Ford tries to bridge gap between drivers and cyclists through VR
- Ford created a virtual reality (VR) experience in Europe that lets cyclists and drivers swap vantage points to see what it's like to be on the road together, according to CNet. The campaign is part of the automaker's Share the Road campaign to make roads safer for everyone.
- "WheelSwap" uses VR headsets so cyclists can see a driver's point of view of sharing the road with bikes and includes experiences like cyclists riding the wrong way down a one-way street, running a red light or swerving in front of a car. Drivers can use the experience to see what it's like for cyclists when cars pass too closely, change lanes without a signal or open doors in a rider's path.
- Ford released a video on its Share the Road website highlighting the problem of driver-cyclist safety on roadways. The company plans to add WheelSwap to its free Driving Skills for Life training program for teenagers. Ford trialed WheelSwap with 1,200 people in Europe, and two weeks after engaging with the VR experience, 60% said they'd changed their driving or cycling behaviors. Seventy percent said they were more empathetic to others on the road. In Europe, one in 12 road fatalities involve cyclists, according to Ford.
Drivers and cyclists are notoriously not chummy on the road together, and Ford is looking to ease those tensions by leveraging VR, a bleeding edge technology consumers appear increasingly interested in. VR content tends to stoke strong emotional responses in viewers when it tells a rich, interactive story and is educational, and WheelSwap has gone as far as to actually change some consumers' behaviors, according to trial statistics reported by Ford.
VR can also go a long way in helping brands illustrate situations that can be difficult or not particularly compelling to depict using traditional video. Alcohol beverage producer Diageo has used VR to highlight the dangers of binge drinking via first-person, multi-perspective experiences that simulate drunk-driving accidents. The first iteration of the "Decisions" campaign grabbed nearly 14 million views in its first four months live, with 73% reporting they would be more likely to stop others from drinking and driving after the experience.
Marketers looking to add VR to their digital strategies should think about ways to incorporate a relevant, educational message that support the brand. Carmakers, like Jeep and Mercedes-Benz, are using VR and sister technologies like 360-degree video to highlight vehicles' features and demo the feel and functions of newer car models. Ford is demonstrating how the technology can be used to instead educate the public about safety issues.