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  • Writer's pictureDrake Donovan

Video For Radio And Autonomous Cars: Are We Ready For The Future?

If you know me, you know that I’m very passionate about video. It started about two years after the launch of YouTube as a way of helping to make myself more indispensable to my radio station. That instinct about the value of video for radio helped me stave off being “RIF’d” in 2008/2009 as many radio companies were shedding staff. Over the remainder of my career as a radio station employee, I worked to change the definition of what a radio creative services director’s job should be.

As a freelance voice-actor and radio creative for hire, I have continued to study how video is consumed and how it can relate to the radio industry. At this year’s Conclave Learning Conference in Minneapolis, I attended two panels that absolutely blew my mind. First, during the All-Star Talent Session, WCBS’s Broadway Bill Lee prophesized that the future of radio is video. When cars are automated, the touchscreen in the dash will become bigger and we as audio content creators must transition to be video content creators. In the subsequent session, Andrew Curran, President & COO of DMR Interactive, gave a talk on autonomous cars and gave further credence to Mr. Lee’s prediction.

Andrew showed a video from Cadillac demonstrating their new “Super Cruise Control” where the new CT-6 sedan can operate autonomously on the highway. This model will be available in the fall of 2017. From there he went on to describe the future of autonomous vehicles and 5 levels of control with current cruise control, self-parking and emergency breaking at level 1, the new Caddy at level 3 and completely autonomous cars at level 5. Those level 5 cars with no steering wheels or pedals could be reality in a short 23 years. He also drew comparisons between the explosive growth of the smart phone over 10 years and the potential of how A.I. transportation could change our world and our medium.

I was both excited and shocked by the possibilities. I was taken aback by the idea that future driving could be so cost prohibitive due to exorbitant personal insurance costs, I might never be able to enjoy my car hobby of driving and showing my Chevy Camaro Convertible beyond the 2030s. But where there is fear, also lies opportunity.

As we consider what radio’s role will be in the future commute, we should think about adding pictures to the content we create. Perhaps our destiny lies somewhere between current podcasts, Netflix, Youtube and the old Howard Stern Show on E! or the series “Dish Nation”? Now is the time to start adding cameras in the studio and turning our morning shows into video content and investing in greenscreens and switchers. Now is the time to start thinking how podcasts might be converted into YouTube shows. Looking at the models of “Chelsea” on Netflix with a mix of interviews, editorials and produced video segments could be what helps radio transition from dial in the dashboard to on-demand local entertainment that, as Cox Media Group’s Bill Hendrich pointed out, “has the ability to move local communities better than any other medium.”

If we don’t start now, we’ll be left behind. Autonomous cars are already on the road. The major auto manufacturers are doing the research and testing now. We should be doing the same.

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