Warner Bros., Intel begin testing self-driving car entertainment tech

Intel and Warner Bros. are at CES letting passengers go on a virtual ride of Gotham City moderated by Batman's butler, Alfred Pennyworth. (Intel/Warner Bros.)

When word dropped a little over a year ago that Warner Bros. and Intel were working on immersive entertainment for self-driving cars, the idea seemed out there. But now it’s real.

At least, it’s real in very limited terms. For this year’s CES, Intel and Warner Bros. have rolled out a BMW X5 concept car outfitted with a large screen TV, projectors, sensory and haptic feedback, and immersive audio and lights. The test car is being used to show off a Batman-themed virtual ride moderated by Batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

The characters, courtesy of Warner Bros., are used within the demo to show off safety features for the autonomous vehicle entertainment experience. Alfred alerts passengers to road closures and shows passengers how Intel’s Responsibility-Sensitive Safety tech drives safely via a process that turns “human notions of safe driving into mathematical equations.”

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Passengers also get to check out content like an “Aquaman” trailer via in-car 270-degree viewing.

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After CES, Intel plans to conduct further research and development on the vehicle at the Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank, California. The companies will gather feedback from passengers through a series of test drives and pilots this year on the Warner Bros. Studio lot.

But Warner Bros. and Intel aren’t just doing this for fun. The companies believe autonomous vehicles could eventually open up a big new market niche for entertainment. Intel predicts self-driving vehicles could free up more than 250 million hours of commuting time per year in the world’s most congested cities, and that newly free time could result in a $200 billion market opportunity stemming from consumer use of new in-vehicle applications and content.

“The emergence of autonomous vehicles portends a major shift in how people use their time. The concept car shows how cars will become a new kind of ‘space,’” said Marcie Miller from the Automotive Strategic Marketing division within Intel.