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Social Media Cars.

The social web’s cabinet of wonders.

Boo is a dog. So many people were brought to their knees by this cuddly little ball of fur with button eyes that he got 17 million “likes” on Facebook. The social web harbors passions that seem totally absurd: People all over the world go wild as toys are unpacked or glowing metal balls and hydraulic presses destroy random objects. We have the social web to thank for marvelous memes like the return of the unicorns and the resurrection of Grumpy Cat. Why don’t cars have social media profiles? What potential might be unlocked if Grumpy Cat were to transform into Grumpy Car?

Today: Thought experiments.

Grumpy Car could be an app that you open on your car’s dashboard. Once activated, a bot sends messages through social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp – wherever the user might want to post. The app uses the car’s sensors and cameras to interpret its surroundings and translates its impressions into grumpy posts: “Another street full of morons. #WhenWillYouLearnToParkRight.” The front camera provides a photo showing a street full of badly parked cars. Or: “Who would send their car out in this terrible weather? #IWantToBeInTheGarage.” And a photo post of the rain to go along with it. Or: “Finally another real driver at the wheel #CrooveMeBaby” – plus a picture of someone who works for the car sharing service Croove on their way to bring a car back to a customer. If a car can be fuelled with likes, then a Grumpy Car can change its mood if its posts are successful.

Even though no one has yet made a Grumpy Car app, it represents just one of many ways to connect social media with the driver’s seat. Another imaginable variation would be an app in the vein of Boo that posts about cute dogs it sees on the sidewalk, or another app with a more flirty driving style. Even looking for a parking spot can become enough fun to find a place on the social web. After all, humor is the most important currency in this cosmos – a car that talks back would be a new, hardly tapped niche.

Tomorrow: Social media star.

Some people prefer to avoid social networks; for others, they’re a huge part of everyday life. No matter where you stand, one thing is clear: People want Internet access. It’s a purchasing factor just like the performance of a car’s motor or its design and paintjob. The open question is: What do we do with it? Social media could be a way to make our cars safer. A car that’s being broken into could contact the police via Twitter at the first signs of violent or otherwise illegal activity. The car could open itself, let the thief in, then lock itself back up and wait for the cops to arrive. Grumpy Car could even take a selfie with the perpetrator: #CatAndMouse.

Social media is already connected to the things we experience in our everyday lives – why shouldn’t this be the case for the experiences we have driving through cities or untouched natural landscapes? Integrated in-car karaoke for the next traffic jam, exclusive Instagram filters for the best road trip pictures, an automatic post of the song that’s playing on the car speakers while the driver is singing along at the top of his or her lungs. The possibilities are endless and could create new USPs for certain car models.

It’s imaginable that part of buying a car could be the chance to select not only the engine power, but the car’s personality traits as well: Should it compose a personal song for the trip? Write poems? Tell the best jokes for the kids? Or does it play video games with you where you use the driver’s wheel as a controller and the horn as an action button? There’s no question that the social media car is on its way – for the simple reason that self-driving cars have artificial intelligence, and it can be used for more than just avoiding obstacles. Digitalized interfaces will also create new ways to communicate. Windows that transform into displays will send messages for the driver. Everything that we had to express with honking and wild gestures in the past can be said with the car itself, and in turn end up on the social web as an interesting story.

A like for the future.

When will the social media car be here? Examples are certainly still quite rare. Cars are sold on Twitter, and there are countless photo galleries circulating online. Do-it-yourselfers build cameras into their car interiors so they can take breathtaking pictures during the trip. With Android Auto and CarPlay, Google and Apple have already developed web-enabled interfaces that use voice control to make apps a safe part of the driving experience. As soon as the driver gets in, the car opens a favorite Spotify playlist or an exciting audio book on Audible. In the future, the car will know where to go as soon as you get in: perhaps based on its own Facebook profile.

Authors: David Menzel, Jean-Paul Olivier and Leo Burkhardt