Avis Budget Group, Pearl TV To Launch In-Car 3.0 Phoenix Trial In Early 2019

PHOENIX—Cars will soon regularly receive ATSC 3.0 signals from Phoenix broadcasters taking part in the latest facet of an ongoing trial of Next-Gen TV.

Pearl TV, which is leading the Phoenix Model Market project of 12 stations, and Avis Budget Group announced Oct. 15 they will begin testing various use cases for TV-delivered signals to passenger cars early next year.

“We are excited about it. There are great use cases for automotive, and they are an interesting company,” says Anne Schelle, Pearl TV managing director. “They are one of the largest fleet owners of cars and certainly positioning themselves for the future of connected cars and the shared car environment.”

Anne Schelle

Anne Schelle

Possible use cases extend beyond basic reception of OTA video and audio to a variety of interactive capabilities. “We have a general idea of the use cases,” says Schelle. “Now we are just working through the details.”

Avis Budget Group is “on a mission” to reinvent the consumer experience by leveraging mobile apps, digital platforms and connected cars, says Arthur Orduna, executive vice president and chief innovation officer for the rental car company. Information collected during the trial will help Avis Budget Group determine the best new in-car configurations to offer customers in the future, he adds.

Arthur Orduna

Arthur Orduna

One goal of the Phoenix Model Market project is to collect data on how consumers interact with ATSC 3.0 and as well as their preferences with the goal of assisting the TV industry in making a successful launch of standard around the country.

As part of those efforts, Pearl TV will release a consumer survey by month’s end to gauge consumer perceptions about Next-Gen TV content and quality. “We will also be asking consumers about automotive, so we will be able to reflect that in the trial as well,” says Schelle.

For the passenger car trial, OTA-delivered video and audio entertainment will be delivered to vehicles using the ATSC 3.0 interactive runtime environment with support for digital rights management and AC-4 multichannel audio decoding.

While planning is still ongoing, the types of reception devices under consideration include plug-in 3.0 receivers for installed entertainment systems, such as headrest screens, and mobile TV reception on tablets, according to Pearl TV.

For the interactive portion of the trial, various features are being considered, such as electronic guides, program-specific text overlays, rental car information, coupons and maps.

For later projects, software updates, map downloads and real-time traffic information could be delivered to cars from stations transmitting 3.0, according to Pearl TV.

Chetan Sharma, a consultant focused on mobile industry technology and strategy, says ATSC 3.0 along with satellite, Wi-Fi and cellular can provide a hybrid of communications services for vehicular data delivery. A telematics device can then decide at any given moment what’s the best mode of delivery for the vehicle.

“If you are at your house with a Wi-Fi hotspot, you download software,” says Sharma, who has authored a white paper on the topic, entitled “ATSC 3.0 Automotive Opportunity.”

“If you are on the road and there is a software update that’s needed or a mapping content update, then maybe ATSC 3.0 works better.”

Synchronization using a cellular network is essential for the backchannel link, which could verify that an upload via 3.0, Wi-Fi or satellite was successful, he says.

“With the hybrid model, you have more accessibility as an automobile OEM that you otherwise wouldn’t have,” he says, adding that multiple delivery paths add redundancy, which may prove to be particularly important for data bound for cars.

Both Sharma and Schelle agree that 3.0 OTA transmission makes delivery of data to vehicles far more economical than unicast transmission of data via a cell phone network. “With broadcast everybody gets the same content and the economics of its delivery work much better,” says Sharma.

Besides the one-to-many nature of broadcasting, 3.0 is particularly suited to this type of application because of its “levels of compression and the ability to deliver indoors,” says Schelle.

The economic equation also favors broadcasting from a deployment point of view, she says. “What it costs for us to deploy is minimal compared to what it costs the carriers to provide certain kinds of use cases,” says Schelle.

In Phoenix, Next-Gen TV transmission to vehicles will originate from the local Univision station, although a second 3.0 will likely be place by time the test begins and may also be used, says Schelle.

To date, the 3.0 transmission from the Univision station has proven it can reliably deliver data to moving cars, such as the one in which FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly rode this spring while visiting Phoenix for a firsthand look at the 3.0 deployment, she says.

Repeaters and boosters are under consideration for use during the trial with Budget Avis Group, but no definite plans for deployment have been made, Schelle adds.

For a comprehensive list of TV Technology’s ATSC 3.0 coverage, see our ATSC3 silo.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.