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Google's self-driving cars will pump ads at you, Audi CEO worries

Technically Incorrect: Google will know where you go, so what better way to get you to shop?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


As the Google car goes, so go the ads. Google

You're sitting back with nothing to do.

You're enjoying your Google self-driving car maneuvering you at the speed limit down the highway. So much so that you yawn.

The car drives past a billboard advertising lingerie.

You hear a sudden ping! Then your car announces: "You've been working long hours lately. Isn't it time you bought your lover a nice bustier at Agent Provocateur?"

This is a Googlie dream. At least that's what Audi CEO Rupert Stadler seems to think.

As Bloomberg reports, Stadler had Google's executive chairman in close proximity as he mused at a German industry event on Tuesday: "A car today is a second living room -- and that's private."

Google is currently cozying up to German carmakers, who do make desirable machines. Naturally, Google would adore it if these desirable machines were outfitted with Google's desirous software.

However, Germans have a very particular view of privacy. They quite like it. To understand some of the history behind this affection, please watch "The Lives Of Others," one of the finest movies of this century.

Stadler allowed that the Web, cookies and other means of collecting data are "common courtesy." But for his company, a car should offer a certain sanctity.

I contacted Google to ask for its reaction and to inquire whether it does have plans to offer advertising in its self-driving cars. The company had no comment.

No one should be surprised if Google did indeed have plans. A company that is, in essence, financed by advertising is surely going to seek every possible way to maximize its profits, so that it can make more self-driving cars.

Of course, we ought already have some small sense of what this brave new adworld might feel like. Who hasn't stepped into a cab in, say, New York and been assailed by a screen offering all sorts of ads, coupled with local news shows?

Is this a pleasant experience? Is it a sort of welcome from a city that isn't yours? Perhaps. But how would you feel if it was happening every day?

For those who still enjoy actually holding a steering wheel and experiencing a little freedom as they drive, the sudden interruption of ads might be a painful intrusion.

For those slouching back and relaxing as the Google car takes them to their destination, perhaps they'll see the ads as just another small step in ceding control to the machines.

After all, who doesn't love ads in their Gmail?

Update, 4:14 p.m. PT: Adds Google declining to comment.