LeBron James will star in an Intel commercial showing off the company’s self-driving-car technology, marking the first big ad push for driverless vehicles.
Companies have avoided advertising driverless tech to the general public. Uber and Google spinoff Waymo have launched self-driving-car trials in select cities, but have so far limited the marketing for them to YouTube videos and blog posts.
The reluctance is likely because companies have landed themselves in hot water for past marketing attempts.
Mercedes pulled an ad last year for its 2017 E-Class following criticism that it misled consumers on the car’s self-driving capabilities. Tesla doesn’t advertise any of its cars, but has removed “self-driving” branding from its websites following reports of people misusing the technology.
Unlike Mercedes and Tesla, Intel isn’t actually selling a product, so it has more leeway to experiment with advertisements. In the ad, an apprehensive James crawls into the back seat of an autonomous vehicle, watching the car guide itself on its own.
James eventually acclimates to the car, saying he wants to keep it. It’s fairly short, but it shows a realization on behalf of companies that if this technology is ever going to take off, people need to trust it.
It’s also the first advertisement to be shown to a general public audience for a fully driverless car. The campaign will appear before the NBA season opener on Oct. 17, The Verge reported.
Airing a commercial with James is a sure way to get the word out that, yes, Intel is working on self-driving-car tech. The software giant is a latecomer to the self-driving-car arms race, but has been investing seriously in the technology.
Intel bought Mobileye, an autonomous-driving company, for $15.3 billion in March. The company has agreed to spend $250 million on developing the software for autonomous cars and has partnered with Waymo and BMW.
Waymo is also gearing up for its first ad campaign for self-driving cars, CNBC reported. It will team up with safety advocates for a digital and outdoor ad campaign.