NEW YORK: As driverless car technology continues to build up momentum, it won't be long before marketers will need to view the development as a new opportunity for digital campaigns, a leading marketing executive has predicted.

Len Kendall, VP of communications at Carrot Creative, a creative technology agency, used an article in Advertising Age to outline some of the likely changes to consumer behaviour that the new technology could bring about.

He said that just as the smartphone displaced the PC as the most-used connected device, then "the car has a good chance of becoming a solid No. 2, given how much time we all spend in vehicles".

According to the American Driving Survey, car drivers in the US spend between 30 to 60 minutes a day in their vehicles, but if they could gain hundreds of hours of extra free time a year, then that presents great opportunities for marketers.

"If we're no longer in charge of driving, our car windows will undoubtedly become a new outlet for creativity, marketing and commerce," Kendall said in reference to the likelihood of augmented reality becoming "the new billboard" on car windows.

He said that tech-based transportation companies, such as Uber or Lyft, "almost certainly" will unveil their own version of ad networks and that they will seek to complement the travel experiences of passengers.

This new captive audience also will become the focus of geo-location marketers, who will be able to send offers and discounts on behalf of nearby businesses.

As drivers become passengers in the new era, and no longer have to keep their hands on the wheel, this could give them more time to engage fully on their smart devices.

In addition, Kendall expected that audio will continue to evolve. "While you're clearing out your inbox, you'll also be able to ask your car to read off current prices on flights to Hong Kong, or tell you about the restaurant you're passing, or sell you an audio tour about the beautiful coastal highway you're travelling on," he said.

However, he went on to forecast that the development will spell bad news for traditional out-of-home billboard advertising for the simple reason that passengers could become so engrossed in their smartphones that they ignore the road altogether.

Instead, marketers should begin to regard autonomous cars "as a brand new digital platform that your brand can own," Kendall advised. "One that will attract the most affluent and hardest to reach types of consumers early on."

Data sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff