As If We Couldn’t Get More Ads...

By Kirsten Kerr

As a new wave of technology comes ahead, an even bigger wave of advertising opportunity comes with it. Self-driving cars are getting closer and closer to being fully integrated into our society. The current prediction is that by “2020, 10 million self driving vehicles are expected on the roads,” which is only a short 2 years away.

Instead of focusing on driving while in our cars, we might be streaming videos, listening to music, or searching for a local Starbucks. Advertisers are jumping to this new window of screen time and viewing it as a new channel to reach customers. That new space of time, whether it be a 5 minute drive or a 5 hour drive, is a great opportunity for brands to expose us to their products and offer promotions by popping up on our dashboard at just the right time based on our geolocation. It is estimated that “Americans spend on average about 290 hours driving each year.” That’s a lot of new screen time for marketers to take over.


This new form of advertising is a much better investment for companies than some social media platforms. This is because we can’t swipe away from the ads like we can on Instagram or Snapchat on our dashboard. Some of the ads will be too convenient to pass up since we will be close to the advertised spot and be able to redirect our car to that location.

Beyond the new advertising window, in-car ads advances a large privacy risk for consumers. Even though companies have been collecting our personal data for years now, “the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging.” Wherever we go, the artificial intelligence within our car will know where we are, where we are going, what stops we frequently make, and every convenience or restaurant near us.

Imagine you are driving home from work, and you had previously set a reminder in your phone to pick up dinner for your family. An advertisement for a current discount going on at your local pizza store pops up on your dashboard. You can click on this ad and direct your car to drive to that store. Your car is responding to the ad as well as driving it.


How many times have you been driving somewhere and suddenly see that your gas tank is edging on empty but the nearest gas station is 15 miles away? If you had a self driving car with in-car ads, it would recognize that your gas tank is low earlier on and advertise a nearby gas station. This service could potentially save us from a lot of dreaded AAA calls. The convenience of this type of data-collection program is almost unmatchable.

Despite all these benefits, we arrive at the security risk that results from this new form of technology and advertising. Is the convenience that this program provides worth giving up your constant location for auction to millions of companies?

Ford’s CEO and President, Jim Hackett, brought up another very persuasive advantage of in-car data collection at a keynote in Las Vegas: along with the security risk of location tracking comes great benefits. What if your car gets robbed? A self-driving car equipped with data collection systems will be able to track where the robber is with your car and allow you to follow it on your cell phone. Companies believe that the answer is “yes,” consumers will willingly give up tons of data like our location for help in a robbery situation or the convenience of advertisements at a nearby restaurant.

As much as consumers love to hate advertisements and feel violated by computer systems collecting our personal data, it does provide many advantages. The current generation feeds off of convenience, so this new form of advertising could easily be accepted within our society. Self driving cars will not only disrupt the norms of transportation, but also dramatically change the advertising industry.


Neumann, Noam. “How Self-Driving Cars Will Change In-Auto Entertainment And Advertising.” International Business Times, Mobfox, 26 Dec. 2017,

Coppola, Gabrielle. “Pop-up Ads in Your Car? It Could Be the next Big Thing.”, 6 Mar. 2018,

Neha Saboo