Skip to main content

Intel wants to splash advertising (and Batman) on the screens of self-driving cars

Intel wants to splash advertising (and Batman) on the screens of self-driving cars


Kind of confirms our worst fears about the future of driving

Share this story

Image: Intel

Intel, which is trying to stake out a position as the leading provider of computing power for self-driving cars, is teaming up with Warner Bros. to develop “in-cabin, immersive experiences in autonomous vehicle settings.” Intel assumes that in the future, you’ll be watching movies and augmented reality productions instead of the road, while your robot car whisks you to work or the grocery store. This is the first major partnership between a movie studio and a tech company working on autonomous driving technology.

the future of driving will be chockablock with advertising

It’s also the first indication that the future of driving will be chockablock with advertising. We’re used to seeing ads on the side of the road while driving, or hearing commercials on our radios. But the idea that brands will be competing for space on the screens inside our vehicles — or on the windshields of the vehicles themselves — may not sit well with some people, especially if they aren’t afforded a chance to block or mute these ads. It might be too early to start worrying about the manipulation of self-driving cars to sell us more stuff, but that doesn’t mean advertisers aren’t already devising ways to do just that.

Intel certainly isn’t shying away from the possibility. In a blog post published today, the chipmaker’s CEO Brian Krzanich framed his company’s partnership with Warner Bros. as a demonstration of how entertainment will be consumed by passengers in autonomous vehicles while they are riding and not driving. Suddenly, all that time can be used to do work, catch up on some sleep, or more likely, watch hours and hours of television.

Intel CES 2013 stock 2 1020

“Not only do we see passengers consuming content ranging from movies and television programming,” Krzanich writes, “we imagine riders enjoying immersive experiences never seen before, courtesy of in-cabin virtual reality and augmented reality innovations.” That means exploring ways to integrate Warner Bros. movies, games, and TV shows into the compute platform being developed by Intel. Intel’s goal is to “enable” passengers in their self-driving vehicles to “view advertising and other discovery experiences,” he said.

Intel is working on developing a fleet of 100 fully autonomous cars for testing in the US, Israel, and Europe, and says it will install this Warner Bros.-developed VR and AR technology in some of those vehicles as a proof of concept.

Honestly, some people may think that sounds pretty cool. Who wouldn’t want their trip to Walmart to be rebranded as a drive through the shrouded streets of Gotham City? Well, probably a lot of people, especially those who would prefer their commutes to be free of corporations screaming in their faces. Intel may be the first self-driving operator to openly embrace content creators as an active partner in the future of car design, but they won’t be the last.

Your car is about to become a battleground for brands

“Get ready for your car to become yet another ‘screen’ where publishers and advertisers compete for your attention,” says a new report from Forrester Research entitled “Autonomous Vehicles Will Reshape the Global Economy” (via MarTech Today). “Don’t be surprised,” the report warns, “when you start to see big brands sponsoring your rides: ‘This trip is brought to you by the champagne of beers — Miller High Life.’”

To be sure, it will take decades to get to this point, if indeed we ever really get there at all. This presupposes a level of confidence and trust with the technology underlying self-driving cars that does not currently exist. And most self-driving car operators are focused on highlighting the safety aspect of autonomous vehicles, which arguably is a stronger selling point than trying to monetize your daily commute.

But it certainly raises concerns, especially if your Intel-designed car tries to talk you out of going to see the latest Marvel movie because of its preexisting relationship with Warner Bros. Because that wouldn’t be super at all.