Artificial Intelligence

e-Billboarding and AI Autonomous Cars

E-billboards need to be taken into account by developers of AI software for self-driving cars since they can be quite the distraction. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider

During a normal daily commute in a big city, you might see about 20 to 30 billboards, though you are likely so used to the presence of the billboards that you don’t give any conscious thought toward them.

Interestingly, there are an estimated 350,000 billboards throughout the United States.

That’s a lot of billboards!

Estimates of the amount of money spent on billboards annually in the U.S. vary, but many would guess it is around $8 billion dollars.

In essence, those billboards that you drive past at 65 miles per hour, and for which maybe you notice and maybe you don’t, they are big business involving big bucks.

Advertisers seem to think that billboards are worth paying for.

The companies that own billboards and seek out advertisers are of the belief that advertisers are wise to use billboards.

There are some billboards that are rather mundane and do not especially standout.

I dare say that a number of the billboards are about trying to sell new cars and they often don’t leap off the page, so to speak, and I wonder how much good those billboards are doing. Admittedly, these are billboards that are right next to the new car dealerships selling such cars, and so it is handy to have the billboard as a kind of “I’m here” signpost for anyone considering stopping to look at buying a new car.

One billboard that gets attention is one involving a mannequin of a cow on it, offering a 3D visualization that can catch the eye as you drive past it (you probably know the billboard, it is for a fast food chain that sells mainly chicken).

Another type of billboard that can be particularly noticeable is an electronic one that is constantly changing from one image to another, and changes throughout the week.

It is easy for the company owning the billboard to showcase new items and avoid the usual labor-intensive act of having to put up a large-scale poster or otherwise do something physical when putting on a fresh ad for the billboard.

These so-called electronic billboards, often referred to as e-billboards, offer the advantage of being easy and quick for displaying any new or changing ads.

If you’ve ever been to Times Square in New York City (NYC), you’ve undoubtedly seen the plethora of e-billboards displayed there. Some are amazed and watch the e-billboards in rapt attention. Others take a short look, shrug their shoulders, perceive it as a big glossy glowing mess, and don’t look at it again. There are even protesters that say these kinds of electronic signs are a form of visual pollution. It is a blight on what we see around us. They go to Times Square and are dismayed by what they see and assert that it should be banned or otherwise outlawed.

One of the billboards that is partially electronic that I notice each day during my commute is one that electronically displays the latest dollar number for the lottery. I admit it does get my attention. When the dollar amount is “low” such as a mere $50 million, I glance but take no particular action due to the billboard. When it gets to over $500 million, I become allured like everyone else and opt to stop at a gas station to get a lottery ticket. I know it doesn’t make much logical sense, given the astronomical odds of winning, and that I should not become swept into the lottery ticket buying melees, but anyway I do.

Some people are happy that we are gradually shifting to electronic billboards since it dispenses with the use of paper, or canvas, or paints, and they would say that the e-billboards are better for the environment accordingly. Those that dislike billboards for the visual pollution tend to say that the electronic billboards are much worse in visual clutter than the traditional kinds of billboards.

Near the Los Angeles International Airport, known as LAX, there are several large buildings near the freeway that have huge canvas-like stretched material that nearly encompasses the whole building. These are essentially also billboards. Though the buildings were not built for the specific purpose of being a billboard, nonetheless they have been co-opted into becoming billboards. The people inside the building can still readily see out their windows and thus this appears to be a handy way for the building owners to pick-up some extra cash.

Having done extensive AI work for the entertainment industry, I used to drive to the various studios each day. The major movie studios purposely rent billboards near to their studio lots (or buy up nearby billboards, or on their own they put up billboards near to their studios), and outfit the billboards with ads for their own movies and often post their movie stars pictures.

This makes sense in that if you were visiting that studio, you would encounter all of these fantastic ads about their movies, prior to arriving at the studio lot.

The idea too is that if a move star is coming to the lot and the studio is pitching them to star in their movies, the more the movie star sees the billboards the presumption is that the movie star will get very excited about the pitch even before they arrive at the studio lot.

Imagine the other side of that coin.

If you are a movie star headed to a studio owned by entertainment company X, and their competitor of entertainment company Y has rented up all the billboard space near to the studio lot of company X, you might have second thoughts about whether to do your movie with company X. You might think, well, perhaps I ought to be driving over to company Y instead. I don’t know that the movie stars and movie makers really think that way, but the studios sure think they do.

Earlier this year, I was in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and throughout the Vegas famous Strip, which is a street that runs along the major casinos, there are numerous billboards.

In addition to stationary billboards, such as those on a standalone basis and ones that were wrapped around buildings, there were also moving billboards.

About In-Motion Billboards

By moving billboards, I mean they were in motion.

The billboard itself was moving – typically involving a truck that was towing the billboard and the billboard was mounted on wheels.

Some of the moving billboards were related to the CES conference and urging those attending to do something such as visit a particular casino or go see a particular show. Others of the moving billboards were apparently used on a regular basis for attracting attention to anyone that happens to be in Vegas. There were ads displayed for all kinds of aspects, including some that are unmentionable, while others were rather topical such as one for a financial service that could help you out of a financial jam (I suppose many of those gambling in Vegas might have found that billboard appealing).

These towed billboards can be a pain in the neck (pun intended!).

I had my car there in Vegas and it was difficult to at times navigate near or around the trucks towing the billboards.

Those moving billboards are large and bulky, and they tend to block the view of traffic.

Such towed billboards can also “hide” pedestrians that are trying to jaywalk across a busy street.

There are some that believe the towed billboards should be outlawed or banned.

A major reason to object to the moving billboards is that they can disrupt traffic flow.

They can block views and create hazardous traffic related situations.

You could also say that they are using up precious fuel and generating automotive pollutants for a somewhat questionable basis.

It is one thing if you put a billboard on the side of a bus, since the bus is a form or public transportation and by using it for a billboard you are doing double duty.

Having a truck that cruises around and around, doing nothing other than towing a billboard, it is something that many believe is improper and inappropriate.

This does bring up another facet that concerns many people about billboards altogether.

They are a distraction.

If you are driving on the freeway and see a billboard up ahead, which are you going to do, focus on the roadway or instead look at the billboard?

Indeed, the companies that advertise and the companies that own the billboard are hopeful that you will look at the billboard. They will do just about anything to get your eyeballs.

We therefore have a bit of a conundrum.

Drivers are supposed to be focused on driving.

Meanwhile, we allow these billboards to be set up near where we drive, which makes sense because where else will the eyeballs be found, and we let the billboard companies and advertisers try to have us shift our attention to their messaging.

Is it worth the potential of drivers taking their eyes off-the-road, and therefore presumably being less safe as drivers and increasing risks on our roadways, merely to be able to see a billboard that has perhaps a cow mannequin on it or a lottery dollar amount being displayed?

You could claim that drivers aren’t looking at the billboards and that the billboards are really for the passengers in the cars.

Yeh, right.

That’s a good one.

You could claim that the drivers are already looking around anyway and that the distraction factor of seeing a billboard out of the corner of your eye is hardly any kind of distraction. You might like to read-up about some of the research studies that tend to suggest there is more risk involved than many might think.

If you want to claim that the billboards actually help drivers by having them become more visually engaged in their surroundings, I’d say that’s going a bit far in trying to justify billboards.

How many times have you heard about someone that happened to look at a billboard, which made them shift their gaze away from say their own navel, and so they were sparked into looking at the roadway and thank goodness the billboard was there. I’ve not heard much of that.

I’ve primarily so far been discussing what many refer to as Outdoor Advertising (OA), or sometimes referred to as Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising. There is advertising that you might see while inside an airport such as LAX, plastered on the walls and with standalone kiosks throughout the terminal areas. I’m herein mainly focusing on the kind of billboards and ads that you see while outdoors such as nearby to highways, freeways, and streets.

There are the large outdoor advertising stands that are a physical structure and have a movie-screen sized poster or similar pictorial display. I’ve also mentioned that some now are electronic displays.

I’m going to call them e-billboards, though some refer to them as Digital Billboards (DBB) or possibly Digital Out-of-the-Home (DOOH) displays.

DOOH Displays And Buying Behaviors

One question to ponder is this – do they work?

The billboard industry continually tries to hammer away at the claim that these outdoor billboards do work.

What does that mean?

They would claim that people notice the billboards and that it ultimately leads to buying behaviors.

I see a billboard for a new movie, and I opt that next weekend to go see the movie at the movie theater. I see a billboard for a new hair jell, and I go to the store the next day and buy some. In essence, the claim is that there is a correlation between your seeing the billboard and your likelihood of then making a purchase decision because of it.

Not all billboards necessarily lead to an immediate reward for the advertising firm.

Maybe the billboard is intended simply for brand awareness.

You might not be buying that brand anytime in the near future. Hopefully though, when you are ready to make a purchase related to the item, you have planted in your mind that particular firm or product and it will urge you to purchase their product.

I’ve had some people that come visit me here in SoCal that look intently at the billboards and tell me that half of the billboards mention items that they would never purchase. As such, they tell me that those billboards are a waste. I gently point out that the billboards are not intended to get every person on earth to be prompted by the billboard. In other words, a billboard might be displaying an ad that only a segment of those seeing the billboard will believe it pertains to them.

There are billboards here that tout some of our local gambling casinos and point out that you don’t need to drive five or six hours to Vegas to go gambling. I know people that refuse to gamble. For them, the billboard is perhaps a waste. But, others that see the billboard and are interested in gambling might say to themselves, hey, I didn’t realize I could gamble within 30 minutes of where I now am, I’ll go there soon.

You could even make the case that those that don’t gamble might pass along the ad to others that they know. Perhaps you aren’t a gambler yourself, but your relatives love to gamble, and they are coming to Los Angeles next week. Based on seeing the billboard, you might tell them that they can go gambling at the local casino. Though you originally perceived that the billboard was wasted on you, it turns out that you got the message and relayed it to others. I’d say that suggests the billboard wasn’t truly wasted on you. It had a payoff.

Another way to answer the question as to whether they work or not might be the simplest explanation, namely that they exist therefore they must work.

Is that some kind of tortured tautology?

Well, not exactly.

The point being that if advertisers did not believe the billboards worked, they presumably would not be willing to spend money on them. There are lots of other ways to spend advertising dollars, such as on radio ads, TV ads, online ads, and so on.

Admittedly, some companies run the ads on billboards due to the aspect that they want to say they have billboard ads.

They are doing it somewhat for bragging rights.

This notion that you are running billboard ads might be an element of your portraying your firm as a significant company. Whether people actually go ahead and buy your product because of the billboards, you might not especially care. It would be nice if it had that kind of impact, but if it only is serving as a promotional tool in other ways, you might be fine with that aspect too.

Can You Not See A Billboard

I knew one driver that said he refused to look at billboards.

He didn’t like them.

He didn’t like them in a box, he didn’t like them with a fox (thanks goes to Dr. Seuss!).

He said they were ugly and a blight on society.

He felt that if he looked at a billboard, any billboard, it would make the advertiser encouraged to make use of even more billboards. By averting his eyes, he was doing his part to discourage billboards and hoped that it would someday lead to the death knell of billboards. He was a hard case on this topic, for sure.

I don’t want to burst his bubble, but I think we all know his attempts to avert his eyes did not move the needle in terms of disrupting the billboard industry.

If he had tried to go the route of saying that the billboards were distracting and a hazard to driving, he might have been able to make the case for his averting of his eyes. I’d say that people would be more willing to buy into his protests in that case.

What’s your opinion about billboards?

Love them?

Hate them?

Tolerate them?

Like them in moderation?

Find them essential, funny, heartwarming, touching, informative, and can’t wait to see them? Or, believe they should be put into a junk heap and burned?

There are all kinds of views on the matter.

AI Autonomous Cars And e-Billboarding

What does this have to do with AI self-driving driverless autonomous cars?

At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are developing AI software for self-driving cars. One arising aspect involves the potential for e-billboarding becoming a significant element of AI self-driving cars.

Allow me to elaborate.

I’d like to first clarify and introduce the notion that there are varying levels of AI self-driving cars. The topmost level is considered Level 5. A Level 5 self-driving car is one that is being driven by the AI and there is no human driver involved. For the design of Level 5 self-driving cars, the automakers are even removing the gas pedal, brake pedal, and steering wheel, since those are contraptions used by human drivers. The Level 5 self-driving car is not being driven by a human and nor is there an expectation that a human driver will be present in the self-driving car. It’s all on the shoulders of the AI to drive the car.

For self-driving cars less than a Level 5 or Level 4, there must be a human driver present in the car. The human driver is currently considered the responsible party for the acts of the car. The AI and the human driver are co-sharing the driving task. In spite of this co-sharing, the human is supposed to remain fully immersed into the driving task and be ready at all times to perform the driving task. I’ve repeatedly warned about the dangers of this co-sharing arrangement and predicted it will produce many untoward results.

For my overall framework about AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/framework-ai-self-driving-driverless-cars-big-picture/

For the levels of self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/richter-scale-levels-self-driving-cars/

For why AI Level 5 self-driving cars are like a moonshot, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/self-driving-car-mother-ai-projects-moonshot/

For the dangers of co-sharing the driving task, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/human-back-up-drivers-for-ai-self-driving-cars/

Let’s focus herein on the true Level 5 self-driving car. Much of the comments apply to the less than Level 5 self-driving cars too, but the fully autonomous AI self-driving car will receive the most attention in this discussion.

Here’s the usual steps involved in the AI driving task:

  • Sensor data collection and interpretation
  • Sensor fusion
  • Virtual world model updating
  • AI action planning
  • Car controls command issuance

Another key aspect of AI self-driving cars is that they will be driving on our roadways in the midst of human driven cars too. There are some pundits of AI self-driving cars that continually refer to a utopian world in which there are only AI self-driving cars on the public roads. Currently there are about 250+ million conventional cars in the United States alone, and those cars are not going to magically disappear or become true Level 5 or Level 4 AI self-driving cars overnight.

Indeed, the use of human driven cars will last for many years, likely many decades, and the advent of AI self-driving cars will occur while there are still human driven cars on the roads. This is a crucial point since this means that the AI of self-driving cars needs to be able to contend with not just other AI self-driving cars, but also contend with human driven cars. It is easy to envision a simplistic and rather unrealistic world in which all AI self-driving cars are politely interacting with each other and being civil about roadway interactions. That’s not what is going to be happening for the foreseeable future. AI self-driving cars and human driven cars will need to be able to cope with each other.

For my article about the grand convergence that has led us to this moment in time, see: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/grand-convergence-explains-rise-self-driving-cars/

See my article about the ethical dilemmas facing AI self-driving cars: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ethically-ambiguous-self-driving-cars/

For potential regulations about AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/assessing-federal-regulations-self-driving-cars-house-bill-passed/

For my predictions about AI self-driving cars for the 2020s, 2030s, and 2040s, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/gen-z-and-the-fate-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

Returning to the topic of e-billboards, let’s consider how this matter relates to the advent of AI self-driving cars.

First, be aware that there are pundits on both sides of the issue about what will ultimately happen to billboards once we have prevalent AI self-driving cars.

There are the pessimists that say billboards will gradually disappear and you won’t see them alongside our roadways anymore, while there are the optimists that claim the billboard will flourish though in ways different from the billboards of today.

Let’s consider these two divergent viewpoints.

The Predicted Demise Of Billboards

Why might billboards become a lost art and die off?

Here’s why.

If we are all ensconced in our AI self-driving cars, it is believed that we will sleep in them, we will work while inside them, and that otherwise we will be visually entertained and our focus will be nearly exclusively on the interior of the self-driving car.

There is no particular reason to look out the car windows when you are in a true Level 5 self-driving car because the AI is doing the driving and you don’t need to pay attention to the roadway (that’s the theory of it).

In fact, you probably don’t really want windows at all and instead would use that same area to have LED displays. This would allow you to have your favorite online video streaming on one of the “windows” (now a display), while maybe doing a Skype-like session via the use of the space on another “window” and so on.

You might be thinking that with no windows you might get claustrophobic.

Well, via the LED displays, you could simply have the AI display whatever the car camera sensors are seeing. You don’t need to roll down an actual window. You can instead “look outside” by tapping into the cameras on the self-driving car. But the odds are that you will rarely be looking “outside” and will be preoccupied with using the displays for other purposes, either for work, for studying, for doing live meetings with others, etc.

Some companies are going to be making car windows that can be readily electronically made to switch from being transparent to being opaque.

This would allow you to use those car windows for either acting as internal LED displays or to be used to look outside of the car. Others though say that these switchable kinds of windows will come and go (falling out of favor), and eventually there won’t be any windows at all. The use of windows will be considered as a lesser safe aspect of the self-driving car, a weakness, which can get smashed and toss glass everywhere. There are those that say we’ll be better off without the windows and instead use that space with a more hardened material.

If this prediction is correct, it means that the billboards that are alongside our roadways won’t be seen by anyone that’s inside a car.

As mentioned earlier, today’s billboards survive and succeed when they attract eyeballs. No eyeballs, no point in paying to put your advertisement on the billboard. No paying advertisers means the billboard companies won’t make money. Billboard companies not making money will let their old-time billboards languish, and they’ll become relics.

Here’s another nail in the coffin for those outdoor billboards.

If you are focusing your attention inside the self-driving car, advertisers are going to fight to get onto the LED displays inside the self-driving car.

When taking a cab these days, if you’ve perchance accidentally or by old-habits done so versus using a ridesharing service, you’ll notice that most “modern day” cabs have displays that show advertisements. These used to be small-sized posters that were taped to the back of the front seats of the cab, and now they are tablet sized LED displays.

The ridesharing services have been somewhat reluctant to go the same path as the cab companies in terms of showcasing ads via inside-the-car displays. Executives at the ridesharing firms don’t want to irk their ridesharing customers. Though the ads would be a tempting amount of revenue, if it curtailed the growth rate of the ridesharing firms it would not be worth the incremental revenue. Most of the ridesharing services are losing money anyway, and they just need to keep touting their number of passengers and their adoption growth rate (whether they make money is apparently not important to anyone as yet, it’s instead all about market share!).

In a quick recap of the pessimist’s viewpoint, you won’t be looking outside of your AI self-driving car, and therefore there are no eyeballs or very few eyeballs on those outdoor billboards. Furthermore, as a double whammy, the advertisers are going to divert their spending to getting “inside” the AI self-driving car and being displayed on your internal displays. In that sense, the advertisers will abandon the outdoor billboards.

It’s a one-two knockout punch to the outdoor billboards industry.

For my article about the interiors of AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/family-road-trip-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the use of AI self-driving cars for ridesharing, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ridesharing-services-and-ai-self-driving-cars-notably-uber-in-or-uber-out/

For the affordability of AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/affordability-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

For my article about the nonstop use of AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/non-stop-ai-self-driving-cars-truths-and-consequences/

Does all of this mean that you should be dumping your stock in billboard companies?

Well, let’s hear what the other side of the coin has to say.

We need to give the optimists a chance to speak their piece.

e-Billboards To The Rescue

The optimists say that the glory days of billboards are yet upon us.

The slight twist will be that the billboards will become predominantly e-billboards.

These e-billboards will do much more than the ones of today.

Suppose you are in your AI self-driving car and heading to work.

Your AI self-driving car is likely using V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) electronic communications to communicate with other nearby self-driving cars. This will allow the various self-driving cars around your self-driving car to coordinate their activities. If one of the self-driving cars detects debris up ahead in the rightmost lane, it can quickly inform the other AI systems of the upcoming self-driving cars. Those AI systems would then presumably try to get out of the rightmost lane so as to avoid hitting the debris.

These V2V transmissions can be picked-up by essentially anyone or anything that is nearby. The billboard company might have edge computing devices that are attached to their outdoor billboard or that are nearby the billboard. These edge computing devices are keeping tabs on the V2V communications.

This might allow the e-billboard that you are about to drive past to suddenly be changed to display an image or video that applies to you, or maybe to those around you in nearby self-driving cars.

The Machine Learning (ML) or Deep Learning (DL) system being used by the billboard company is collecting tons of data while self-driving cars are streaming along on the freeway, and the ML and DL is able to try and figure out which ads are best to be placed on the e-billboard display. This can change too from moment to moment, all depending upon the pattern of the traffic and who is driving past the e-billboard.

What about the idea that you’ll be in your self-driving car as an enclosed shell and won’t be looking outside?

Nonsense say the optimists.

You are not going to coop yourself up in your self-driving car.

You are going to want to look outside.

Whereas before, while you were driving a car, you could not enjoy the luxury of looking around. Now that all human drivers are no longer drivers, and they are relegated instead to being passengers, they will lovingly welcome being able to look outside their self-driving car.

Indeed, these proponents would say that people are not going to feel comfortable with not looking outside and otherwise blindly trusting the AI to drive the car. Furthermore, these occupants might want to change the course of the driving journey and opt to have the AI self-driving car stop at that Starbucks up ahead, which they just realized was there by having noticed the e-billboard that mentioned it.

There might also be an electronic connection going on between the e-billboards and your in-car LED displays.

As you get within eyesight of the e-billboard, it pops up a small message on your interior LED display that says you’ve got to take a look at the magnificent e-billboard image that you are about to drive past. You look at the e-billboard. Amazing, you think. You wonder how you could learn more about the product being showcased. At that moment, you look back at your internal LED display and see a convenient link shown there, allowing you to click on it and be provided with a lot more detail about the product.

Another factor is the predicted non-stop use of AI self-driving cars.

Presumably, AI self-driving cars will be going all day and all night long. Ridesharing services will provide them. You can even buy your own AI self-driving car and have it listed as a ridesharing service, allowing you to make money via your AI self-driving car. Thus, while at work, your self-driving car is doing ridesharing and making money. After your AI self-driving car drops you at home upon the end of your workday, it goes out for the night and the wee morning hours, making you more money.

Why care about this aspect?

It could imply that there are going to be even more eyeballs for billboard watching. People that don’t use a car today or rarely use one will potentially readily use AI self-driving cars as a ridesharing medium. So you’ve now turned the human drivers into passengers with eyeballs to watch billboards, and you are adding more people to traveling in cars (self-driving cars), which puts more eyeballs within range of seeing the billboards (mainly e-billboards).

It is a kind of eyeball growth nirvana.

Billboard companies will likely add more billboards, and fight to put more of them up alongside roadways.

That’s what the optimists say will happen.

Counting Eyeballs Will Be Easier

As an aside, remember how I earlier suggested that advertisers don’t necessarily know whether people are really looking at their billboards?

The billboard companies do various kinds of surveys to try and find out from people whether they have looked at a billboard, but this is a rather crude and at times questionable way to really accurately indicate whether people are looking at the billboards or not.

Here’s a twist for you. AI self-driving cars are going to be outfitted with cameras that point inward, allowing whomever is inside the AI self-driving car to be captured on video. Ridesharing firms will do this to protect the self-driving cars and be able to know if someone is messing around by destroying the interior or writing graffiti on the interior car walls.

The twist is that the billboard company could ask the auto maker or tech firm to report whether people gazed at the billboard as the self-driving car went past it.

This would be easy data to collect.

The OTA (Over-the-Air) electronic connection between the self-driving car and the automaker or tech firm cloud will be uploading data from the self-driving car, doing so to aid the automaker or tech firm in analyzing the data and presumably improving the AI systems of the self-driving car (the OTA can allow them to push updates and patches to the AI of the self-driving car).

All the automaker or tech firm needs to do is set up an automated system that would scan through the uploaded video of the interior facing camera and do a search for the time whenever the self-driving car went past the billboard. At that point in the video, the automated system could readily detect the faces of the people inside the AI self-driving car. This detection could also examine whether the faces are looking outside the self-driving car and whether their eyes and gaze seemed to be in the direction of the e-billboard.

Now that’s quantitative data!

For my article about whether people will trust AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/roller-coaster-public-perception-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the use of AI self-driving cars by the elderly, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/ethics-and-social-issues/elderly-boon-bust-self-driving-cars/

For my article about how OTA works, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/air-ota-updating-ai-self-driving-cars/

For concerns about privacy and AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/privacy-ai-self-driving-cars/

What Is The Future

Which camp are you in?

Do you think that the pessimists are correct, and the billboard industry is doomed?

Or, do you believe the optimists are on the right track and the billboard industry is heading to a grand resurgence?

Both arguments seem rather compelling.

I’d add some additional aspects that might either help clear things up or maybe just make the waters even murkier.

I’ve already mentioned that the interior of the self-driving car might end-up having its own variant of e-billboards.

Though ridesharing services aren’t doing so particular now, it is a safe bet that in the future they will be. I’d wager that if you bought an AI self-driving car and you opted to have it be a ridesharing service when you weren’t otherwise using it, you’d welcome the added revenue that you could get by allowing for ads to be pumped into your AI self-driving car interior LED displays.

There are some that are even suggesting that the ridesharing services will get really inexpensive or maybe even become free-of-charge to the passengers, doing so to get eyeballs into the self-driving cars that will then see the interior displayed ads. If you are an advertiser, isn’t it great to know that someone will be trapped inside a AI self-driving car for their driving journey and have no choice but to see your video that proudly advertisers your product? Gotta love those captive audiences.

I’ll now provide the added element that I’ve not yet mentioned but could be a bonanza.

What about the exterior of the AI self-driving car?

Suppose we place on the exterior of the AI self-driving car an electronic billboard or maybe a series of them all around the outside of the vehicle.

The AI self-driving car now becomes a moving billboard, akin to what I had mentioned earlier that I had seen in Vegas. The good news is that the e-billboard of the AI self-driving car is presumably doing double-duty in that the AI self-driving car is also carrying occupants, similar to how the buses with billboards are doing double-duty.

In other words, if the AI self-driving car is taking someone from point A to point B, why not also be displaying electronic ads on the outside of the self-driving car too. This would be relatively easy to arrange. The OTA of the self-driving car could get ads pumped down to the AI self-driving car. These ads could change depending upon where the AI self-driving car is headed.

For example, suppose you are taking the AI self-driving car to the baseball stadium, so you can watch a baseball game that will be played there. The AI realizes that you are heading to the baseball stadium. There are going to be lots of other cars nearby with people also heading to the baseball game. There will be baseball avid pedestrians too, once your AI self-driving car gets closer to the stadium.

Seems like an advertiser that wants to catch the eyeballs of baseball-going people will relish having their video ads placed onto your exterior displays. Rather than having just any kind of ads, this would allow the advertiser to target their ads to the specifics of baseball goers. Maybe a company that makes baseball gloves and bats would want to run an ad. Perhaps a gym service would run an ad, figuring that the people seeing the ad are more likely to be athletic and might go to a gym to workout.

Here’s another neat trick.

The sensors of the AI self-driving car are detecting the presence of pedestrians and other cars, doing so to properly drive the self-driving car. You could readily use that same data to spot whether people are looking at the displays on the outside of the AI self-driving car. Once again, we have a means to easily provide a quantitative measure of whether the ads are actually being seen by people.

Seems like a win-win.

You might wonder why today’s cars aren’t being massively outfitted with e-billboard like displays.

One reason could be that the displays would be criticized as being distracting to human drivers.

In a future of all AI self-driving cars, there aren’t any human drivers that would be distracted. You could have the displays and ads go nuts and showcase whatever splashy content they wanted (within the bounds of whatever legal limits there might be).

Of course, if the passengers in self-driving cars are not going to be looking outside, this cuts out a lot of the eyeballs that might be watching those exterior self-driving car displays. You would still have the pedestrians presumably to look at the displays. Whether that’s sufficient or not is an open question.

We are back to the money-making side of things too.

If you’ve bought an expensive AI self-driving car and you are desperate to make money to afford it, I’d bet that you’d be fine with displaying ads on the exterior of the AI self-driving car. Indeed, you might be more comfortable displaying ads on the outside versus the insider. The problem with displaying the ads on the inside is that you might have riders that don’t like seeing ads and will avoid using your ridesharing service. There might be ridesharing services that tout the fact that they do not display ads inside their AI self-driving cars, which they hope will then attract riders over other AI self-driving cars that do allow ads (almost like differentiating between allowing smoking versus a non-smoking car).

Possible Downsides To AI Self-Driving Cars

Some wonder whether these external displays might confuse the sensors of the AI self-driving cars.

Here’s what they mean.

Suppose your AI self-driving car is heading along on the freeway and there is another self-driving car ahead of it.

This other self-driving car has a big display at the rear of the car and can be seen readily by anyone behind the AI self-driving car.

The display suddenly shows a mad bull that seems to be rushing toward you. It’s only a video. But, perhaps the camera on your AI self-driving car does not realize this is merely a video and does an image analysis and concludes that a mad bull is charging directly at the AI self-driving car. This gets conveyed to the AI Action Planning portion of the system, and all of sudden the AI is commanding your self-driving car to make a radical and risky lane change to get away from the charging bull. Oops, shame on the AI.

I know you might laugh at this notion.

Perhaps the charging bull is not the most serious way to express the dangers.

The point though is that it is presumably a possibility that the displays on various nearby AI self-driving cars might visually overwhelm or confuse or confound the sensors of the other nearby AI self-driving cars. As such, one could lob the same kind of criticism about distracting human drivers, which instead that these displays could “distract” (maybe confuse or fool) the AI system of the self-driving car.

That being said, many pundits of AI self-driving cars would say that any self-respecting AI self-driving car that might get confused by an electronic display that is nearby shouldn’t be on the roadway to begin with. If it is that easy to confuse or fool the AI, the AI doesn’t deserve to be driving a self-driving car. For them, this suggestion that ad e-billboards on self-driving cars might be a danger to driving is a non-starter and they reject the notion entirely.

Thinking Outside The Box

There are some that envision the AI of a self-driving car to have a different kind of vantage about dealing with the e-billboard displays.

Suppose you let your AI self-driving car know that you are a beer drinker.

You love drinking beer. While you are in your AI self-driving car, the AI is using its sensors to detect other cars and pedestrians.

Imagine if the AI is also examining the e-billboards and scanning them to see what kinds of ads are being displayed.

On the self-driving car up ahead, it is displaying a beer ad. The AI notifies you to look up and glance at the self-driving car in the lane to the right. You do so. You see a beer ad. Nice, it was just the kind of ad you’d like to see.

Some people are coming up with other imaginative ideas.

You might have your own virtual avatar, and you display it on your exterior displays. Anyone watching your self-driving car will know that “superman” or “superwoman” (your chosen avatar) is in that self-driving car. Or, maybe you sell your own fresh-squeezed juices and you use your exterior displays to advertise your own product. And so on.

For the marketing of AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/marketing-self-driving-cars-new-paradigms/

For Gen Z and AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/gen-z-and-the-fate-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

For my article about the role of greed in AI self-driving cars, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/selfishness-self-driving-cars-ai-greed-good/

For my article about AI self-driving cars as a commodity or not, see: https://www.aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/economic-commodity-debate-the-case-of-ai-self-driving-cars/

Conclusion

For billboard companies, it could be the best of times or it could be the worst of times, and the advent of AI self-driving cars might be the determiner of which way things will go.

Will we end-up with roadside e-billboards or will they not make the cut.

Will we end-up with e-billboards on the exterior of our AI self-driving cars?

For those of you that already don’t like the visual clutter or visual pollution of billboards, pretend for a moment that all 250+ million cars in the United States are eventually replaced by AI self-driving cars and that they all have exterior e-billboards displays.

This means that wherever those self-driving cars go, you can have the same kind of visual cacophony of Times Square, all the time, anywhere.

If this makes you shudder, I guess you’ll want to never look outside your AI self-driving car. Plus, when walking around as a pedestrian, perhaps wear some kind of special Augmented Reality (AR) glasses that are able to block out the e-billboards that are flashing and glaring all around you.

Until this is all figured out, I’m voting that nobody runs an ad with a charging bull as part of their exterior displays on any AI self-driving cars.

Ole!

Copyright 2020 Dr. Lance Eliot

This content is originally posted on AI Trends.

[Ed. Note: For reader’s interested in Dr. Eliot’s ongoing business analyses about the advent of self-driving cars, see his online Forbes column: https://forbes.com/sites/lanceeliot/]

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