Wireless Technologies

Rant: Microtransactions in cars

The future of the car is up for grabs. If companies can’t figure out a way to make money in new and inventive ways from cars, will they just resort to freemium models of car ownership and micro-transactions? Here’s a bleak look at where it could end.


“I got this car for free.”


“It’s kind of like Uber, I only pay as I go.”

“But you own the car?”

“Yeah, kinda. The guy at the dealership wasn’t clear, but he said there’s a few super cheap add-ons that pop up as required. Like I can buy a Spotify account or Netflix in my car. It’s all voice activated apparently.”

“Sounds weird, shall we go for a ride and try it out?”


“Go left here.”

--- Are you sure you want to go left? It’s 10p per direction to use indicators. Please note using indicators is a legal requirement.

“But I live in Milton Keynes. It’s full of roundabouts. I indicate about three times every time I change direction.”

---Do you want to buy a day pass to indicators? It’s currently only £2 for a day, £12 for a week, £40 for a month, or £400 for the year. Limited time offer.

“Fine. Can you turn down the heat slightly and turn the music up?

--- You haven’t unlocked temperature or volume controls yet. Unlock at 10,000 miles or spent £10 now?

“Don’t bother, I’ll use my phone.”

---It’s foggy, want to turn on the high beam lights?

“Yes please.”

---That’s £2 per night.

“In that case no.”

---Unsafe driving at night will cause your insurance premiums to go up.

“Fine. Turn the lights on. We’re nearly there now anyway, can you find me a space to park?”

--- To park this vehicle you need the Ottomotive® Parker® app. You’ve not downloaded the Ottomotive® Parker® app. Download now?

[Sighs] “How much is it?”

---The Ottomotive® Parker® app is free.

“Oh, ok then, download it and find me a space.”

--- it costs £1.99 to find a parking space using the Ottomotive® Parker® app. Buy now?

“Do I have a choice?”

---Would you like to buy 100 parking spaces for £100?


“Hey how’s your new freemium car going?”

“Scrapped it. Did the maths and it would have been cheaper to buy a regular car after about six months. I’m sticking with Uber.”

“Speaking of which, did you hear Uber only does driverless cars now? I read you can try them out for free.”

“Oh cool, let’s get one later.”


--- Welcome to your Uber-AI

“Home please.”

--- You’ve not unlocked seatbelts. It’s £5 per person to use seatbelts. Please note using seatbelts is a legal requirement. Do you want to buy a day pass to seatbelts?


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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