(By Buzz Knight) Every year as I wing my way back from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it is a tremendous challenge to answer the question “What was the ‘Eureka’ moment at the show and how will it impact our business and our lives?”
As you first make your way on to the convention center floor jet lagged and energized it’s hard to process what you are seeing in this over-stimulating pop-up society. You want to savor the “kid in the candy store” feeling and you want to keep your feet from fatigue by pacing yourself for the long journey.
My Eureka moment actually didn’t occur at the convention center or at one of the many satellite hotels that CES occupies. It came at a place that I actually had never heard of called the Innovation Center at Container Park in the old downtown Vegas. It was there that Justin Chase (EVP Programming Beasley Media Group) and I took our first trip in an autonomous vehicle.
Back in 2012, at Radio Ink’s Convergence event, the amazing futurist Nolan Bushnell was the first person I heard predict the future of autonomous vehicles and many of us thought the idea was absolutely cool, but that he was a bit over the top to predict that we would see this innovation in our lifetime.
Last year, when I was flying back from CES, I sat next to a women named Kathy Winter (GM/VP Automated Driving Group at Intel) who told me at the end of 2019 or sooner that we would see autonomous cars on the road and I still thought it seemed an aggressive prediction.
The future is now, thanks to the innovative spirit of Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and AAA who teamed with Keolis and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada to bring the nation’s first self-driving shuttle to downtown Las Vegas.
In addition to the shuttle, we took a ride in an autonomous taxi to experience the new frontier. A French company called Navya is the brains behind the electric vehicles and the half-mile loop has a “smart city” infrastructure that communicates with traffic signals to ensure safety. As we took the trip it was fascinating to experience real-world examples of the vehicle sensing a pedestrian walking in front of it in a split last second or a car veering in front of us a significant distance away and the vehicle sensors causing the appropriate corrective action. Andreas Mai is the EVP Market Development and Innovation for the Keolis Group and he said the area of Las Vegas where the pilot project is happening was chosen as a “stress test” for the chaotic environment that serves as a backdrop.
Although this experience is obviously in its infancy and is being carefully supervised, it is one of those pivotal leaps in technology that produces a necessary paranoia that our industry carefully consider. I recalled a speech by Nolan Bushnell in 2012 and remember how it kept me up that night pondering what it meant to radio’s future. How will our world be rocked when autonomous vehicles become a part of society? What will it mean to the way people consume radio if they don’t have to pay attention driving their vehicle?
My feelings from then are etched in stone now in January of 2018. We need to build, nurture, and protect our brands. If we treat our brands as run-of-the-mill products we are doomed. The great content that great talent produces is crucial to us today and in the future. That ensures loyalty and usage in the battle for attention.
CES 2018 is over and now our hard work begins!
Buzz Knight is the Vice President of Programming for Beasley Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected]