March 27, 2018

Nightmare: AVs and Advertising

From Vox, by way of Doug Clarke:

(There is) a growing concern among urbanists that AVs will, by making personal-vehicle travel so much more convenient, induce more of it. They worry that AVs will increase vehicle miles traveled (VMT), further clogging America’s already congested city streets. … There are reasons to believe that any private autonomous vehicle industry will not just increase VMT, but will pursue more VMT aggressively.

… a new company called Vugo… has contracts with about 3,500 Uber and Lyft drivers in New York City to install video screens in their vehicles. The screens will display video advertising and, at least initially, cannot be turned off or completely muted. … The money the drivers receive from Uber and Lyft, from direct fees charged to passengers, is barely getting them by. They need supplemental income. Thus, advertising.

If shared fleets of autonomous vehicles come to be funded primarily by advertising, we will end up with an auto industry even more committed to auto supremacy than the current one — at best a reluctant partner in any effort to make cities denser and more livable, at worst a committed foe. …

Transportation is going to become more like an app, and we know how most apps are funded

One thing transportation experts have come to agree on is that transportation is evolving into more of a service than a commodity. Rather than buying cars, consumers will buy miles.

Three trends are converging in transportation: electrification, autonomy, and sharing. Anyone who claims to know exactly how that will play out, the timing of those changes, is probably selling something. But the logic of all three trends leans toward transportation as a service (TaaS). …

Barring the unlikely event that cities take ownership of these fleets and begin offering transportation as a public service (TaaPS?) funded by taxes, private industry is going run this process. Competition will be relentless, and with it the drive to reduce subscription or per-mile prices charged to customers. …
Eventually, someone will think to offer upfront charges of $0. Transportation as a free service (TaaFS)! …
So we have to at least consider the possibility that the future of transportation could be dominated by large fleets of shared, electric, autonomous vehicles funded by revenue from advertising — that our smart vehicles could become our next smartphones, tools to deliver our attention to advertisers. …

The only way to spend time with a car is to drive somewhere in it. Insofar as they get revenue from advertising, owners of shared vehicle fleets will want more people to go more places in cars. Their revenue will rise with VMT, so they will strive to maximize VMT.

Hitching ad revenue to VMT would put the industry squarely in opposition to other, non-car modes of transit and make it an enemy of good urban planning. It would strengthen short-term gratification and weaken long-term foresight — and foresight is already difficult enough to come by in transportation planning.

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  1. Advertising is a nightmare. Period. As art director George Lois quipped – it’s a poison gas. That you get into an Uber or Lyft, and are unable to shut it off, or even mute it – that’s abuse. Orwellian.
    Who buys stuff that’s advertised? How quickly do you mute your iPad and cover the screen with your hand when the ad appears? Way quicker than the 5 second skip ad countdown.
    Advertising is toxic. The worst offenders are billboards – visual pollution of our shared space; and those stinking planes trailing banners advertising chemical bread with processed meat. You eat that trash? Big brother billionaires shoving garbage in your face. It’s a Blade Runner dystopia.

  2. Well here we are in 2018, we find ourselves under cyber attack by the global crimeocracy, we have retreated to the world of paper ballots, and now we are tempted to enter a tin box on wheels that will lock the doors behind us and take us into a space of no relief and no escape. This is a cyber thrill ride that imperils our well being if not our very existence.

    1. They will have emergency switch-off and get-out buttons, like airplanes and trains today ! Cybersecurity is a grave concern indeed though in this context.
      Like most technologies adoption will be slow.
      Speech recognition, promised in the 1980s is still not here in acceptable quality, 35+ years later ! As such AV will come in gradually improving modes such as follow vehicle, self drive on marked roads only, find nearest parking spot etc ..

  3. And the programs that will be showing on the TV sets inside these things, will they show the non-car using characters as evil and worthy of contempt and death?

  4. I’d give that crisp car interior two days of hard, taxi-like use to turn most passengers right off to entering it. Cleaning it between trips as necessary will be impossible. Streaming ad vids will make it worse.

  5. Like TV, people will find constant meaningless ads disgusting and move to other models like pay-per-view or Netflix. As such, cars with constant ads will not function long as affluent folks will avoid them and less affluent folks wont buy what’s advertised. The model will self implode.
    I think the three stated trends, electrification, autonomy, and sharing, will NOT merge, as they are all independent of each other. As such, we will see AVs with gasoline engines that are owned, shared vehicles that are electric with little AV or shared electric AVs. All combinations will be with us for quite some time as none of them will be at a 100% penetration.

  6. I took the Vox article completely differently: the screens with advertising will face outward to the other users of the road. Advertising revenues are based on the # of eyes viewing them.
    That kind of advertising becomes a distraction to those same users, with safety being the loser. In Ottawa, roadside advertising that had included motion was — and probably still is, despite amalgamation in 2001 — forbidden.
    Offsetting the safety argument is the economic-equity argue, which will disappear when AVs are introduced big-time, and the many many drivers are “retired.”

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