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Safety concerns mount over recently-patented in car advertising technology

Have you ever seen a particularly distracting billboard while you were driving and thought, “That shouldn’t be there”? Billboards at intersections are one thing – but what if the ad was inside your car, right on your dashboard? This is the subject of a recent debate among road safety experts and car manufacturers, sparked after Ford announced it had filed a patent for a technology that will deliver in-car pop-up advertising. 

Pop up ads – on your car advertising screen?

The technology – which Ford has dubbed ‘billboard interface’ – is still in development, but official documents explain it will serve digital ads to consumers on their in-vehicle ‘infotainment’ screens. According to the patent document, billboard interface will be capable of “obtaining, via a camera, an image of a billboard and identifying, via a processor, a segment of that image.” 

Once a billboard image is captured, it would serve any additional promotional information relating to the product or service advertised on it – such as ‘get 25% off today’ – to the consumer on their in-car screen. It would then offer to reroute the journey to visit a relevant store or premises or find out more.

Expert warns of safety risks of pop-up in car advertising

While a Ford spokesperson has said that the patent does not necessarily mean anything about the company’s new business or product plans, some psychology and road safety experts are concerned.

One commentator, associate professor of Psychology from the University of NSW, Dr. Steven Most, has criticised the concept of in car advertising as potentially dangerously distracting. 


“People can only attend to very few things at a time, so anything that captures attention away from driving-relevant information is potentially harmful,” Dr Most told Drive. “It is not uncommon for drivers to fail even to see otherwise obvious obstacles they are looking right at when their attention is preoccupied.”


With driver distraction already a big ticket road safety issue throughout Australia, we’re interested to see whether billboard interface lands in Australian vehicles any time soon.

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