Tuesday 2¢: If we are all WFH consuming ads, who will pay for autonomous cars?

This Tuesday 2¢ I might deliver on the promise of just two cents as it’s more of a whimsical, not entirely serious thought that I woke up with this morning rather than a full article.

I can’t attribute this, but there is a widespread belief that Google is investing in autonomous cars so that it can capture bored eyeballs desperate for content, while they are whisked from place to place without the need to drive.

Assuming this is true and that the decision to spend the billion dollars Google invested in autonomous cars was made against an ROI that in 2025, or some time hence, they will reap the rewards of this captured audience. That this isn’t about transportation, but that the car becomes a content channel.

An ROI based on the bet that they would be harvesting ad clicks for an additional 200 hours* per that week was commuting time for every Google user (and let’s face it, every Google user is pretty much everyone plugged into the internet on the planet – 88% of all people).

Then comes this coronavirus crisis, which has us all working remotely and that I believe will change work forever and could scupper that plan. I don’t see us returning to mass commuting every single day, and I suspect Google is getting way more bored eyeballs today with all of us working from home than it would if we all had an autonomous car. 

So, if mass remote working delivers the same result, does Google still need to invest in autonomous cars? 

Not saying this is true. OK, it’s a stupid idea, but like many people, I have been thinking about the future of work and marketing once we get past this crisis, and maybe there is a serious point.

Post-corona life for a considerable number of us will be irrevocably altered, and there are a million of these sorts of business models, corporate decisions, and bets that will need to be revisited.

Could there be one in your business? Or maybe the opposite, could this change open up a new opportunity?


*I got that figure from the average American commute, which seems quite short.