Imagine scrolling through your Twitter or Facebook feed right on the windshield of your vehicle, or even voicing a command that tells your car to read your text messages. Some of these features are already available in cars fresh off the production line, but they’ll likely become even more common as we move toward a world of fully autonomous, truly driverless cars.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs, or self-driving cars) may be fully integrated with social media—connecting automatically and seamlessly to driver profiles the minute they get into their cars. Augmented reality features could even allow drivers to connect with brands in real-time (like being able to click on a hashtag that appears on a billboard), meaning social media could also become an in-car marketing tool.
Imagine the possibilities. But they don’t stop there. Here, we explore a few of the ways social media could integrate into AVs in the future and alleviate concerns about the data privacy.
Between TV viewing, radio listening, computer use, mobile application consumption and reading, adults in the U.S. spend approximately 12 hours consuming media each day. What’s more, the average driver in the U.S. puts in more than 13,000 miles every year, according to a recent Esurance report.
If we weren’t already constantly connected via our smartphones, smart cars are putting the pedal to the metal to tap into customers’ driving experiences. By incorporating social media into their systems, AVs will enable drivers to remain even more connected than ever before.
Consumers will foreseeably be able to scroll through their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts, check emails, respond to text messages and answer phone calls—all without putting themselves and others at risk—thanks to help from driverless technology.
On the other end of the spectrum, given the amount of time drivers spend in their vehicles, businesses will have an even bigger opportunity to connect with their audiences. Talk about a captive audience.
Personalized in-car experiences
Until now, all drivers on the road were receiving pretty much the same messaging via radio ads or billboards. General Motors’ new system aims to develop individualized interactions. Nor do you have to look further than Waze, which targets drivers who are near business locations for meaningful local ad experiences. GM and IBM are already making leaps and bounds with in-car marketing. Their new system is designed to deliver customized brand messages to drivers by harnessing GPS location and car data.
Suppose platforms like these also integrated data collected on social media. This would encompass personal preferences, favorite restaurants, places frequented (online or otherwise) and all the myriad digital footprints you leave behind that algorithms use to deliver personalized content.
For example, you’re driving along when you pass a local music venue, and your vehicle—with its suite of voice and text messaging—informs you that one of your favorite bands is doing a surprise show there tomorrow night. You could buy tickets on the spot, right from your car, and invite friends to come with you. One might argue that the vehicle itself will become more than just a car.
The car itself may become a social media platform
If social media is a space where websites and applications enable users to converse and network, so, too, are self-driving cars poised to be a powerhouse of interaction. After all, autonomous vehicles are inherently social. Using a suite of sensors, they’re constantly talking to each other and their drivers about speed, direction, location, braking status and so forth. Like a social media platform, they may be able to carry out all manners of messaging—whether to you or to others on your behalf.
Ford demoed this idea back in 2011 at the Wireless Health Conference in San Diego. The automaker showcased a concept vehicle that used existing auto technology to employ healthcare apps and devices. One example it called out was combining the car’s in-voice command system with a wireless glucose monitoring device from Medtronic and a diabetes-tracking service from Welldoc. If you’re diabetic, its diabetes-management services could send you an alert if your blood sugar drops. Likewise, in the event of a heart attack, the car could alert the nearest hospital, transport you to the emergency room and shoot a message to an emergency contact.
Thinking even further ahead, it’s not so difficult to see how the self-driving car could use filter features for the windshield à la Google Glass, overlaying digital content on the world outside for an augmented reality view of the world. Futuristic cars may even use facial recognition to spot friends who also happen to be on the road for a quick meetup.
But let’s pull back just a bit. As with any social media platform, a concern many have about all this data-sharing is privacy.
Protecting your data—and yourself
With recent concerns over data capturing and usage, many have been wary about leaving an online digital footprint. These concerns, of course, are valid, which is why laws around data privacy are being weighed heavily as self-driving tech criteria get fleshed out by lawmakers and auto manufacturers. Besides, companies know all too well that if people don’t trust it, they won’t use it.
But, as with anything else, staying informed is crucial. When it comes to social media or your brand-new car, make sure to read those terms and conditions. If you’re in the market for a new car with cutting-edge tech, don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions: What kind of data is being logged and with whom is it being shared?
Ultimately, sharing data is literally what’ll drive automated cars, and social media is a natural integration of that system. Not only will this interconnectivity address our individual needs, but it may very well transform the driving experience for the better.
A life-saver, literally
Regardless of whether sharing data with an AV excites or deters you, many believe that sharing crucial driving data will allow car manufacturers to improve future vehicle models for efficiency and safety. Although many features in your vehicle are designed to help keep you and your passengers safe, many see them as a distraction (like warning signals, for example), which could possibly lead to even more fatalities.
However, AVs are designed to help eliminate operator errors, which can significantly reduce the number of accidents each year. In fact, some experts believe that AVs could reduce accidents by up to 90 percent, which could save up to $190 billion every year, not to mention thousands of lives.
While many consumers might be leery about sharing their data with their vehicles, the end result is stronger, safer cars and—possibly—far fewer accidents.
Haden Kirkpatrick is director of marketing strategy and innovation at insurance provider Esurance.