There has been no innovation in the automobile since Carl Benz first patented the automobile in 1886.
Yes, that is a bold statement.
And yes, there have been micro-evolutions in that wonderful thing we call the car, but aside from changes in drivetrains, size, power, safety, etc, it’s been pretty much the same for the last 150 years: Four wheels, an engine or motor, and a driver.
But we are now on the cusp of removing one of these elements and doing so will be the biggest innovation in the history of the automobile.
We are replacing the driver with Autonomous Vehicles.
This is a watershed moment-a revolution that will change the way people travel that rivals the suburban growth in Post-World War II America.
No longer a mode of transportation with some amenities bolted on, the Autonomous Vehicle (AV) will take center stage and will be the largest digital and media platform ever.
But the vehicle itself is just one part of the revolution. What happens inside may be more important.
Imagine a system with more user data than Facebook and better media access than Apple. An always-on, ever-learning piece of technology that navigates perfectly and is a sponge to its surroundings and users.
Your car will know you better than your spouse.
Except it probably won’t be “your car”. You’ll likely subscribe to a vehicle service that meets your family needs. The cost will be based on your usage and will include insurance, electricity/fuel, and maintenance. The ultimate in hassle-free driving.
Culture has shifted perception of the automobile away from an object that defines identity to a service that empowers a journey.
Millennial males are leading the way and are the largest users of ride sharing services. Many have already made the psychological shift to driver to rider. Female use will rise once AVs begin operation and assure safety from human drivers.
That’s 5.1 Billion additional hours each year that riders will engage in other activities.
Chief among these will be the consumption of media in all its forms, especially video. This will cause another explosion in streaming services as well as online video.
Built around the Auto Platform will be a new generation of location and shopping apps so you can send the car on errands and shopping trips for you.
Imagine a car picking up your laundry and your grocery list being automatically transmitted to your favorite store. Your clean clothes and groceries are there when the car picks you up to take you home from work.
On the way home, You grab a cold beer from the bag and enjoy the latest episode of Homeland or Skype with your college friend who’s on vacation in Costa Rica. The car alerts you that two of your friends are at Buffalo Wild Wings near your home watching a game so you can decide whether you want to join them.
It will be here sooner than you think.
Sean Williams is a Vice President and Group Account Director at VaynerMedia, a social-first digital shop that focuses on storytelling across platforms. Sean’s career includes stops at brands that include Toyota, Lexus, Hyundai and BuzzFeed. He was also a Producer at Dream Pictures Studios. Follow Mr. Williams on Twitter.