Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The IBM Mayflower shows the future for autonomous vehicles

By Hannah Gillett, Strategy Director, Spark Foundry

Every year, Spark Foundry looks ahead to see what trends the media industry should be focusing on for the next twelve months. For 2020, we see the IBM Mayflower being one to watch with the anticipated rise in autonomous vehicles.

Have you heard of The IBM Mayflower? The first full-sized, self-navigating vessel to sail from the UK to the US. Developed through a partnership with IBM and the University of Plymouth, it will be the first unmanned ship to across the Atlantic Ocean and could open the door to a new era of autonomous transport.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (codenamed MAS 400) will start its journey in September 2020, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing with 102 English Puritans from Plymouth to the New World. Sponsored by leading technology partners, the ship will be fitted with a number of innovative systems allowing for high performance location tracking and data collection to name but a few.

Autonomous transport is finally here

Not only does the MAS 400 represent a huge opportunity as a scientific research vessel, it is also set to be an effective tool for testing autonomous navigation software. The collection and analysis of this data will make it an incredible learning platform for autonomous vehicle systems.

Just a few years ago, autonomous transport was expected to be commonplace by this year. While self-driving cars are not yet a reality, connected functionality is starting to become commonplace in the production of new vehicles. By 2020, 250 million connected vehicles are expected to be on the road and as more and more car manufactures take advantage of in-car technology.

General Motors for example has recently announced a partnership with Amazon to make millions of its vehicles Alexa enabled in 2020. The downloaded Alexa app will allow drivers to control smart devices in their home such as thermostats and lights in in addition to controlling in-vehicle features such as their radio, phone and navigation.

We have also seen developments where connected vehicles are beginning to adapt and communicate with digital platforms on the streets around the car.

Last year Audi launched Glosa (Green Light Optimised Speed Advisory), which lets certain cars communicate with traffic lights via their sat nav. Using a dashboard display the system shows drivers what speed they need to be at to get to their next junction while the lights are still on green.

These systems are currently being rolled out in the US and it won’t be long before this technology reaches the UK. 

So what does this mean for the industry? 

For connected cars, the biggest media opportunity lies in data collection. Estimates suggest that a connected car will be able to collect 25GB per hour per car.

In this evolving ecosystem, the automotive industry has the challenge (and at the same time opportunity) to find ways to turn car-generated data into valuable products and services. More connected cars will in fact mean more interest in in-car advertising, with McKinsey predicting that the automotive data industry will be worth $450-$750bn by 2030.

Cars will be become increasingly more addressable and ads reaching drivers more specific to their journey. If we think about drivers being able to order their grocery shopping on their drive home or even receiving personalised recommendations on local shops and restaurants as they drive by them.

As we see more and more car manufacturers collaborating with different operating systems one big factor we need to consider is whether issues will arise as to who will own the data and who will be able to commercialise it.  

In the short term, a factor that may prevent advertising from being allowed in connected vehicles is security. Brands need to demonstrate the safety of their systems in order to get drivers permissions to use their data. McKinsey analysed consumer perspectives on the prospects of accessing car-generated data, and consumers believe that if there is something of value for them, the cost is worth the benefit. 

Further in the future, autonomous transport (like the Mayflower) could revolutionise media consumption as cars will allow people to work, watch TV and even more.

As we potentially spend even more time in connected vehicles they could evolve to become a new living room or take on many of the functions we associate with our mobile devices. This is turn could revolutionise opportunities for advertisers, the scale of which we don’t fully yet understand.