When Your Car Drives You

by Mark Tungate , MAYDREAM

Technology is replacing performance as the central sales pitch in car advertising.

Car ads have tended to focus on the driver experience, whether the person (usually a man) behind the wheel is negotiating a hazardous urban environment or speeding joyfully down a winding road. But cars themselves are changing. Vehicles are connected. They park themselves. Pretty soon they will drive themselves. The emotions stirred by driving are becoming less relevant.

Tech-driven safety features such as rear cameras and automatic breaking are already familiar in advertising. An Epica Award winner from Adam&eveDDB last year cleverly demonstrated safe distance technology.

As we know, technology got VW into trouble recently. But what about us? Could technology make driving less safe? During last year’s Super Bowl, a spot for the Mazda 3 provoked debate when it vaunted the ability to check social networks at the wheel. “Why would anyone need to update Facebook while driving?” asked AdWeek, amid concern about driver distraction.

Having a car overloaded with gadgets could prove dangerous is other ways. Way back in 2012, technology magazine Pipeline asked: “Could you steal a Subaru using SMS?” Turned out the answer was “yes”. Hackers stole a Subaru Outback “using an Android smartphone and an SMS text message”. Apparently they took advantage of an in-car system linked to the cloud to unlock the doors and start the engine.

As recently as July, the technology site Wired posted a video of hackers taking over a Jeep – including its brakes – from a distance.

Nevertheless, it looks like the connected car is here to stay, judging by this spot from Volvo. After all, why do without “all the apps you love”, even for an hour or two?

Suddenly the talking car from the 1980s TV show Knight Rider doesn’t look so silly. You may remember that Michael Knight was able to stay in touch with his four-wheeled friend using his watch. Inevitably, there are parallels in the real world.

Nissan and TBWA launched the Nismo Watch in 2013. The device provided biometric data about its wearer along with the car’s average speed and fuel efficiency, traffic updates and weather conditions.

Of course, Apple has seen the potential of automotive connectivity for its own watch, in partnership with electric car maker Tesla.

One innovation that will utterly change the discourse of car advertising is the self-driving car, or “autonomous vehicle”. Hyundai, for one, is pushing for “partially automated driving in 2015, highly automated driving in 2020 and fully automated driving in 2030”, according to tech site ZDnet.com.

A dramatic foretaste of that world was shot in California by The Viral Factory.

But perhaps we shouldn’t take the concept of connected cars too seriously. Here’s how DDB Sydney and Skoda astonished some test drivers with a car that seemed very, very connected indeed.