From beds to dining tables to entertainment systems, self-driving cars are becoming our homes away from home.

Are self-driving cars taking over for drive-ins?

When technology meets old-school nostalgia, can self-driving cars be drive-ins for the next generation?

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Aug 4 · 4 min read
Photo credit: lindycove/Pixabay

Maybe your only recollection of a drive-in movie is the opening scene of “Poetic Justice” with Janet Jackson and Q-Tip. Or, maybe you’re a child of the Silent Generation, a Baby Boomer, Generation X or an early Millennial. You remember your parents (or you) driving into the parking lot before the movie started, fiddling with the radio station to find the right channel and sitting back to relax.

Photo credit: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

Breastfeeding mothers didn’t have to worry about feeding their children in a bathroom stall. Depending on the drive-in (and the year), smokers could either smoke comfortably or be told to put out the cigarettes. Babies could cry. Kids could talk and play around outside without disturbing other passengers — unless they were loud enough for nearby cars to hear. I would often climb into the backseat, after it had been folded down, and treat the entire area like a reclining chair.

Occasionally my parents would go to a concession stand. For the most part, we could bring our entire dinner, outside fast-food or a picnic basket of light items. No one was going to tell us (or at least seriously follow up) about what food to bring inside our own cars; they just didn’t want us to litter.

At one point, there were more than 4,000 drive-ins nationwide thanks to Richard Hollingshead’s idea from 1928 (patented in 1933). Now? They are few and far between, if found at all. But could self-driving cars be taking over where drive-ins left?

Photo credit: Pixabay

Self-driving cars: Hands-free entertainment

I’m not a big fan of the idea of self-driving cars. I’m the type of person who jumps right in the driver’s seat and enjoys the ride. Give me pink lemonade and sunflower seeds, and I’m good for at least eight hours. I don’t particularly want an automated system to get me from Point A to Point B. (When it comes to traffic jams, I’ll hand the wheel over quickly. Patience is not my strongest characteristic.) And some self-driving cars are a little over the top. Do we really need a bed in our cars?

But self-driving cars that include an option for everybody to watch a movie while the car drives? That sounds like a win-win to me although it makes me nostalgic for a drive-in movie experience. However, if done correctly with advancements in these cars, they can avoid that annoying moment when the screen goes black and someone has to figure out how to get the film back on the projector screen. (If you’ve never experienced this, you’re lucky.)

Among Internet-connected U.S. households, according to The Wrap, 55 percent of car owners who also use a smartphone want access to a WiFi HotSpot in their next purchased vehicle. For a tablet user, WiFi can make or break the user experience. But if the car already has the capability of its own streaming and can drive you around while you watch it, could movie viewing get any better? Buy a few bags of popcorn, recline your seats and enjoy the flick.

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Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

14-year journalist; freelance writer/editor (Upwork); Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Unity Toastmasters member and 4x officer; Visit

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If you’re into retail and food news, business tips and Internet shopping, read on.

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