaging

ATX, a provider of automotive telematics solutions, earlier this week launched an interactive voice response (IVR) voice messaging service that allows car manufacturers and dealerships to reach out to customers in a more effective and timely way: right at the moment when they are behind the wheel.

The messages played, though, are not like ads, but rather, “relevant information to the driver of the vehicle,” explains Tom Schalk, vice president of voice technology at ATX. “It's like getting a personal voice mail from your service manager reminding you your car is due for servicing,”

Among the types of messages that are possible are those related to seasonal maintenance checks, manufacturer promotions, and local dealer promotions. In one instance, drivers of a specific car model were invited to register for a free test drive of the new 2009 version of the same car they currently leased or owned.

Additional opportunities for criteria-based messaging could include promoting in-vehicle safety, such as directions for the proper installation of specific child safety seats; educating vehicle owners about unused vehicle features; or alerting drivers of location-specific weather, incident, or road/traffic conditions in their vicinities or along their routes. Another area of great potential for this technology is in the issuance of Amber Alerts for missing or abducted children, Schalk says.

Messages are typically triggered when a driver presses the telematics service button in his car to access a service, such as driving directions or traffic updates. Specific audio messages can be stored at ATX's telematics response center and activated by off-board intelligence. Time, vehicle location, remote diagnostics, a promotional event, or even a nearby point of interest can also be designated as triggers. 

“The telematics response center outside the car knows a lot about the car, where the vehicle is, what time of year it is, etc.,” Schalk says.

The messages broadcast through the car’s audio systems. Once the message starts, the driver can elect to hear more, stop the message at any time, or establish a direct, in-vehicle connection to a preferred dealership to arrange service, for example. Vehicle owners can always opt out of receiving the messages.

And for the dealerships, car manufacturers, and others who create the messages, the system “is very flexible. You can change the message fairly quickly and easily,” Schalk says.

“Clear data shows that by simply changing the style of the prompting, you can influence the driver’s mood,” he adds.

“People respond to it very well. Vehicle service reminders, for example, have seen a better than 20 percent response,” Schalk maintains.

Preliminary dealership analysis of the product has yielded five to six times more repairs scheduled than direct mailing notifications. ATX is, of course, optimistic that the demand for these services will increase.

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