By Holland Cooke
LAS VEGAS — Robots are all-over-the-place here…but don’t picture humanoids walking around. Most sit still, waiting to help, like ATMs or supermarket self-checkout or movie theater ticket kiosks we’re accustomed to.
Seen the TV commercials for Amazon’s Echo? Ask Alexa…anything. News, sports, weather, or other radio staples; including music you’d like her to play…anything at all. She’ll read you an audiobook, or look-up information you need; so you’ll be spending lots of time with her.
The ultimate robot here is radio’s most-important listening venue, the car.
“Autonomous cars” — translation: NO DRIVER – aren’t as far-fetched as you might think. The car you’re driving now might already have adaptive cruise control, GPS, parking assist, and that warning sound when you wander-into the next lane. You’re driving a bunch of computers that the driverless car simply…connects.
And cars will connect with each other, so they’ll know how to avoid traffic jams (another radio franchise obsoleted by real-time data). And your car will find a parking space. When you’re dropped-off, sensors will tell your car where wait until you need it again.
Ironically, research suggests that taking your hands OFF the wheel will make driving lots safer. Thirty-three thousand Americans die in wrecks each year, most due to human error (drunk driving, texting, asleep-at-the-wheel, etc.). If 90% of the cars were driver-less, estimates-are we’d save 2/3 of those lives; and cut the number of accidents from 6 million to 1.3 million.
Autonomous cars will enable the disabled and elderly. Even the blind can be motorists. And parents escape chauffeur duty! To escape winter, punch-in destination-Florida, and you’ll be there when you wake-up the next morning. “Work at home” expands to “work in car.
In over two million test-drive miles, Google driverless cars only been involved in 16 fender-benders, all of which were human error. Audi predicts that its self-driving A8 will be in showrooms by 2018; BMW, VW, and Nissan are aiming for 2020, Ford in 2025.
Radio’s best defense is a good offense.
CES-goers seem to take HD Radio more seriously than most listeners and broadcasters. And many in radio seem intimidated by “connected car” dashboards that play…anything. But if your station is the only place to hear local programming and compelling personalities, you’ll always be a pre-set, no matter how many apps automakers jam-into that new-tech dashboard.
Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers conventions for Talkers and RadioInfo. Follow his real-time Tweets from CES @HollandCooke.