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What should A.I. Developers and Marketers know about the Autonomous Car revolution

Your auto­mo­bile will soon be the ulti­mate media immer­sion tool, watch Net­flix (jobs at Net­flix), YouTube, Play VR base­ball against your friend in anoth­er autonomous car. Yeah so what if that was sup­posed to be Sci­ence Fic­tion stuff, it is here now, accept it! Could you imag­ine plan­ning an even longer com­mute to get more work done while in your car away from the hus­band and kids. Jason Har­ri­son, glob­al CEO of Gain The­o­ry says “Cars are essen­tial­ly becom­ing the next must-have mobile device.”

Price­wa­ter­house­C­oop­ers projects that spend­ing in the autonomous-car indus­try will bal­loon to $43.2 bil­lion glob­al­ly by 2021.

Elec­tric Car man­u­fac­tur­er Tes­la (jobs at Tes­la) is adding 1,600 employ­ees to fast-track its autonomous dri­ving efforts. Ford just made a deal with Google to col­lab­o­rate on the automak­er’s autonomous ambi­tions. Gen­er­al Motors revealed it is invest­ing $500 mil­lion in the car-ser­vice app Lyft in order to beat its com­peti­tors to the self-dri­ving future. Mer­cedes-Benz joined with con­nect­ed-home play­er Nest to cre­ate ETA, a tool that enables a car approach­ing one’s house to send a sig­nal to adjust the ther­mo­stat ahead of time.

“Rather than open­ing up an own­er’s man­u­al that’s 500–600 pages long, you watch a lit­tle bit of the video, put the phone down and do step one, and then pick the phone back up again to learn about step two,” explains Miles John­son, a con­nect­ed car rep at Hyundai.

Hyundai will unveil Vir­tu­al Guide, an aug­ment­ed-real­i­ty owner’s man­u­al app that lets a dri­ver point a smart­phone or tablet cam­era at the part of a car engine giv­ing them trou­ble. Up pops a short, tuto­r­i­al-style video. It works inside the vehi­cle, to help car own­ers do such rou­tine tasks as set­ting a clock or stream­ing music.

The pre­dic­tions ana­lyst are mak­ing is that mil­lions of these vehi­cles will be on the road by 2020 – can you just imag­ine what adver­tis­ers are con­coct­ing for that cap­tive audi­ence. Har­ri­son says dri­ver­less cars open “an entire­ly new oppor­tu­ni­ty for adver­tis­ers. Assum­ing Wi-Fi-enabled cars would be tar­getable in the same way oth­er devices are, they would offer high-qual­i­ty tar­get­ed-audi­ence oppor­tu­ni­ties, with an added con­tex­tu­al dimen­sion such as par­ents and kids on the way to school, dai­ly com­mutes and so on.”

Audi Engi­neer Thomas Müller claims “what­ev­er you have in your liv­ing room, you will have in your ‘auto room.’ ” An Auto­Trad­er study recent­ly released finds that among 77 per­cent of shop­pers, tech­nol­o­gy is more impor­tant than car col­or. Near­ly four of five prospec­tive buy­ers would delay a pur­chase by one year to get a vehi­cle with con­nect­ed ser­vices from their pre­ferred brands, per a recent study by AT&T and Eric­s­son (jobs at Eric­s­son). And with inte­gra­tion comes the oppor­tu­ni­ty of data col­lec­tion for marketers—and infor­ma­tion on trav­el rou­tines, tem­per­a­ture pref­er­ences and music pref­er­ences could all be used to tar­get ads.
If you think that’s a risky thing for the com­pa­ny, you have Kia cre­at­ing all sorts of mini com­pa­nies under the Kia brand so when hor­ri­ble things hap­pen the lia­bil­i­ty goes to the small­er com­pa­ny. Most like­ly a bad idea any­way but Google is doing the same thing with the Alpha­bet com­pa­ny, always eas­i­er to pass the blame by say­ing it wasn’t you. Any­way, Kia has pledged $2 bil­lion to get an autonomous car to mar­ket by 2030.

What has marketer’s panties in a bunch?

In 2014 Pan­do­ra began sell­ing in-car ads to mar­keters sep­a­rate­ly from its Web and mobile app pro­mos and claimed that its audio ads were get­ting bet­ter results com­pared to oth­er dig­i­tal pro­mos. David Deal, a mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant not­ed “the car of the future could eas­i­ly become a con­tent-block­ing machine.” As the auto­mo­bile increas­ing­ly becomes a Wi-Fi-enabled media appa­ra­tus the con­sumer could have more con­trol over avoid­ing adver­tis­ing via ad-block­ing tech­nolo­gies now used via desk­top com­put­ers and mobile devices. Brand mar­keters can employ what they’ve already learned from the ad-block­ing phenomenon.

Ter­ry Young, CEO of agency Sparks & Hon­ey. “We need to rethink ads [and] con­tent and find new ways to tell sto­ries,” he says. “I don’t think the car will be a bad mar­ket­ing venue—instead, it will be held to the new stan­dard of adver­tis­ing that is reshap­ing the indus­try. Con­sumers expect more and can demand it by lever­ag­ing tech­nol­o­gy.” Mr. Deal also made it clear that it could also be “a great mar­ket­ing venue for use­ful, enter­tain­ing con­tent such as brand-spon­sored programs.”

“Our vision is that no-one should be killed or seri­ous­ly injured in a new Vol­vo by the year 2020,” said Vol­vo pro­gram direc­tor Mar­cus Rothoff.

The com­pa­ny recent­ly announced it would assume full lia­bil­i­ty when­ev­er a Vol­vo is in autonomous mode and an acci­dent hap­pens. “With­out trust, a self-dri­ving vehi­cle is of lim­it­ed use,” explains Erik Coel­ingh, Volvo’s senior tech­ni­cal leader. Vol­vo (jobs at Vol­vo) aims to have a lim­it­ed run of its self-dri­ving vehi­cle, called Con­cept 26, on the road in 2017, offer­ing the own­er three modes: dri­ve, cre­ate (with the dri­ver’s seat tilt­ed back) and relax (almost like lying on a couch). All thanks to Nvidia’s newest car com­put­er proces­sor, known as the Dri­ve PX 2, is liq­uid cooled and seri­ous­ly pow­er­ful, sport­ing 12 CPU cores and 8 ter­aflops of pro­cess­ing power.

It’s designed to allow vehi­cles accu­rate 360-degree sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness of their sur­round­ings and nav­i­gate autonomous­ly. Nvidia (jobs at Nvidia) believes that the lev­el of pow­er pro­vid­ed by the new com­put­er will be nec­es­sary if self-dri­ving cars are ever to hit the main­stream. It’s pro­cess­ing is equiv­a­lent to 150 Mac­Book Pros. It’s made up of two Tegra CPUs paired with two dis­crete GPUs based on the com­pa­ny’s Pas­cal archi­tec­ture. That hard­ware pro­vides 8 ter­aflops of pro­cess­ing pow­er, allow­ing for up to 24 tril­lion deep learn­ing oper­a­tions per second.

Accord­ing to Nvidia, the deep learn­ing sys­tem is bet­ter at address­ing cer­tain issues than tra­di­tion­al com­put­er vision tech­niques. In par­tic­u­lar, it’s more capa­ble of iden­ti­fy­ing and deal­ing with dif­fi­cult light­ing sce­nar­ios, such as sun­rise and sun­set, and adverse weath­er con­di­tions like snow or heavy rain. It can han­dle inputs from 12 video cam­eras, ultra­son­ic sen­sors, and both radar and LiDAR. All that data is com­bined and ana­lyzed by their Dri­ve­Works soft­ware, allow­ing the vehi­cle to pic­ture the world around it, deter­mine its posi­tion, pin­point obsta­cles, and plot the safest pos­si­ble route.

Ok, so now that your head hurts with all this amaz­ing infor­ma­tion lets con­sid­er what it all means.  From my per­son­al point of view, it means I can actu­al­ly learn how to fly an air­plane from the com­fort of my own auto­mo­bile.  I am think­ing that maybe I’ll work on get­ting a PhD. while my car dri­ves me across coun­try. Per­haps I’ll cus­tomize a whole new wardrobe for that inter­view next week along with a new theme song to go with it.  Basi­cal­ly you will have the capa­bil­i­ties of work and home on the road with you at all times.  You will be an inter­con­nect­ed mobile hub of infor­ma­tion and enter­tain­ment trav­el­ing vir­tu­al­ly and phys­i­cal­ly. And yes!  If you don’t stop them, become assault­ed by sneaky and clever adver­tis­ing ploys, but it could be a good thing if it real­ly is crap that you want, so yeah for the future!

Image by Paul Den­ton

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