Back when I was a not-so-studious 20-year-old undergrad interested in becoming an industrial designer at Ohio State, I was assigned a project that was focused on future ideation. We could be as dystopian or utopian as we wanted, and I opted for the dystopian route. I designed icons for a future self-driving rideshare vehicle that would take on sponsored, ad-filled rides in exchange for a low cost or free ride. Well, apparently, silicon valley techies can’t read the room, as they’ve taken that concept and applied it in earnest. EV startup Holograktor and its subsidiary WayRay is fronting a concept for augmented reality (AR) driving, in which sponsored content could be played in exchange for a discounted ride. Sigh.
Like the hallmark of every mobility startup, Holograktor has a flashy website, complete with a slick-looking 3D model concept, well-made concept videos, and lots of selectively crafted public relations speak. The car itself and its actual self-driving tech is not really mentioned much, and Holograktor’s focus seems to be entirely on its AR opportunity concept. The company calls its virtual reality (VR) and AR world the “metaverse,” but I don’t know if Facebook, which recently reorganized as a company called Meta, would allow that to actually come to market with that name.
Holograktor’s and WayRay’s focus seems to run the gamut of gamifiying driving. In the world where they foresee complete self-driving vehicles, the driver would theoretically be free to game or look at cool augmented reality activities while their self-driving (or remotely operated) car drives for them. It’s very much a science fiction-type of idea, and I remain skeptical.
There’s something uniquely dystopian about ad services invading our commuting experience. Sure, we are definitely bombarded with roadside ads, radio and streaming service advertisements, and yes, some automakers seem to be getting uncomfortably cozy with a subscription-style model for your vehicle, that’s true. The driving experience itself, however, hasn’t been turned into a pay-to-win, loot-crate style experience, where you must listen to an ad before you start the car. In a way, the driving experience has remained sacred. Imagine how awful the driving experience would become if you had to sit through a TikTok or McDonald’s advertisement, where you’re forced to pay to opt-out, when such a program didn’t exist before.
The gamification of work hasn’t been a positive, just ask any Amazon warehouse employee. Amazon drivers, gig workers, and other menial job workers find themselves vying for ‘points’ at the expense of their dignity, in an environment where ‘game’ performance is directly tied to pay, time off, and working conditions. That’s an awful precedent, and I can’t picture anything positive coming from the gamification of driving. It’s okay to not like driving, but let’s remember that driving at its core is a hefty activity that involves a one-ton steel box moving down roads and avoiding obstacles. Let’s give driving the respect it deserves, mmkay?
At least the car itself is cool looking, as it turns out the head of Koenigsegg design penned it.
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