Under The Hood – Self Driving AV

January 4, 2020

I have a car with “pilot assist”.   It is pretty cool.   It is a combination of adaptive cruise control and some fancy cameras and whatnot that keep me in the middle of the road…as long as I am touching the steering wheel.  If I am not paying attention, it will look at the lines on the right side of the road and take me right off the freeway and down an offramp at 65mph, hence, the “hands on the wheel” protocol.

I look at our business a lot like I look at my car.   My business, as with most of AV, was a performance and presentation business.   When I got my first car, I put performance parts on it.  It was a VW squareback…I drove it for fun. And I made it look cool…at least to a 16yo kid.

AV is now primarily a communications business instead of performance, and people are using it for work instead of fun.   So instead of tinkering with it and adding performance enhancing parts, they just want it to drive itself.

The good news for all of us, is that AV takes a right turn when you are not paying attention and heads down an offramp at freeway speed.

We recently worked on a job for a larger enterprise account in SF.   All of their AV systems were self driving cars.  You just got into the conference room, pushed the button, and away it went.  Sticking to the analogy, in order for these cars to successfully drive themselves, they only could drive to a single destination, as the technology isn’t there yet for these systems to really navigate.  In this case, the destination was ZOOM.    The system consisted of a collection of plastic things with network cables and USB cables.  The stuff “paired” and the only AV in the gig was a single HDMI cable hooked up to the TV.  This worked really well.  As long as the only place you would ever drive to was Zoom.   AND, if you walked into a room and the display was off or didn’t work, there was nobody really around that knew how to change a tire, put gas in, or had any idea how the car worked.

And,  what if you wanted to display something other than stream it over wifi?  Nope. So what we are seeing from these early self driving car adopters, is that they are ok only going to a single destination.   AV is kind of at the “Autopia” stage,  that awesome ride at Disneyland where you kind of drove a car that was on a track and you could only steer about three degrees in either direction. You only went where the track took you.  But you kinda thought you were in control.

So maybe AV will get there someday.  But right now, we still need people that not only know how to drive, but how to put gas in and check the air in the tires.   The users think that the self driving technology works because they want it so very much.   We just are not there yet.

The smart play for today is to NOT get the pile of plastic parts that plug in with consumer cables and drive down the tracks to a single destination.   The smart play is to buy a software based solution, running on an agile platform.   Then only take your hands off the wheel when you know it is going to be able to go where you want.   The Farm is blessed to rep more than one software-centric AV brand.  We rep many.   And the car can drive itself, OR NOT.  Please don’t let your customers buy Autopia AV.   We as an industry are better than that.  And we see how these “dedicated” solutions end up at the E-waste center in a matter of a couple of years, next to the all-in-one record player and receiver, the boom-box, and the TV with a VCR built in.

Don’t let your customers buy a TV with a VCR built in, Or a slot car track…or PONG.    Please look at QSC, Shure,  Visionary Solutions,  Barco,  for your software centric AV solutions…and someday,  maybe,  the AV car might drive itself to your destination.