Autonomous Cars – Get Your Game Face on for Change

In this rendering, the driver sits with his back facing the front of the car.

We are bombarded daily by predictions about lifestyle changes fueled by cultural shifts, demographic patterns, and emerging technologies. Speculation about and preparing for autonomous vehicles is one of these changes that has the potential to greatly impact the OOH advertising industry.

To learn more about this complex change, OAAA commissioned outside experts to explain this potential innovation and how it might impact OOH advertising. Inside the industry, a new OAAA task force seeks to identify risks and opportunities.

Earlier this month, two state association meetings featured speakers discussing future trends, with an emphasis on autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, i.e., driverless cars.

At the joint North Carolina/South Carolina meeting, John Martin, Southeastern Institute of Research in Richmond, VA, discussed top future trends and potential impacts to our industry, especially by AV.

The Georgia state association met in Savannah as Hurricane Matthew was roaring up the coast.  University of Georgia’s John Weatherford, from the university’s New Media Institute, presented with Lamar Advertising Company’s innovation chief Ian Dallimore.

This article provides a synopsis from those presentations. Each speaker delivered an independent, yet fascinating glimpse into the future by posing a huge challenge: Change is on its way and coming fast – Are we prepared?

Future trends and/or concerns include:

  • Silicon Valley and numerous entrepreneurs are fully focused on delivering what may be a paradigm shift in the ad market – watch Uber, Google, and car manufacturers like Tesla, Mercedes, Ford & GM along with health care industries.
  • Future traveler commutes must be productive, not exhaustive, and will involve shared rides.
  • Road safety is a huge concern; an effort to substantially reduce highway vehicle accidents and deaths worldwide with AVs at the core is likely. In the US alone, over 35,000 deaths per year occur on highways.
  • Ethics issues are a concern with safety, mobility, and legal issues very relevant to the OOH media industry.
  • Re-shaping of US urban areas will occur combined with changes to quality of life concerns.

One key issue focuses on demand for car ownership in the future. One possibility is vehicle ownership declining substantially, which will have a huge impact on car insurance companies, dealerships, repair shops, and other vehicle-needs related jobs; and, most if not all of these related industries have a longstanding connection to the OOH media.

An example of one of the first industries affected by autonomous vehicles is the trucking industry. There will be potentially widespread impacts not only on the thousands of drivers delivering products and services, but also on product safety issues and delivery time frames.

Will there be concerns about traveling in an AV? The adaptability of both young versus older drivers to confront change will be here within 5-15 years – as Martin quipped, “Get your game face on for change!”

AV’s will change travel patterns as well as commuting since it will be the least expensive per mile transportation mode. The presenters made predictions that exurbs, small cities and urban places will flourish especially since millennials prefer this socialized setting and may have no firm connection to a car as has been the case for generations of Americans.

Finally, in the future, the OOH industry must read people, not cars, and it is essential that smart ideas for smart cities should include a medium (i.e., OOH) that can provide maximum entertainment value (i.e., like art, etc.).

Other observations include:

  • Ads must target reach via customized messaging and maybe facial recognition. More vehicle recognition technology is forthcoming.
  • The OOH medium may be harder to define – for instance, what is considered “inside the vehicle?”
  • Experiment today – Martin mentioned that our industry needs to figure out what has worked and test for the future.
  • As the US population increases and diversity rules, there is an opportunity for more “eyeballs” on ads, which will benefit the OOH industry.
  • An opportunity for OOH will be to help with AV implementation, including selling screens inside cars and OOH digital and static units communicating with vehicles thru WiFi.
  • A key for OOH is to embellish and build on consumer convenience; plus, become a hub for ads to electric car charging stations.
  • OOH is a good medium for “optimization” and can be used for continued selling of familiar products.


Autonomous Vehicles Task Force Members:

Paul Cook, Wolverine Sign Works

Ian Dalimore, Lamar Advertising Company

Dave Etherington, Intersection

Dan Levi, Clear Channel Outdoor

Mike Norton, Norton Outdoor Advertising

Andy Sriubas, OUTFRONT Media

Download John Weatherford presentation here

Modified: 2 years