In a future city envisioned by Hyundai Motor Co., streets are devoid of congestion and pedestrians. Cars travel freely down empty roads. Occasionally, a rival vehicle will sneak up from behind and cause a crash.
No biggie. The driver springs from the wreckage and ambles over to an autonomous food truck and orders plates of tacos served by robots. Air taxis sometimes swoop throughout the cartoonish landscape.
These are the scenes in a novel new virtual environment, or metaverse, developed by the automaker with the intent of familiarizing a younger generation — perhaps the pre-driving set — with its latest vehicles, such as the Ioniq, Tucson and Nexo. The metaverse is located on the gaming platform Roblox, and it’s the first time a global automotive brand has ventured into that space, which hosts 43 million daily users.
Hyundai describes the marketing effort as a means to “nurture long-lasting relationships with fans” and targeted at “young consumers who are technologically savvy at exploring the virtual worlds beyond physical experiences.”
Having little experience in such nonphysical realms, I turned to three experts — my 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old sons — to evaluate Hyundai’s offering. After repeated journeys aboard the gamified vehicles, they report it was “glitchy” and “took too long to load.”
But when it worked, they enjoyed their trips, particularly into the “Future Mobility City” and “Racing Park” areas created by Hyundai’s customer-experience engineers.
The kids controlled their cars, did donuts on the street and honked the horn on the Nexo.
Much to my relief, it will be a few more years before they’re attempting those maneuvers on real roads. When the time comes, it will be noteworthy to see whether Hyundai’s early marketing efforts have made real inroads.