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Self-Driving Cars in Entertainment Media: Quantum Leap into Lifestyles of the Future



Self Driving Car Visualized

One Innovation can Lead to Thousands More

We are at points of transition in the worlds of vehicles and entertainment. On both fronts, the past few years have given us unprecedented change. For vehicles, the now practical concept of self-driving cars opens up the possibility of getting around without a human operator behind the wheel. Meanwhile, for entertainment, the rise of streaming services and cord cutting has changed the way we consume media on a mobile basis.

These two evolutions may seem unconnected right now. However, both concepts are still in their infancy. Given recent history, entertainment companies are currently dead set on finding the latest platform to create and distribute their content on, and self-driving vehicles have seemingly limitless potential. It is clear that these two innovative concepts will intersect, potentially in the near future.

With no one operating a car, traveling becomes an experience of little beyond being a passenger. Whether it is doing a daily commute or taking a cross-country road trip, “driving” no longer requires attention and awareness. Being in a car becomes a slot of time where people are essentially trapped in the confines of a small space with no responsibilities. It is the perfect time for catching up on news, entertainment, or communication.

While it might be easy to imagine people in self-driving cars perpetually staring at their smart phones or laptops, there is the possibility that entertainment companies could collaborate with vehicle manufacturers to change the very design of vehicles and make car-riding a transmedia experience.

A Completely new Lifestyle built around Time in Transit

What this would look like is unclear, but one can imagine a car surrounded in screens—on the backs of seats, propped on dashboards, and even over some of the windows, making entertainment accessibly (maybe even unavoidably) built into a vehicle’s architecture. Many companies are gearing up for the potential. Finnish company FlexSound is pioneering “augmented audio” devices that can produce movie theater quality audio by imbedding transducers into car seats and headrests, allowing the occupant to feel the sound directly, for example.

The potential does not stop there, though. Consuming media exclusively in a car offers a very particular experience, one that companies could capitalize on with originality. Virtual reality simulations are one of the latest breakthroughs in entertainment tech. Currently, virtual reality occupies a vague area somewhere between film and video games. Despite its growing popularity, VR is yet to find an exact home in the day-to-day lives of consumers.

Perhaps self-driving cars can provide that stable home for VR. With the help of technology, media equipped vehicles could change the very landscape that one is driving through everyday. With screens disguised as windshields, a boring commute could become an adventure through some of the world’s most interesting places. Perhaps the commute could even be through different worlds. Hypothetically, by hooking your Tesla up with a Disney or Warner Brothers package, you could find yourself driving across a Star Wars planet, Gotham City, or some other fictional place every single day.

Who will lead in the Contest to provide Entertainment Solutions for a Newly Liberated Population?

Of course, VR could offer more than just moving through these places. There could be narratives involved. During your drive across Gotham City, the Joker could pop out of an alley, or you could find yourself in a car chase with the Batmobile. On the other hand, your car could become a Disney World ride, and driving your kids to school could become a Millennium Falcon or Buzz Lightyear adventure that involves shooting down enemy ships in a distant galaxy.

The possibilities are endless. Of course, it will all be a façade, but so is every form of visual entertainment. Ever since Thomas Edison created the Kinetoscope in 1897 to produce the first motion pictures, we have been happily living in a world filled with enthralling illusions. 

The future of entertainment is unclear, but self-driving cars merging with media outlets is one distant idea that has already crossed the minds of industry executives. If self-driving cars become more popular over the next decade, it is possible that we will see this conglomeration / convergence take effect. Perhaps Uber and Lyft will do away with their drivers and start producing movies instead. Or maybe they will team up with Netflix, Amazon, or Apple+ to have a constant stream of content. Or maybe instead of Ubers and Lyfts altogether, we will get around in Disney Taxis or join in on Universal Studios Carpools. Again, the possibilities are endless. What’s your take?

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