Electric cars should stream TV when they are fast-charging
The question every electric car buyer asks is how convenient charging will be, and how much will the range limit my travel - known as "range anxiety."
Once cars get over about 200 miles of range, they tend to eliminate most such anxiety for drives in an urban area. Fast charging, such as Tesla superchargers, fills in the gap for road trips or days with extremely high amounts of driving. In normal use, it's less work and time to plug the car in each night than it is to visit a gas station and fill up once or twice a week the way gasoline drivers do.
Supercharging still takes more time. People tend to spend at least 20 minutes, which can gain them about as much as 120 miles of extra range, though they often spend longer if not in a hurry or on a long trip. Here, it loses to the gasoline fill-up, in that the fill-up only takes about 3 minutes and you usually don't have to go very far out of your way for one, unless you are nuts about price. So people want an activity when supercharging. If it's meal time, there is usually somewhere to eat at the charging stations -- though sometimes the selection can be quite limited, and you usually want a fast meal, not a lingering sit-down restaurant. What shopping there is can be quite variable.
The answer for many is to stare at your phone, where you can always entertain yourself, and we probably do too much of that as it is. Or to read a book (probably on your phone.)
In my house we are "cord cutters" meaning we watch all our TV over the internet. Sites like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu replace cable TV. So a good thing to do is to watch the TV we already were going to watch while waiting for the charge. And you can do this on your phone just fine, though it's a very small screen. Last night, charging in the Tesla, I put the audio from the phone onto the car speakers via Bluetooth -- good audio, but out of sync with the video. There are also questions of bandwidth in some places, and bandwidth cost.
The Tesla has a big screen right in the dashboard. In fact, it is the dashboard. Many cars have screens, though some not so large. So it would be sweet to be able to watch these cord-cutting video services on that screen, while charging. If it's TV we were already going to watch, it makes the charging take no real time out of the day. A decent sized screen, a comfortable chair and good speakers -- it's most of what you need.
There are rules in several states about having a screen which can play video in view of the driver, which can interfere with this. In a sane world, those rules should not prohibit video in a car that's parked or charging. Indeed, many of the laws do only prohibit use while driving, but others say no screen that can show TV can be visible to the driver. This allows those screens in the back seat on the headrests, but strict rules in one state sometimes limit what OEMs will put in cars.
Nobody's tried to get around these rules because normally, the car is hardly the sort of place you want to watch TV in when parked.
Without such rules, Tesla should let you watch YouTube, Netflix and the rest when parked, and certainly when charging. In fact, they should encourage it, as a way to make charging less of a burden. To go further, they should try to get apps for Netflix and Amazon prime that, like the phone versions, can pre-download your chosen videos. That way no cellular bandwidth is needed. Though frankly, if you are paying for charging, they could throw in a little LTE bandwidth for the video. Better though if your car pre-downloads your expected selections while on the home WiFi. Sadly, the storage space is not available unless you use a USB flash drive, and the streaming services are paranoid about downloads residing on those, even encrypted as these probably would be.
Or, most effective at all, put in enough Wifi at the charging stations to support video streams -- as well as other internet use by customers.
Otherwise, for now it means a smaller screen and more expensive bandwidth. For whatever reason, I find watching the clips from the late night talk shows which show up on YouTube to be a better occupier of charging time than 20 minutes of online reading. Other tastes will vary.
Update: Elon Musk has tweeted this should show up in the next major OS revision. But no other details. ~