Weekly Brief: Automotive About to Lose its Grip on Reality?

Cryptocurrency is either a joke or the future of money depending on your perspective.

In the automotive industry, only Tesla has dabbled with accepting cryptocurrency for payment of vehicles and that dalliance lasted just three months before Elon Musk changed his mind and sent the Bitcoin market into upheaval. Last month Holoride, a spin-off from Audi, debuted its own cryptocurrency called RIDE, which is available for public purchase as of this week. RIDE tokens allow drivers and passengers to purchase games within Holoride’s in-car XR platform, an entertainment system that combines virtual reality with real-world car data.

Imagine sitting in a car with a fleet of menacing space cruisers chasing after you, responding to your actual motion and movement in the vehicle, as if your life were a video game. That’s the premise of Holoride. In a world in which cars drive themselves and people have more time to kill while on the road, the start-up wants to gamify the in-car experience. If action is your cup of tea, you can turn your car ride into a battle between good and evil. If you like flowers and butterflies, go ahead and frolic through a field of wildflowers. When the car stops, you stop. When the car goes, you go.

Holoride expects to debut its XR platform in consumer vehicles in 2022. The system works with any VR headset and also is compatible with tablets and smartphones. Holoride currently has working partnerships with Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Ford. Its software development kit is open to any developer who wants to create and distribute games for people in cars. Users will have to pay for the Holoride service as well as for individual games. Carmakers, developers and Holoride will all get a piece of the pie, via the cryptocurrency RIDE.

As for the rest of us? We get the social profit of turning into carefree cyborgs who consume vast amounts of content that feels so real it just might be real… if that’s the reality we prefer to inhabit. Not me! I’m proud to say. Then again, I don’t spend 89 minutes a day watching frenetic, short-form videos on TikTok, which is the average amount of time that its one billion users worldwide spend on-app every day. The next generation seems primed and ready to view the automobile as an arcade.

Last week convenience store 7-Eleven announced that it will begin delivering snacks, Slurpees and other groceries to customers in Mountain View, California, via self-driving cars powered by Nuro. The program will commence in Toyota Priuses outfitted with Nuro AV tech and a safety driver behind the wheel. If things go as planned, 7-Eleven will transition to a fleet of fully autonomous Nuro bots dubbed the R2.

Likewise, Waymo announced last week that it will start driverless deliveries in San Francisco in partnership with Albertsons in early 2022. Waymo is also working toward launching its fleet of robo-taxis in San Francisco, as is Cruise, which already has the requisite permitting. Fast forward a decade, it’s easy to picture a world where groceries come in self-driving vehicles, humans ride in self-driving services, and Holoride keeps us entertained in the meantime.

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