A British autonomous car company called RDM Group will unveil its new self-driving vehicle, dubbed Pod Zero, tomorrow. The announcement won’t capture the public imagination because the technology in play is not transformative and the cars look like they were repurposed from a funicular. Still, the Pods, which max out at 15 mph, are groundbreaking in their own right because of what they seek to do: Turn autonomy into advertising.
“Pod Zero represents the next generation of pod and features different drivetrain, steering systems, and a new striking interior that is dominated by video screens that can play adverts, information videos, or just become neutral to showcase the view from the outside,” David Keene, CEO of RDM Group, told the Coventry Telegraph.
The new pods come with room for two, four, and eight passengers. RDM Group develops cars for a “Low-Speed Autonomous Transport System (or L-SATS).” While the low maximum speed keeps the pods from being useful on city streets, RDM Group lists airports, theme parks, shopping centers, college campuses, and smart cities as ideal locations for Pod Zero.
Direct advertisements in a connected autonomous vehicle could help subsidize the cost of new technology. RDM Group puts the market for Pod Zero at more than 15 million, or around $21 million.
Ford is also looking into the video-playing capabilities of autonomous vehicles, which could be good news for short episodes and comedy. Someone or something has to pay for that media, and that something could be commercials. Autonomous cars have a captive audience and can be tracked for targeted ads.
Autonomous cars will free up drivers’ time. Whether people in the future decide to use that time productively by answering emails, catching up on sleep, or other things, is yet to be seen. Advertisements, however, may be inevitable.