Driverless: Intel and Warner Bros. Should Pay You To See Advertising

A couple of quick things on the driverless car front:

1. I’ve been saying for a while now that the space you have to watch isn’t involving the self-driving cars or the technology that powers them.

My attitude is that the self-driving cars are here, let’s just get them on the road everywhere and solve the way, way, harder problem of reworking our legal, technical, and environmental infrastructure to manage them properly.

It may sound like I’m rushing, but it’ll be a win for consumers, and that’s all I care about.

The odds are good you won’t pay to own a self-driving car, but would pay per ride to summon one like how we do now with an Uber or a Lyft.

If you have some extra money, you’ll buy a car to joyride that you can operate yourself.

For the rest of us working stiffs, the amount of money we’ll save by not owning a vehicle and summoning one that we pay per use means we’ll save at least a thousand dollars a month. (I didn’t pull that number out of my ass, it’s how much I’d save each month by getting rid of my Subaru Forester.)

In terms of keeping people employed — and not giving our full trust to dumb algorithms and artificial intelligence — I think all self-driving cars should come with a human driver. An employee from that company who’s there solely in the event of an emergency or customer support, but tech companies hate humans because “they don’t scale” (which is code for, “We don’t want to pay for it and rather give the money to our investors and shareholders.) That’s the battle we’re all going to need to get together and fight for.

(This is an aside but I don’t want anyone to believe the myth that driverless cars will completely replace the need for drivers or cars that we can drive ourselves. We’ll have regular cars and self-driving cars for at least the next hundred years or so.)

2. The thing you want to pay attention to in the driverless space is advertising inside of the self-driving cars. Like Virtual Reality, we have an opportunity here not to make the same mistake we made with the Web in terms of creating a shitty user experience for everyone.

How Intel and Warner Bros (among others) are currently looking at things is that you would be served advertisements on your way to work, or to wherever you’re going in the self-driving car. I’m not against this model, especially if it means you get to ride in the self-driving car for free because the advertising is subsidizing your ride, but …

I think advertisers should be able to pay you directly in exchange for your time and attention. We’re not talking a lot of money. These would be micropayments, but they would add up over time. This way you’re invested in the advertisement you’re seeing (which eliminates all sorts of fraud and waste we’re experiencing now on the Web with Google, Facebook, and programmatic advertising) and the advertiser is ensured that you saw the ad. Or at least paid attention to it longer than you would have if it were just blasting at your face during a ride to work.

So if you step into a self-driving car, there should be an option on the app you used to summon the vehicle to opt-in to advertising, and that company can then act as the middleman between you and the advertiser. That company gets a cut to deliver the ad, you get the ad you want, the advertiser is ensured you saw the ad, everyone is happy.

I’m not a huge fan of having a third party between the advertiser and the person getting the ads, but if that’s how it has to work on a technical level, then that’s fine.

How I’d prefer it to work is that you have an account with a data broker that you manage like you manage your bank account through a mobile device. You go into that app, pick the advertisements you want to be served with, regardless of where you are or what device you are using, and then those advertisers pay you in exchange for you seeing their ads.

If you like what you see, you can click or tap or whatever on the ad and make a purchase, or use a voice-activated assistant like Google Assistant to purchase the thing.

This way you’re in control of your data, who sees it, and you don’t have to worry about being smacked in the face with bullshit by advertisers who, on their end of the fence, are wasting time and money advertising to disinterested people.

I believe that’s the way to go. We can and should do advertising and marketing better in the next century, but why wait?


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Grendelkhan