Honda's Dream Drive in-vehicle experience aims to gamify travel

Honda Dream Drive

Honda has unveiled its new Dream Drive innovation, which aims to deliver a whole new in-vehicle experience, at CES 2019. The thinking behind it is all about offering convenience. It’ll allow drivers and passengers to exploit the vast array of goods and services that are available on the web, but from the safety and comfort of their cars.

There are two variations on the theme, with one being based around the driver (er, it’s called Driver), while the other is aimed firmly at other occupants inside the car (this one is dubbed Passenger).

Frank Lin from the Honda Developer Studio took us for a drive from the SLS hotel to the Mandalay Bay, which is not far but far enough to pick over what was on offer. The vehicle was the chunky Honda Pilot SUV and, while we sat in the back, Frank took us on a tour of the experience that was set into the menu system of the integrated dashboard screen.

While the platform is designed to work using touchscreen technology, there is also going to be voice activation. Initially Honda Dream Drive will be compatible with Apple CarPlay, although the car maker says an Android edition is in the offing too. 

Touch and talk

Unfortunately, as is often the case when someone wants to demo a tech feature, the voice activation aspect of Dream Drive wasn’t playing ball. All three members of the Honda team inside the car gave it a go, but the system clearly wasn’t happy, although Frank did point out that it is still currently in beta stage, so fair enough.

We had more success taking a tour of the touchscreen features for the Passenger edition via an iPad, which involved tapping through a series of quick and easy initial registration screens.

From there you get to dip into a selection of menu options that offer all sorts of distractions for passengers who might be bored and need entertaining. So, for example, Honda has a number of kid-centric options available, having struck a deal with Lego and other providers for content. We had a go on the Octonauts demonstration, which includes an immersive augmented reality edge to it.

The only real downside to this sort of thing in a car is if it might make children feel a little bit nauseous, to which Frank said that was the whole point of the testing stage. Again, fair enough to that one.

Entertainment, shopping and more

Honda first unveiled an incarnation of the Dream Drive system at CES last year and the company has since been hard at work trying to drum up interest from potential collaborators. That could be the biggest hurdle to overcome. The version we saw in action was obviously very US-focused, with brands like Atom Tickets, Chevron, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Grubhub, Glympse, iHeartRadio, IPS Group, Arrive, Parkopedia, Phillips 66, Yelp, and USAA all on offer. Presumably the real legwork will be getting other companies around the world to buy into the idea.

Honda wants Dream Drive to not only provide entertainment on the go, but also solutions for time poor people who might as well be shopping, buying tickets for gigs as well as doing more mundane things like paying for parking as they head down the road.

To boost the appeal the interface also injects a little bit of fun into the mix by awarding points to each registered user, and the more people make use of the system the more rewards points they accumulate. These can subsequently be used to acquire voucher discounts with the brands that are on-board.

Honda Dream Drive

For example, the Honda Dream Drive demonstration also showcased how the company wants to simplify in-vehicle payment technology with a deal they’ve done with Visa. We found car parking options in an instant. Mastercard and PayPal are said to be pending too.

Drivers can pay for goods and services such as fuel and the aforementioned parking as well as snapping up movie tickets and suchlike on the go. And that’s just the Driver aspect of the idea. Passengers, on the other hand, can get the most from mixed reality games, as well as watching movies and playing around with apps.

Another interesting aspect of the tablet side of things is that passengers can swipe a tab in from the left-hand side of their screen and get presented with options for controlling options like the cabin settings. While we thought it was a fun way of letting interior occupants other than the driver change fan and temperature settings, it appears to have the potential for causing plenty of in-car arguments as passengers and the driver battle it out for climate control supremacy. 

Gamification of travel

Nevertheless, despite the initial glitches and the relatively spartan choice of partners so far Honda’s Dream Drive has the potential to become a great resource for owners. And, with so many people loving their online deals and discounts along, with the ongoing temptation of being able to accumulate points in return for retail benefits, the idea could really catch on.

“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,” said Bryan Biniak, CEO of Connected Travel, the supplier of cloud-based platform services that Honda has been collaborating with on the project. 

“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 favourite local and online retailers.” 

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Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.