In-car advertising could become a real scourge in newer vehicles over the next few years, and Ford is investigating a way to make the concept even more egregious. A patent first filed by the company in the USA in 2019 and published a few days ago proposes a “billboard interface,” which sounds like it was taken straight out of a mid-budget dystopian sci-fi series on Netflix.
Using the same kind of technology that reads speed limits with a mixed degree of success, the patent suggests a system that revolves around:
“Obtaining, via a camera, an image of a billboard and identifying, via a processor, a segment of the image The example method also includes determining an event associated with the segment and generating a billboard interface to include a hyperlink of the segment that initiates the event.”
This would all be shown to the vehicle’s occupants “via a communication module,” AKA the infotainment system. The idea, we’re sure you’ll agree, sounds awful, and worryingly plausible. The filing doesn’t guarantee it’ll happen, of course - all sounds of weird and wonderful patents are applied for in the automotive world without ever progressing from the conceptual stage.
This is reflected in Ford’s comment to Motor1 on the matter of its billboard scanning tech. It said that “patents on new inventions as a normal course of business, but they aren’t necessarily an indication of new business or product plans”. We’ve also contacted Ford’s UK-based press team to see if it has anything to add.
With it becoming ever clearer that big, modern touchscreens are a distracting problem, we’d like to think the chances of anything like this making production are low. Unless that is, an audio-only format is used. Already, some companies are looking at targeted radio advertising using things like listening habits and sat-nav data, and this billboard scanning idea could merely be an extra data strand used to pick what the user hears.
It’s not a stretch to imagine a future in which a monthly fee has to be paid to block out in-car advertising, however it’s delivered.