Scrambling for their place behind the wheel of driverless cars are Uber, Apple, Tesla and many more. Self-driving technology is not so far away. It is thought that the 2020s could be the decade when these cars will start to hit our roads commercially, when, according to some the number of autonomous vehicles on our roads globally will total 10 million. MIT’s Kevin Ashton, renowned Internet of Things visionary, predicts that human driven cars could be obsolete by 2030. The future of transport is eerily close.

This step in travel technology parallels big steps in other sectors; namely the transition from radio, to television, and the internet. Such changes affect how we live our lives, they change our culture, and they affect jobs. They also affect how we use marketing.

Self-driving cars will be no exception. With this shift in how we travel will come new marketing opportunities. As with digital trends in recent years the emphasis will be on integrating the ‘driverless platform’ with other channels, both outdoor and in-store. The ‘local’ consumer will become increasingly important.

Here are four somewhat scary predictions on how marketers will utilise autonomous cars:


iBeacons triggering in-car video ads

iBeacons already send messages to our phones to entice and engage in-store or nearby consumers. The 2030s will see the technology used by local businesses to summon passengers transiting in private (or hired) driverless cars.

Imagine that it’s 8.10am on Monday morning in 2031. Your self- driving Uber has picked up Tim and is taking him to work. A screen emerges from the roof and an ad begins to play:

“Hungry, Tim? Get a Tasty Sausage & Egg Breakfast Burger for just $24. Your driverless Uber will pass Betty’s Burgers in Erskineville in 1 minute. Press or say ‘take me to Betty’s Burgers if you’re hungry”.

Cars in certain countries already use beacons to charge toll fees without the need for the driver to stop, so the adaptation into advertising should be relatively simple.


Sponsored drop-offs to increase local shoppers

Companies in 2017 pay extra to get placements on social media, through display and on affiliate sites. By the early 2030s, the driverless car will be a type of affiliate. The target consumer will become the thing that is placed… right at a business’s doorstep.

Here’s a possible scenario in 2035:

A person orders a driverless Uber at 8pm to a city centre. The app collects data by asking ‘how many are travelling’, and ‘reason for travel’. The user informs the app that it is a group of people going for a night out, and the app subsequently asks, ‘where do you want to be dropped off’, with the prominent, default option set to ‘where the party is at’.

Bars and pubs that have paid for ‘sponsored drop-offs’ that night can advertise and have their target consumer dropped right at their doorstep.


Sponsored Google Maps listings for cars

Google Maps is already loaded with content related to local businesses. Many companies have listed all of their company details through Google My Business. Without a doubt Google’s iteration of driverless cars will leverage this benefit.

Car dashboards and the back of head rests will be replaced by interactive maps that show where you are going. As your car is about to pass through a village, icons pop out on the interactive map displaying details of local businesses, and current messaging such as special offers and the words ‘open now’.

The listings that jump out will be tailored to the time of day of the ride, and the profile of the person logged in to the app.


‘Go via’ integration with outdoor display

Outdoor has integrated with Digital in recent years with savvy marketers making use of hashtags, QR tags on bus stops, touchscreens and more.

As an industry we have made great use of technology to increase levels of engagement in order to get the most from outdoor placements. But what if we could affect the reach of a particular placement, for a particular segment? What if we could ensure the target audience is moved past your ad?

In 2030, the route sat-nav systems send passengers in their private self-driving car will be influenced by a back-end ‘go via’ feature integrated for advertisers. The route will be calculated from the quickest options, combined with the passengers profile and data relating to outdoor marketing placements.

Imagine this; a regular theatre-goer is on her way back from dropping the kids off at school in her self-driving BMW. The car has a few routes to choose from. However, for the month of March it takes the same route every day; it passes under a bridge displaying an ad for The Rise and Fall of Donald Trump: The Musical.

Driverless cars are set to control our lives. Scary, huh?

No wonder Uber, Apple, Google and Tesla are all so keen to call shot-gun.

Chris Barcroft

Chris is an Account Manager for iProspect Sydney. Chris delivers solutions for retail clients across online media channels.