September 18, 2019
Millions of Americans drive their cars to work everyday. So why not make commuting a little more entertaining? The fledgling startup Drivetime claims it has found a solution in interactive — but hands-free — voice games built for the car.
"Our North Star is to become an interactive version of SiriusXM," CEO and founder Niko Vuori told Cheddar. "[There's] hundreds of channels. There's music, there's news, there's business, there's educational material. Whatever drivers are doing in the cars right now in a passive form of audio, we want to make that interactive, fun, engaging, and safe."
Right now, the startup, founded last year, offers trivia games, including a voice-driven version of Jeopardy (Drivetime made a deal with Sony to use the much-loved gameshow's content).
Access to Drivetime platform costs $9.99 a month, or $99.99 for a year.
The company knows it faces skepticism that its offerings might distract drivers from the road.
But Vuori argues that the company is "double-dipping" in safety by encouraging alertness, and adds that: "While you're playing Drivetime, and you're safely engaging in these hands-free, voice-based experiences that are designed specifically for that context of the car. You're not doing other things like checking your Facebook feed or checking Twitter."
Investors seem compelled. Earlier this month, Drivetime announced that it had raised another $11 million, bringing its total fundraising to $15 million. Much of that funding, Vuori said, will go towards producing new content for the Drivetime platform.
Drivetime appears a natural complement to smart assistants and smart speakers. In that vein, the startup has gotten the attention of two major tech companies, striking up investment from both the Google Assistant Investment Fund and the Amazon Alexa Fund.
"Google and Amazon are obviously focusing heavily on building voice assistants," he said. "And both [companies] are making big moves in the car. The car is, naturally, the right environment for voice to become the dominant form of interactivity. So we're kind of jumping on that."
Still, he emphasizes that Drivetime is ultimately 'platform agnostic,' explaining: "We don't mind how we reach the driver of the car."