Let’s take a trip back in time. To the Fifth Element. To the original Total Recall. To the Jetsons. To the 50s and 60s.
And let’s laugh at the ludicrous predictions of what their future would be like.
Ha! TVs in your hands. Snicker! Interactive screens for learning. Tee hee! Robot warehouses. Guffaw! Driverless cars.
Yup, all coming true. (Although I think I’m going to be waiting ages for my stilt-walking bus. But then, you know the saying: you wait an eon for a stilt-walking bus and then you get invaded by sentient cephalopods).
It’s fairly obvious that the next step in car tech will be fully electric cars and self-driving ones. A lot of it is already a fair way down the road. It’s an exciting time for some. And a worrying one for others.
A safer future?
A lot of people say driverless cars will make driving safer. They argue the computerised cars won’t make mistakes like humans do. They won’t take risks, break the rules of the road, try to race someone in a BMW who’s driving like a nob. But where does it end?
If you’re feeling comfortable about letting your car take life-or-death decisions for you, then the next logical step (according to the New Scientist, 9 November 2017) is autonomous killing robots.
Really. Scientists (not evil ones, just regular ones) are suggesting that letting robots kill without human supervision could save lives. I bet the Daily Mail are going to have fun with that headline (and in the background, SkyNet rubs its yet-to-be-built T1000 hands).
Sorry, back to the car. If you’re in a driverless car, you’re going to have some spare time on your hands. How can we help fill it?
A future stuffed with possibilities
Sitting comfortably? Let’s go.
While you are being ferried around by Johnny (that’s what I’ll call mine), you don’t need to be concentrating on the road. You’ll be able to watch all your TV shows, play games, do work, whatever.
This is where it gets truly exciting for brands, advertisers, data people and kebab shops (among other food retailers). Your car will learn your regular routes – and who takes them. It’ll know what your favourite music is. It’ll know all sorts of things about you – like your Alexa-powered home device does.
So smart marketing could get really personalised messages to you – both in-car and on poster sites. You like kebabs. You come past Jason’s Doner Van every day at 10pm. We’ll serve you an ad in your vehicle – or even at the roadside – that’ll tempt you in with an offer. You can let the advert take over your route and guide you in to a spot (where you can recharge your tastebuds and your car’s battery). Extra chilli sauce for me.
The car is the medium is the message
At the dmexo conference in Cologne in September 2017, Microsoft and BMW talked up their collaboration for cloud-connected cars – where they reinforced the view that cars will be more than a means of transport: they’ll become a medium for conversing with drivers.
“This is all transforming the automotive industry and the relationships carmakers have with consumers – and opens the door for cars themselves to become ways for other brands to reach drivers at times when they truly are a captive audience.”
And because car owners will be able to download new updates, it’ll make the car feel up-to-date for longer. But it will also help build more of a relationship with the car marque – boosting loyalty.
Where we’re going, we don’t need hands
You’ve probably seen Volvo’s concept 26 car. If not, take a peek at the short and everso stylish film here.
Named for the average commute time (my version would be the Volvo 120. Sigh) it’s all about the comfort in the car. In fact, there’s so much focus on the in-car detail, they’ve not even thought about the outside. So the focus isn’t about image, it’s about filling your new vehicle with everything you want – opening exciting opportunities for all sorts of people – not just the passenger.
Are friends electric?
We know that there will only be electric cars manufactured by 2040. So there’s plenty of time to sort the tech out. The main issue is the distance you can travel on a charge and the need for some serious infrastructure to allow people to charge their cars wherever they go. It’s a big deal. (Think about how stressed you get when you’re phone’s out of charge…then multiply it by ‘I can’t get home’).
The solutions to the problem might hold opportunities for brands to build even more loyalty.
Here’s one. In Cambridge a new company is looking at solar powered charging points – things that look like a 1970s drive awning that has panels on top. It’s a great idea (albeit a bit ugly right now). But those same shelters could have tailored messages for drivers.
Or brands could offer cheaper charging if you use their points. High street shops could have their own dedicated spaces to reward their customers – with cheap or free parking in car parks, bonus Nectar points, cheaper charging…
It’s a brave new world. And we, as a creative industry, need to come up with ways of using the new tech to build better relationships between real people and brands. Not to be turned off the thought of a shocking dystopian future.
I’ll be back. (Once my stilt-walking bus turns up).
-Simon Martin, Creative Director