Autonomous Vehicles and Outdoor Advertising: an Evolving Relationship


Candice Simons, CEO, Brooklyn Outdoor

Cars and outdoor advertising. The two have gone together ever since the first Model T rolled past the local market. But, as you know, we’ve come a long way since those simple times, and the automotive industry is evolving at a breakneck pace. With it comes the development of connected technologies and autonomous solutions that will ultimately lead to self-driving cars.

This development doesn’t happen in a vacuum and as these technologies become more prevalent on roadways around the world, they will significantly impact other aspects of the driving experience – including how we interact with outdoor ads.

Let’s take a look at what this means for advertisers and commuters as the world continues to be more and more connected.


One of the main selling points of autonomous vehicles is their ability to create safer roads. According to a study by the Eno Centre for Transportation, if 90 percent of cars on American roads were autonomous, the number of accidents would fall from six million per year to 1.3 million and deaths would fall from 33,000 per year to 11,300.

Although a full-scale change to complete vehicle autonomy will take time, progressive technologies such as a lane-assist and adaptive cruise control systems can be found on the roads today. These systems allow vehicles to manage more predictable driving situations, like highway commutes, which free drivers to focus their attention elsewhere. As these systems and other autonomous technologies continue to advance — ultimately making the driving experience less driver intensive and safer – it presents an opportunity for advertisers to create more engaging interactions with drivers. U.S. consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, estimates that autonomous vehicles could free as much as 50 minutes per day for drivers, who will be able to spend travel time relaxing, taking in their surroundings and, of course, seeing roadside ads.

Instant Interaction

In addition to the increased time available to view OOH ads, increased in-car connectivity and Wi-Fi capability available in self-driving cars will provides drivers and passengers additional time to interact with OOH ads. Since the driving function will be managed by the car, future billboard technology will have more freedom to tap into that connectivity and communicate with riders directly.

This means more opportunities for passengers to experience digital and app experiences while in transit, and OOH ads will play a key role in sharing those opportunities with commuters. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone. This number will only grow over time, and as it does, it will translate to more OOH advertisers leveraging riders’ mobile connection to share more targeted and relevant ad efforts that will increase engagement and user satisfaction.

Public Transportation

We see the potential impact on personal mobility of self-driving cars, but what about public transportation? With some of the United States’ largest and densest cities reliant on public transit, it is likely that as the autonomous technology develops, it will expand to buses, trains, and streetcars as well, causing the same transportation revolution that cars are experiencing right now.

This is all good news for OOH advertisers. With the spread of autonomous public transportation there will be a growth in digital connectivity in areas with heavy foot traffic, in particular bus and train stations. According to a report from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, OOH mediums such as smart benches, bus stop ads, and kiosks will offer touch points for passengers that, like advanced billboards, will provide opportunities for OOH advertisers to deliver more high-value, quality content that people with mobile connections are more likely to engage.

We are on the verge of a complete overhaul of how we, as people, travel from point A to point B. It will challenge advertisers to question how they reach audiences effectively, and that can be a scary prospect, but in those questions are answers that will drive our industry forward and help us service clients better. As much as things change, they stay the same, and this is not the first time the OOH industry has been asked to evolve. It’s up to us to determine how it will.

About the Author: Candice Simons is the CEO and Founder of Brooklyn Outdoor, a regional and national force in the outdoor advertising industry, with satellite offices and full-time sales representatives in Detroit, New York, and Los Angeles. Brooklyn Outdoor is the only major outdoor advertising firm headquartered in Detroit. Simons was recently named one of Crain’s Detroit Business’ “40 under 40,” and is the founder of Detroit lifestyle blog, “j’adore Detroit.”