Autonomous and connected vehicles could create unprecedented new media and entertainment options for passengers. For marketers and media companies, it’s not too soon to begin rethinking the transit experience.
For most of automotive history, drivers have been limited when it comes to entertainment in their vehicles. With their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, they’ve had little choice but audio entertainment—music, news, talk radio, or audiobooks—to break the monotony of the morning commute or endless road trip. That likely will change with the rise of autonomous vehicles, which could usher in a new era of in-transit media experiences.
In the United States, drivers collectively spend more than 160 million hours going from point A to point B each day—some 47 minutes per citizen per day, seven days a week.¹ With the emergence and proliferation of autonomous vehicles, those drivers will, in theory, become passengers who can spend their transit time in entirely new ways. For media companies and marketers alike, such a seismic shift in personal mobility could present a range of opportunities for connecting with audiences.
Consider the road trip of the future in a hypothetical large, self-driving family van. The interior is configured for various purposes such as entertainment, productivity, and relaxation. One passenger selects the productivity setting on her individual touch screen and catches up on work email, while her husband listens to a jazz playlist through an individually targeted speaker system. Meanwhile, one of the couple’s two children watches a movie on her individual screen via the family’s streaming service account, while her brother plays an augmented reality (AR) racing game set on the very road on which the family is traveling. At dinner time, using voice-activated controls, the family asks an automated system for restaurant recommendations along the route. A menu of options with ratings, hours, and directions fills the AR windshield. The vehicle system uses the family’s dining history and preferences to highlight tailored offers and discounts.
‘For media companies and marketers alike, such a seismic shift in personal mobility could present a range of opportunities for connecting with audiences.’
Achieving such a future state will likely involve a diverse mix of players, including auto designers and manufacturers; mobility-as-a-service providers that integrate content libraries, streaming subscriptions, and social networking into vehicles; infrastructure enablers that provide a ubiquitous network of fast and reliable connectivity; and experience enablers that offer content in various forms.
With a mobility ecosystem in place, in-transit entertainment experiences could include the following variety of potential content offerings and marketing opportunities:
Video/broadcast. Technology advances are making it increasingly plausible that a vehicle’s interior walls and ceiling could become high-definition touch screens that incorporate AR or virtual reality (VR). This would require creators and distributors of content to radically reimagine the video entertainment experience. New possibilities could include interactive, 360-degree entertainment that gives passengers the experience of being in the center of a concert, sitcom, or action movie. Beyond traditional video options such as scripted shows, news, or documentaries, content could include, for example, short reviews of restaurants for a passenger on her way out to dinner based on data about her dining habits.
Advertising. New forms of content delivery could drive increased customer engagement—and increased ROI—for advertisers. Traditional outdoor media like billboards could evolve from static, mass-market messaging to more targeted advertising, bringing the sophistication of digital media to out-of-home campaigns. Clear Channel Outdoor, for example, has begun investing in these capabilities through an analytics suite that uses aggregated, anonymous mobile data to understand travel patterns and enables advertisers to buy out-of-home displays designed to reach specific audience segments.
As vehicles evolve to include more screens that are interactive or feature AR technology, in-vehicle display advertising also could provide a new level of mobile audience engagement with highly personalized messaging. The combination of these technologies and car sharing could even give rise to “sponsored” routes past advertisers’ locations. Advertisers could present longer, more targeted ads and even offer passengers the option to purchase while in transit.
Music. In-vehicle streaming music could evolve to be seamlessly delivered and highly customized—for example, incorporating a traveler’s preferences or continuing a playlist already in progress at home. This could be especially critical for shorter trips, during which riders might otherwise not bother to make a selection. Sirius XM’s $480 million investment in Pandora suggests that media executives recognize the importance of providing high-quality radio content on demand—and of being able to offer it across multiple modes and business models, including ad-supported and subscription.
Gaming. AR and VR technologies, combined with vehicle connectivity and autonomy, could create new forms of mobile interactive gaming. In AR- and VR-enabled self-driving vehicles, passengers could interact not only with the surrounding environment but also with other vehicles and passengers. Gamers could fend off hostile aliens attacking the vehicle from the surrounding city or mountain landscape on AR windows; play movement-based games to break up extended periods of inactivity on long road trips; or engage in multiplayer games with passengers in surrounding vehicles. All these gaming experiences could be ad-supported, encouraging players to upgrade experiences with in-transit purchases.
Marketers and media companies can position themselves for the future of mobility by exploring partnership opportunities, potential models, and innovative types of content. What experiences might passengers in driverless vehicles desire? What alliances will be necessary to deliver those experiences? What data agreements and monetization models are most likely to provide value? The advent of autonomous vehicles raises questions—but also presents a significant opportunity to connect with consumers in an unprecedented way. The media companies and brands best positioned to capitalize on this opportunity are those already thinking through these questions and building the content for tomorrow’s automotive experience.