So What Does the Rise of Self-Driving Cars Have to Do with Radio?

I love to drive, so I have absolutely no interesting in self-driving/autonomous automobiles. But from the looks of things, Google and others want this sort of transportation to become reality.

Fine. For the purposes of this post, let’s assume that self-driving cars are coming this way. What does that mean for radio?

“Wait,” you’re probably thinking, “What do the two have to do with each other?” Quite a bit, actually.

If you no longer have to keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel, you’ll be freed up to do other things on your journey. A red-knuckled commute in heavy traffic may turn into a relaxed trip during which you can do work, read the paper or surf Facebook. Hell, you might take the opportunity to watch some kind of video.

And because you won’t have to spend as much effort on driving–and because autonomous vehicles may ultimately allow for smoother traffic flow–you might be able to live further and further from your place of work.

Now you can see where the connection to radio comes in. Radio and cars have gone hand-in-hand since Motorola offered the first car radio in 1931. Broadcasters have long considered (and with good reason) cars to be radios on wheels. When you’re driving, your only real source of entertainment and information is audio–and that’s what radio does best.

But with autonomous vehicles, how will in-car infotainment systems evolve? And what consumer behaviours will result?

Given how Google is pushing ahead with their self-driving cars (several US states already allow these vehicles on their public roads), radio broadcasters are going to have to face up to this new disruptive situation sooner than later.

For more, check out this Slate article on how self-driving cars could end up reshaping the physical landscape. Once you’re done with that, have a look at some prognostications for cars of the future.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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