What if…self-driving cars really take over the road?

To celebrate Landor’s 75th anniversary, we wanted to consider some of the changes that could impact branding in the coming 25 years and beyond. What developments will radically shift our perception of product, brand, and identity? This month’s theme: driverless vehicles.

From Apple and Google to Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, companies around the world are jumping headfirst into autonomous automobiles. While the realization of this long-presaged technology may be thrilling for tech lovers and car enthusiasts alike, it will likely mean major changes for industries such as advertising, marketing, branding, and industrial design. So what types of changes could we expect to see?

Google self-driving cars
Image courtesy of Google.

In terms of interior and spatial design of car environments, an entirely new horizon will likely unfold for designers. Instead of a driver-focused experience, car tech and design may become passenger-centric. The front-row space currently allotted for the driver’s and passenger’s seat might disappear, allowing for a completely reconceived inside space. Perhaps we’ll see lounge-style seating or a fully open cabin area instead of rows. Or maybe there will be individual chairs with 360-degree rotational capabilities. Trunk space might even become absorbed into a larger, living-room style setup on larger car models.

Google self-driving car interior
At the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit’s Innovation Marketplace, Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin climbs inside one of Google’s self-driving cars to explain its sensor displays to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Interior design changes may spawn new brands dedicated to specific passenger experiences—from luxury to adventure. Not only can these brands cater the inside of their cars to these purposes, they can also create branded artificial intelligence (AI) systems to interact with passengers. For example, in a luxury autonomous car, the AI system may speak in formal British English, taking on the personality of a valet or governess. For an adventure-oriented brand, the AI system might be more informal, using slang or local dialect depending on the GPS location of the car.

David Hasselhoff and Kitt artificial intelligence
David Hasselhoff speaks with Kitt, his AI-compatible car, in Knight Rider.

And what of advertising? Will brands continue to push out messaging about car performance, speed, and feel, or will these factors become irrelevant without a driver to experience them? Will external car-sensing systems and high-end braking capabilities overtake 0–100 speeds and agility on curves as key selling points for consumers?

Nissan autonomous car
A Nissan Leaf autonomous car prototype was on display at the Geneva Motor Show. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Norbert Aepli.

How do you think the evolution of self-driving cars could impact the future of society, technology, products, design, or branding? Weigh in on our social channels using #Landor75 to share your thoughts.

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