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Hollywood Sees Golden Opportunity in Self-Driving Cars

by Sam Chase
One of Shakespeare's most commonly quoted lines appears in Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It.

With "All the world's a stage," the Bard compares life to a play and people to actors, constantly performing for one another.

A 21st century version of the adage might be, "All the world's a screen." We increasingly watch life's performances not in real life (or "IRL," as the kids say) as they did in Shakespeare's time, but on screens, be they on on our televisions, computers or phones.

And, perhaps, cars.

For entertainment companies, more screen time means more revenue generated through subscription fees or advertising deals. So it should come as no surprise that entertainment companies have their sights set on a future in which self-driving cars are commonplace on roads, and drivers are free to spend time that otherwise would be devoted to paying attention to the road. Reading, gaming and online shopping will all come into play, but the greatest potential is in streaming video.

It's a possibility that is already being studied closely.

In Ernst & Young's 2016 report titled "Internet of Things," the firm estimated the potential earnings for entertainment companies based on the assumption that the average American spends one hour a day in his or her car.

"If the focus during that time were to shift from concentrating on the road to watching video, that equates to more than $20 billion in incremental revenue for the video industry," according to the report.

Twenty billion is a number that will make entertainment execs -- and any businessperson for that matter -- take notice. Hollywood sees the AV revolution coming slowly but surely, and they believe that a self-driving car is a perfectly constructed venue for watching television, film, live sports or other forms of video content.

"Our mobile lifestyle is expanding into cars -- that is the next journey for entertainment. Hollywood is an important part of that discussion," Ted Schilowitz, futurist at Paramount Pictures, told the Hollywood Reporter. "If you look at the windshield and windows, they are 'screens' at the right distance to be entertainment portals. Can the windshield be the movie screen of tomorrow?"

It's not at all a ridiculous idea, and it doesn't take someone with the job title of "futurist" to see why. The windshield of a car already essentially acts as a screen for viewing the road, making it a fairly ideal apparatus for watching video. However, Mercedes-Benz R&D engineer Alex Hilliger questions whether the seat orientation of the cars of today will carry over to the self-driving cars of tomorrow.

"We're re-envisioning the automotive experience," said Hilliger in the article. "The vehicle could have a lounge atmosphere, and the passengers face forward or backward. If you don't need a steering wheel or driver's seat, the car can be a new space."

There's a lot of uncertainty littering the road to our AV future, but a few things seem certain about that future itself. One of them is that when we're not driving, we won't just be absentmindedly gazing at the road in front of us. We'll be looking for entertainment, and Hollywood already can't wait to provide it, and profit from it.

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