We know self-driving technology is transforming transportation in terms of safety and efficiency. But when everyone in a car becomes a passenger and the thing is driving itself, how exactly will this change the commuting experience, and what will that mean for businesses?
The extent to which the autonomous vehicle market is going to explode over the coming years is becoming too obvious to ignore, and now these are the sort of big questions that marketers are starting to take much more seriously.
You don’t have to look far to find the technology. For several years now we’ve seen autonomous vehicles cruising around many of our neighbourhoods, such as those in Milton Keynes, Stockholm, and San Francisco. And if the recent progress in the US is anything to go by, they’ll be a regular sight much sooner than we think.
Here we’re going to dive into some of the rich opportunities that self-driving cars are presenting to businesses. Starting with what’s already been happening with the evolution of in-vehicle technology and the car as another touchpoint.
A fully-immersive touchpoint
With the takeover of smartphones and personal assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, your office, bedroom, and, in fact, your whole world is becoming one limitless touchpoint through which brands can connect with and sell to you.
However, at least until recently, the car is one place that has evaded this treatment — being as it is a somewhat dangerous activity that requires focus and attention. But car manufacturers like Ford, Fiat and Toyota have begun integrating technology like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Android Auto into their vehicles. This is opening up a new channel through which businesses can reach customers and getting more people used to the idea of the car as an ultra-immersive, connected experience.
Forrester Research looked into the self-driving revolution and confirmed that our cars are primed to become a marketing and advertising hub. Your daily commute will be transformed from wasted time to an extra slot in the day in which you can plan, read, catch up on emails, or even hold a business meeting.
And this is where it gets interesting. As well as the demand for a slew of dedicated tools and apps that support the digital experience during the commute, there’s also the opportunity to promote products and services to customers based on data like riding habits, geographical location, and on-route behaviour.
Door to door experiences
Along with being rolling hubs through which businesses and brands connect with their audience at whim, self-driving cars will also offer specific, personalised experiences based on particular routes or destinations.
For example, once a car is connected to the network, brands will capitalise on the opportunity to extend their guest experience beyond a fixed address — even sponsoring rides that may not yet be on route for the destination. All this is pound signs in the eyes of marketers, who’ll actively employ tactics like upselling and cross-promotion to get the most out of every customer from the moment they leave the house.
That all may sound a little dystopian, but the fact is self-driving cars have as much to offer customers as they do businesses. They’ll save us time, money, not to mention lives — and all the while providing full-blown immersive digital experiences that allow us to fit more into our hectic schedules. Self-driving cars are a win-win situation. And as entirely new territory for businesses and marketers, there is really no saying where the limit is to how much the industry may grow.
Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Find him on Medium exploring remote working, technology, spirituality, meditation, and everything in between.