Ten years on from the first iPhone, and our lives, and even the way our brains are wired, have been fundamentally changed far more than we could have ever imagined. Fast-forward another 20 years from today, and you will see a network effect of purely connected autonomous cars transporting us in new ways, making life and death decisions, and blending the line between physical and digital worlds. Britons have become so reliant on their cars that most spend more than one working day (10 hours) every week driving—that’s the equivalent to 520 hours of time given back to you in productivity that you could spend doing something else. So, as marketers and as consumers, our lives will be very different. Media consumption will evolve dramatically as well.
The How And When Of Autonomous Cars
Like a pilot in a plane, imagine switching on your autopilot, then sit back and relax. The car will steer, accelerate, and brake by itself to get you safely to your destination. First-generation autonomous cars rely on lidar sensors to map objects in 3D by bouncing laser beams. Remarkably, it is accurate to a few centimetres from a distance of 100 metres.
The form factor of the car itself will change. For example, Waymo, an autonomous car development company spun out of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is innovating the materials used in cars, creating a type of flypaper to stick pedestrians to the car bonnet to protect from secondary impact. Moral aspects and safety are key. Eventually, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk predicts, people will not be able to drive cars, as computers can do it better, and it will be safer. “You can’t have a person driving a two-ton death machine,” he said.
Technologically speaking, we are not far from making the driverless car vision a reality. And as we’ve seen with the likes of Apple and Starbucks in terms of customer experience excellence, blending software, hardware, and empathy is the key for carmakers to be successful going forward. Tesla is due to launch vehicles in 2018, with Nissan and Honda launching in 2020, and then BMW and Ford in 2021.
The How Much Of Autonomous Car Ownership
Autonomous cars are predicted to cost upwards of £200,000, making the ownership out of reach for most people, until economies of scale and lidar prices drop—so rental may be the only option. Given that Daimler, Ford, and PSA have invested in rental and ride-sharing services, many believe that car ownership will become a thing of the past. It looks like the trend of people renting rather than owning a car is set to continue. The same thing has happened with streaming. Spotify has changed the music industry to mean people see music as something to be accessed and streamed, not physically owned. Which, in turn, has changed the customer experience and the way the music industry makes money. Car ownership will be transformed in much the same way.
Ford is, certainly, at the forefront of this change. “We’re developing self-driving technology because the world is changing rapidly,” Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice-president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, said. “For many people who live in large cities, owning a car is no longer a viable choice.”
Big Changes For Brands
Ford’s Marakby commented: “One thing is certain, self-driving technology will change the way business is done.” Vis and Accenture have partnered to create the connected commerce car, to embed commerce into the internet of things. While driving in a connected car, you can place grocery orders, pay for them via the car dashboard, and pick up the items at the curb.
It is easy to imagine a world where your physical and mobile wallet is overtaken by connected wallets such as smart devices, or cars, or even biometrics where you pay with your face.
The idea that you will interact with a brand such as McDonald’s through a car is not too far-fetched. You can talk to your car, pre-order your food, and the car will pick it up for you. It’s like having a concierge service for everyday chores that you don’t want to do yourself. Being top of mind and creating a connected experience across the physical and digital is where it’s at. If you make life easy, and save people time, like we have seen with the success of Netflix or Spotify, people will thank you for it with greater share of mind and share of wallet.
Evolving Media Consumption And Interfaces
Cars will become our “third living space” and fundamentally impact media. We spend so much time on our mobile, when we gain back more productivity time, we will inevitably consume more content via our connected car. A key channel will be the screens, holograms, and audio experience within a driverless car. As the vehicle is AI-powered, the moments you have will become mobile moments, but in an entirely new way. Without the need to concentrate on the road, people will consume more content, turning downtime into uptime. Consumption of on-demand services such as Netflix via 5G will rise.
There will be new and interesting mobile moment opportunities, and messaging apps and interfaces will gain even more share of time. Voice, gesture, and even mind-controlled interfaces will enter the car and let us be driven, entertained, and be more productive.
It is well within the realm of possibility that hologram-based programmatic out-of-home advertising may gain traction. Like with the “Ghost in the Shell” or “Minority Report” movies, traditional media formats are becoming more intelligent, more personal, and more impactful.
The driverless car will impact on a range of industries, from insurance, to travel, to media and job markets, and one thing is for sure—the autonomous car will change how we live our lives, it will evolve customer experience and marketing and, perhaps most importantly, reduce the loss of life on the roads. The separation between the physical and digital world will be blurred as will the role of the car in commerce and mobility.