What works in e-commerce – a meta-analysis of 6700 online experiments

Will Browne, Mike Swarbrick Jones:

Today, it is relatively simple to experiment with different versions of the same website. There are many technologies and tools that can help e-commerce businesses build and run randomised controlled trials (otherwise known as A/B tests). The amount of data available to large e-commerce sites means that businesses can measure the effect of changing design, messaging and merchandising. Over the last three years, Qubit has been helping these businesses explore which changes are associated with an increase in revenue.
In previous work [7], Qubit showed that many of the practices used in the A/B testing industry at the time were fundamentally flawed. Since its release we have seen a change in both the statistical models used in the industry, and a shift to more robust experimental procedures. In this paper, we would like to move the industry forward again, and answer the question – what kind of changes do our clients make, and how do they impact revenue?
 
We will present the results of a meta-analysis, conducted in 2017, on Qubit’s large database of experiments. We will describe the effects of 29 treatment types and estimate the cumulative impact of these experiments on site wide revenue. The methodology used in this paper was independently assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers UK LLP (PwC)1. To our knowledge, this is the first published, independently assured quantitative analysis of its type. We hope it will be used to improve the quality of A/B testing, to reset expectations, and to prioritise optimisations to websites.
 
We have decided to separate this work into three sections to answer three slightly different questions, keeping methodologies and results together where possible. In section 2 we divide our experiments into different treatment categories, and estimate the overall impact of each of them. In section 3 we estimate the overall distribution of all experiment impacts used in this work. In section 4 we look at how A/B testing impacts overall site-wide revenue across sets of web-domains. There are a number of appendices expanding on the results of these sections.

Google (and Facebook), not GCHQ, is the truly chilling spy network

John Naughton:

During the hoo-ha, one of the spooks with whom I discussed Snowden’s revelations waxed indignant about our coverage of the story. What bugged him (pardon the pun) was the unfairness of having state agencies pilloried, while firms such as Google and Facebook, which, in his opinion, conducted much more intensive surveillance than the NSA or GCHQ, got off scot free. His argument was that he and his colleagues were at least subject to some degree of democratic oversight, but the companies, whose business model is essentially “surveillance capitalism”, were entirely unregulated.
 
 He was right. “Surveillance”, as the security expert Bruce Schneier has observed, is the business model of the internet and that is true of both the public and private sectors. Given how central the network has become to our lives, that means our societies have embarked on the greatest uncontrolled experiment in history. Without really thinking about it, we have subjected ourselves to relentless, intrusive, comprehensive surveillance of all our activities and much of our most intimate actions and thoughts. And we have no idea what the long-term implications of this will be for our societies – or for us as citizens.

A city for bikes

Veloworld:

“Desire lines”, or “desire path”, is an expression increasingly used when referring to urban planning. However, we got used to see this “desire path” traced in flowerbed, fields and woods: they are those paths formed as a consequence of vegetation erosion due to the frequent human passage; in fact, they have been chosen as the best way to go from point A to point B. Mapping out bicycle desire lines allows to understand the most used paths in certain urban areas, and to make them real and safe by building a cycle track. It may happen that the desire paths don’t follow precisely already built streets, but rather that they pass through buildings, courtyards, or through squares and other areas that are not reserved for circulation. That happens because a city street grid is often more ancient than the buildings it contains, that may change and offer new paths to travel through.

The Grocery Store Of The Future Is Mobile, Self-Driving, And Run By A

Adele Peters:

For consumers, it’s designed to be an easier way to shop. To use the store, called Moby, you download an app and use your phone to open the door. A hologram-like AI greets you, and, as you shop, you scan what you want to buy or place it in a smart basket that tracks your purchases. Then you walk out the door; instead of waiting in line, the store automatically charges your card when you leave (Amazon is testing a similar system). The tiny shop will stock fresh food and other daily supplies, and if you want something else you can order it using the store’s artificial intelligence. The packages will be waiting when you return to shop the next time. When autonomous vehicles are allowed on roads, the store could also show up at your home, and the company is also testing a set of drones to make small deliveries.

Carmageddon is Coming We’re on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption in transport history

Angus Hervey:

The first of the three waves is something most of us have already experienced: the ability to summon a car and a driver with your phone. Millions of people around the world now use ride sharing every day. When the CEO of the world’s biggest ride sharing company behaves like a dick and takes an enforced leave of absence, it makes headline news (incidentally, now that Uber doesn’t have a CEO, COO, CTO or CFO we guess this is the closest it’s ever been to a self-driving car company?)
 
 The second technological wave is the arrival of the electric vehicle. Tesla is now the planet’s 4th most valuable automaker and there are already more than 2 million electric vehicles on the world’s roads. While the falling costs of batteries gets most of the attention here, the truly revolutionary bit in an electric vehicle is actually the drivetrain. That’s because the drivetrain for an internal combustion engine contains about 2,000 parts while an electric one contains about 20. A system with two orders of magnitude fewer parts is way more reliable and saves a lot of money by eliminating around half the cost of traditional car maintenance. It gives electric vehicles much longer lifespans. The average combustion vehicle lasts about 250,000 km, while current estimates for today’s electric vehicles are around 800,000 km.

Auto’s Unprecedented Times Auto’s Unprecedented Times

Yen Chen & Kristin Dziczek

Finally, CAR has identified three reasons to be pessimistic about auto jobs returning to the US in large numbers:
 
 Current talent shortages (the unemployment rate in the transportation equipment sector was 3.7% in 2016—fully one point lower than the national average); in addition, shortages are especially acute in skilled trades occupations.
 Global competitiveness—every auto production region sources from low-cost/best-cost countries; the US auto industry would be less competitive on a global stage without use of “best-cost” parts and components.
 The US light vehicle market is near the top of the cycle; manufacturers will be cautious about making greater US investments that could lead to an overcapacity situation as the market eventually slows or begins to contract.

How Will EV Charging Impact the Power System

Jonas Rooze & Andreas Gandolfo:

Electric vehicles are an agent of change for not only the vehicle owner but also power generators and the power system. But when, and how will this change take place? This video explores the different scenarios that we will face.
 
 Will supply follow demand or vice versa?
 Watch our Summit Short video below to find out more.

The Life Cycle Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Lithium-Ion Batteries

Mia Romare, Lisbeth Dahllöf:

This report presents the findings from the Swedish Energy Agency and the Swedish Transport Administration commissioned study on the Life Cycle energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from lithium-ion batteries. It does not include the use phase of the batteries.
 
The study consists of a review of available life cycle assessments on lithium-ion batteries for light- duty vehicles, and the results from the review are used to draw conclusions on how the production stage impacts the greenhouse gas emissions. The report also focuses on the emissions from each individual stage of the battery production, including; mining, material refining, refining to battery grade, and assembly of components and battery.
The report is largely structured based on a number of questions. The questions are divided in two parts, one focusing on short-term questions and the second on more long-term questions. To sum up the results of this review of life cycle assessments of lithium-ion batteries we used the questions as base.

The Mall of the Future Will Have No Stores

Esther Fang:

When Starwood Capital Group LLC bought Fairlane Town Center in 2014, the investment firm had a lot of work to do.
 
 The Dearborn, Mich., mall was only 72% leased, and among the vacant space was a sprawling former anchor store.
 
 A chance call to Ford Motor Co. to sell some mall advertising turned out to be a game changer. In April, Ford moved its entire engineering and purchasing staff into space once inhabited by department-store chain Lord & Taylor. Ford is now the mall’s largest tenant, with 240,000 square feet of space.

Cook Says Apple Is Focusing on Making an Autonomous Car System

Alex Webb & Emily Chang:

After years toiling away in secret on its car project, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has for the first time laid out exactly what the company is up to in the automotive market: It’s concentrating on self-driving technology.
 
 “We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on June 5. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.”
 “We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects,” Cook said in his most detailed comments to date on Apple’s plans in the car space. “It’s probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on.”

What No One Ever Tells You About Tiny Homes

Gene Tempest/l:

My husband and I share a 492-square-foot apartment in Cambridge, Mass. We inhabit a “micro apartment,” or what is sometimes called a tiny house. This label is usually proudly applied to dwellings under 500 square feet, according to Wikipedia. We are unwittingly on a very small bandwagon, part of a growing international movement.
 
 But deep inside the expensive custom closets and under the New Age Murphy beds, the pro-petite propaganda has hidden some unseemly truths about how the other half lives. No one writes about the little white lies that help sell this new, very small American dream.

Automakers Race to Get Ahead of Silicon Valley on Car-Sharing

Nick Wingfield:

With New Browser Tech, Apple Preserves Privacy and Google Preserves Trackers

Alan Tomer:

Google’s approach contrasts starkly with Apple’s. Apple’s browser, Safari, will use a method called intelligent tracking prevention to prevent tracking by third parties—that is, sites that are rarely visited intentionally but are incorporated on many other sites for advertising purposes—that use cookies and other techniques to track us as we move through the web. Safari will use machine learning in the browser (which means the data never leaves your computer) to learn which cookies represent a tracking threat and disarm them. This approach is similar to that used in EFF’s Privacy Badger, and we are excited to see it in Safari.
 
 Users Can Opt In to Publisher Payments—But Not Out of Tracking
 In tandem with their Better Ads enforcement, Google will also launch a companion program, Funding Choices, that will enable CBA-compliant sites to ask Chrome users with content blockers to whitelist their site and unblock their ads. Should the user refuse, they can either pay for an “ad-free experience” or be locked out by a publisher’s adblock wall. Payment is to be made using a Google product called Contributor, first deployed in 2015. Contributor lets people pay sites to avoid being simply shown Google ads, but does not prevent Google, the site, or any other advertisers from continuing to track people who pay into the Contributor program. This approach is consistent with the ad industry’s dogged defense of tracking, and its refusal to honor user signals such as Do Not Track. The industry’s sole response has been to create a system called AdChoices, which offers users a complicated and inefficient opt-out from targeted ads, but not from the data collection and the behavioral tracking behind the targeting. By that logic, it is okay to track and spy on people who opt out—as long as you don’t remind them that they are being tracked!

Calling BS on big data

Michelle Nijhuis

“Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you,” the Oxford philosophy professor John Alexander Smith told his students, in 1914, “save only this: if you work hard and intelligently, you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot.” Smith might be pleased to know that this week, at the University of Washington, in Seattle, some hundred and fifty students will complete “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data,” a course less profanely and more prosaically known as INFO 198/BIOL 106B. Taught by Jevin West, an information scientist, and Carl Bergstrom, a biologist, it created something of an online sensation when its syllabus went up, in January, and when registration opened it filled to capacity in less than a minute.

‘Instantly rechargeable’ battery could change the future of electric and hybrid automobiles

Purdue:

A technology developed by Purdue researchers could provide an “instantly rechargeable” method that is safe, affordable and environmentally friendly for recharging electric and hybrid vehicle batteries through a quick and easy process similar to refueling a car at a gas station.
 
 The innovation could expedite the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles by eliminating the time needed to stop and re-charge a conventional electric car’s battery and dramatically reducing the need for new infrastructure to support re-charging stations.

G.M. Wants to Drive the Future of Cars That Drive Themselves

Bill Vlasic:

The chief executive of General Motors, an automaker synonymous with Detroit, saw the future of driving not in the Motor City but on the streets of San Francisco.
 
 Mary T. Barra, a G.M. lifer who had worked her way from engineer to the top, was in the back seat of a prototype self-driving electric car as it wound its way through the city’s downtown a year ago.
 
 She wanted to see for herself whether automation was ready to take over from a driver — safely, and on a mass scale. How would it react, for example, when it reached an intersection as a light turned yellow?
 
 Driving in a situation like that, “you have to make a decision,” she recalled in a recent interview. “Generally if you decide to go, you decide to speed up. Or you stop.” If the technology works, she said, it will make the right decision: “The car knows.”

Accelerating the Future: The Economic Impact of the Emerging Passenger Economy

Strategy Analytics:

Consumer adoption of peer-to-peer and ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft points toward a generational sea change in how consumers and businesses view transportation. These changing behaviors are combining with rising urbanization, pervasive high-speed mobile broadband, and rapid technological leaps in computing power and data center capacity to enable these new business models to drive and accelerate the development and use of autonomous mobility solutions.
 
Ironically, carmakers have turned to offering these same car-sharing and ad hoc use applications to drive up utilization rates. The global nature and scale of this change has major implications for the adoption and use of autonomous “Mobility-as-a-Service” among consumers and businesses alike. “Being driven” by intelligent, pilotless vehicles will represent the essential nature of future transportation.
 
Strategy Analytics expects that, as we move toward SAE level five1 vehicle autonomy, these megatrends will combine and enable Mobility-as-a-Service to open the door to an emerging new market that we refer to as the “Passenger Economy.” This Passenger Economy represents the value of the products and services derived from the use of fully autonomous, pilotless vehicles, including the indirect savings in both time and resources generated by the use of pilotless vehicles.

How the desire for a bigger moat led to the over-engineered, poorly executed Windows Vista

Terry Crowley:

We do not see this only in desktop (including laptop) computing. The tablet probably blasted to form factor sufficiency faster than any broad consumer computing device we have ever seen. Actually, a broader perspective would say that is untrue. We were struggling with weight, battery life, processing capability, input modes and overall responsiveness in different incarnations of the tablet for decades. But when the iPad arrived on the scene with its combination of screen size, weight, battery life, touch input, processing power and instant-on we had turned through an inflection point of sufficiency. Changes since then have been merely incremental — which drives crazy the engineers working on these things and expending great energy and creativity to have it described this way. The engineers at Maytag working on the next iteration of the washing machine probably feel the same way.

German carmakers fear losing competitive edge after U.S. Paris exit

Reuters:

Germany’s powerful car industry said Europe would need to reassess its environmental standards to remain competitive after the United States said it would withdraw from the Paris climate pact.
 
 President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 global agreement to fight climate change, drawing anger and condemnation from world leaders and heads of industry.

BigchainDB, Toyota and the MIT Media Lab Build a Decentralized Data Exchange for Autonomous Vehicle Data Sharing

Bruce Pon:

BigchainDB is proud to announce that a live prototype for sharing of autonomous vehicle data has been built in collaboration with the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and the MIT Media Lab. The Autonomous Vehicle Data Exchange – AVDEX – allows researchers to buy datasets from data producers, for improving the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms for autonomous vehicles. The prototype was presented at Consensus 2017 in New York.

Autonomous vehicles offer the promise to radically reduce the over one million annual road deaths around the world, because they never text while driving, get distracted or get tired – like humans do. Before autonomous vehicles can be fully safe for all road conditions, the Rand Corp and McKinsey estimated that one trillion road miles worth of data needs to be collected.

No single entity will be able to reach one trillion miles in the near future individually, but the sharing of data within the mobility ecosystem could bring autonomous cars to reality faster.

Morgan Stanley shared its favorite 30 autonomous driving stock picks in a note to clients Thursday.

Tae Kim::

There are more ways to trade the autonomous driving and electric car trends than you think.

Morgan Stanley shared its favorite 30 stock picks for the emerging technologies with clients that not only include the direct auto-related supplier winners, but consumer and retail names that may benefit from the freed up time and responsibilities.

The firm’s “US Research team settled on 30 US stocks, all rated either overweight or equal-weight, across 14 industries, that the analysts believe are favorably exposed to growth opportunities in the execution of a shared, autonomous, electric ecosystem, or are favorably positioned to the adjacent data and content opportunities,” analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a report to clients Thursday entitled “The Shared Autonomous 30.”

The long, winding road for driverless cars

The Economist:

CARMAKERS like to talk about autonomous vehicles (AVs) as if they will be in showrooms in three or four years’ time. The rosy scenarios suggest people will soon be whisked from place to place by road-going robots, with little input from those on board. AVs will end the drudgery of driving, we are told. With their lightning reactions, tireless attention to traffic, better all-round vision and respect for the law, AVs will be safer drivers than most motorists. They won’t get tired, drunk, have fits of road rage, or become distracted by texting, chatting, eating or fiddling with the entertainment system.

The family AV will ferry children to school; adults to work, malls, movies, bars and restaurants; the elderly to the doctor’s office and back. For some, car ownership will be a thing of the past, as the cost of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft tumbles once human drivers are no longer needed. Going driverless could cut hailing costs by as much as 80%, say optimists. Welcome to the brave new world of mobility-on-demand.

Failed Google deal left Fields in the lurch

Sharon Silke Carty:

At the end of 2015, it looked like Ford’s then-CEO Mark Fields was going to score a big win: a partnership with Google to develop autonomous vehicles.
 
 The deal would have been a huge boon to Ford. At the time, none of the major automakers had spelled out a serious plan for getting fully self-driving cars on the road. And despite posting solid profits, Ford’s shares were falling because investors didn’t see anything coming down the line that they felt excited about. An announcement of a Ford-Google pairing could have significantly moved the needle on Ford’s share prices.

There’s an Auto Industry Death Spiral Coming Automated and electric vehicles will change everything, but will it happen as quickly as these analysts predict?

Katie Fehrenbacher:

Over the next 15 years, the American auto industry will face a death spiral of epic proportions that will lead to plummeting demand, cratering profits and slumping sales. Car dealerships and sales of traditional gasoline-powered cars will both evaporate.
 
 Those findings are delivered by a research report released earlier this month from analyst firm RethinkX, co-founded by analysts Tony Seba and James Arbib. RethinkX prides itself on reading the tea leaves on how truly disruptive technologies — like cellphones and solar panels — can be on incumbent industries.
 
 

Millennial Behavior Is About To Make Fools Of Peak Energy Demand Theorists

Mark Mills:

There are a lot of policymakers and pundits hanging plans on the idea that the nation is facing a “new normal” rooted in ostensibly unprecedented behaviors exhibited by Millennials. Since that generation is now and will be for decades the largest share of the population, how they behave impacts everything going forward, especially for energy forecasters.
 
 Nearly one-half of America’s total energy consumption is associated with just two things: homes and cars. We’re told that Millennials would rather bike and rideshare than own a car, and that they rather AirBnB or share a tiny urban apartment than buy a suburban house. If true, it’s a big deal not just for energy markets but also retailers and manufacturers; a permanent behavioral shift like that would give credence to the new trope of “peak demand.”

Tesla Autopilot Review: Bikers will die

Heather Knight:

My colleague and I got to take a TESLA Autopilot test drive on highways, curvy California roads, and by the ocean. In case you don’t live in Palo Alto (where the Whole Foods parking lot is full of these things)… the TESLA Autopilot feature is basically a button to turn the car into autonomous driving mode. So the car will speed up or slow down based on what’s in front of it, and supposedly stay in the lane or follow the turns of a road automatically.
 
 Autopilot classified ~30% of other cars, and 1% of bicyclists
 
 The purpose of this post is to share my first impressions of this system, particularly regarding its human-machine interfacing. I’m concerned that some will ignore its limitations and put biker lives at risk; we found the Autopilot’s agnostic behavior around bicyclists to be frightening. But as a human-in-the-loop system, this car’s features would impress Iron Man.

Millennials will Drive the Digital Transformation of the Workplace

Carolina Milanesi:

At Creative Strategies, we asked over 1,400 18 to 24 years old in the US what would make them not choose a company to work for after they were offered a job. While 35% were just happy to get a job, 46% would see not being able to work flexible hours as a dealbreaker. 21% would walk away from a job that did not let them use a smartphone for work in conjunction with their laptop or desktop, while another 17% could not tolerate an IT department that restricts what can be done with a smartphone. Finally, 14% could not be in a job that did not offer collaboration practices that fit their desired workflow, such as using apps like Google Docs or Slack, as well as video conference support.
 
 Workflow is different for millennials. Aside from prioritizing collaboration, 65% said their preferred method to communicate is messaging apps. When it comes to collaboration, Google reigns supreme with 81% of US millennials regularly using Google Docs, 62% Google search, 59% Google Mail. Outside of Google, Apple iMessage scored the highest, with 57% of millennials saying they regularly rely on it, followed by Microsoft Word with 51%.
 
 When it comes to devices, given a choice of laptop brands by their employer, there are only two brands that seem to matter: 62% would pick an Apple Mac and 14% would choose a Microsoft Surface Pro. Mobility is also no longer a “nice to have”. 34% of millennials say it is extremely important that the software, services and business processes they use for work are available on mobile as well as on a laptop. Finally, when coming into a job, 46% would prefer to be able to choose what laptop is given to them.

The Swirling Maelstrom Overwhelms Ford

Peter DeLorenzo:

But there’s more to this story, much more. Ford – and I’m speaking for all of “Detroit” here – simply doesn’t understand what’s going on. The difference between Detroit and Silicon Valley is that the Titans on the West Coast understand fundamentally that IT rules the frickin’ world now, while the Detroit auto companies see IT as something off “over there” that they have to get to eventually. And this attitude is absolutely killing Ford, and GM, for that matter.

This fundamental question is this: How can Ford transform itself into a “mobility company” when mobility is another word for technology, and when it comes to technology Ford is at least ten years behind the curve? Ford runs IT as a separate business unit, which is what I meant by off “over there.” In other words, the company is nowhere with this mobility thing, despite throwing money around in the tech world like a drunken sailor. And that attitude has decimated Ford and GM (I’m leaving out FCA because, after all, that company is simply a monetary play orchestrated by Marchionne for the Fiat heirs; the future of the transportation business has nothing to do with those carpetbagging mercenaries).

The ugly reality in all of this is that Detroit does not believe that we’ve shifted to an IT world, and that IT should be the dominant equation going forward if it wants to survive. This just in: The “Todds” (my general term for the IT hordes) have won. And unless and until Detroit gets with the program, we’re at the beginning of a long, downward spiral.

A word about Bill Ford here is merited. Bill has dreams of Ford playing a major role in mobility because his great grandfather put this country on wheels. In fact, Alan Mulally had a giant reproduction of a famous early Ford ad on the wall in his office with the provocative headline: “Opening The Highways To All Mankind.” It is a stunning ad with beautiful illustrated art, and both Alan and Bill took great meaning – and motivation – from it.

Characterizations of Deployment Rates in Automotive Technology

Zoepf, S. and Heywood, J.:

Passenger cars in the United States continue to incorporate increasing levels of technology and features. However, deployment of technology requires substantial development and time in the automotive sector.Prior analyses indicate that deployment of technology in the automotive sector can be described by a logistic function. These analyses refer to maximum annual growth rates as high as 17% and with developmental times of 10-15 years. However, these technologies vary widely in complexity and function, and span decades in their implementation.This work applies regression with a logistic form to a wide variety of automotive features and technologies and, using secondary regression, identifies broader trends across categories and over time. Developmental time, measured as the time to reach maximum growth, has declined exponentially and now stands at approximately ten years, although individual manufacturers have demonstrated the ability to implement technology more quickly than industry averages. While required safety features and emissions control technologies achieve faster deployment rates than optional features, there is not a clear casual relationship between an early requirement and rapid growth rate.The ability to develop and deploy technology quickly will be critical to meeting future fuel economy regulations. Technology deployment levels modeled in 2017 CAFE regulations fall broadly within the range of historical norms, but several specific technologies exceed historical application rates for non-safety applications.

An Industry in Disruption, AUTOS. Notes from a Capital Junkie. Tit-for-Tat Analysis

cs investing:

The context is frightening. Global fuel economy and emissions regulations are becoming so strict that it is possible to meet them only with partial or full electrification of the automobile. And the existing automobile production system, based primarily on stamping sheet metal and amortizing heartbreaking development costs and capital expenditures over millions of units, is incredibly capital inefficient.
 
 What’s more, the industry’s move towards electric vehicles represents a significant challenge to the traditional strategic landscape an automaker faces. An electric vehicle has drastically fewer moving parts than an internal combustion vehicle and is, by design, far more modular, meaning that barriers to new entrants are significantly lower.
 
 Electric vehicles are also far more uniform in their driving dynamics, because there is little scope for refining an electric motor with one moving part. Swathes of engineering and marketing investments become irrelevant. And both ride-sharing enterprises and developments in automation seem increasingly likely to grow beyond niche markets into something properly disruptive to the car ownership business model.

The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the Internal-Combustion Vehicle and Oil Industries

James Arbib & Tony Seba (pdf)::

RethinkX is an independent think tank that analyzes and forecasts the speed and scale of technology-driven disruption and its implications across society. We produce compelling, impartial data-driven analyses that identify pivotal choices to be made by investors, businesses, policymakers and civic leaders.

Rethinking Transportation is the rst in a series that analyzes the impacts of technology-driven disruption, sector by sector, across the economy. We aim to produce analyses that re ect the reality of fast-paced technology- adoption S-curves. Mainstream analysts have produced linear and incremental forecasts that have consistently underplayed the speed and extent of technological disruptions, as in, for example, solar PV and mobile phone adoption forecasts. By relying on these mainstream forecasts, policymakers, investors and businesses risk locking in sub-optimal pathways.

RethinkX’s follow-on analyses will consider the cascading and interdependent effects of this disruption within and across sectors. Our aim is to facilitate a global conversation about the threats and opportunities of technology-driven disruption and to focus attention on choices that can help lead to a more equitable, healthy, resilient and stable society.

Ford’s Big Management Shuffle Is About Changing Perceptions

Sam Abuelsamid

Ford isn’t alone in this perception battle. Most automakers are making the pilgrimage to CES to woo the tech community. While few have been hit as hard as Ford, none of the incumbents are getting the love shown to Tesla.
 
 In our Navigant Research Leaderboard Report: Automated Driving, Ford, GM, Renault-Nissan, and Daimler scored highest and ahead of several technology companies. Waymo is arguably somewhat ahead on the pure technology front, but automakers have necessary pieces such as manufacturing, service, distribution, and support infrastructure to make viable mobility businesses. Additionally, automakers have a proven ability to deliver physical products—not just the components and software that control them.
 
 Ford’s leadership team, including Executive Chairman Bill Ford, EVP Joe Hinrichs, CTO Raj Nair, and many others, all supported the direction the company was heading under Fields. However, investors didn’t seem to believe in it.
 
 During a press conference with new CEO Jim Hackett, Ford and Hackett both emphasized that the overall strategy of transformation into a mobility services company is moving full steam ahead. Hackett, who comes to the role from being chairman of Ford Smart Mobility LLC, aims to reinforce the strategy and focus on executing the plans. The elevation of Marcy Klevorn from CIO to EVP and the newly created role of President, Mobility highlights this ongoing commitment.

Silicon Saxony

Patrick McGee:

Silicon Valley is fast disrupting the future of cars, forcing established groups to invest in technology to make their vehicles electric, connected to the internet, and equipped with self-driving sensors and software.

But in the coming years, Germany hopes to unleash its own weapon: Silicon Saxony. The country’s easternmost region is shaping up to play a lead role in the electrification of cars.

Porsche makes all of its hybrid cars in the state while Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have focused their efforts there to answer Tesla, the US and Silicon Valley start-up that offers the most advanced and broadest range of electric cars.

“Saxony is the pioneer with regards to changes in vehicle production,” says Martin Dulig, the state’s economics minister. “Our Free State has everything required for these future technologies.”

He rattles off a series of research institutes and an array of specialist companies that give Saxony, he says, a unique competitive advantage in making battery cells, producing lightweight cars and equipping vehicles with semiconductors that can handle floods of data essential for autonomous driving technology.

Used vehicle market report

Edmunds:

Used Sales Stall in 2017
In Q1 2017, 10.2 million vehicles were sold in the used market, a decrease of 1.3% versus the previous year. Franchise used sales also showed a reduced number of units sold, with a 0.3% decrease versus 2016. Fewer consumers trading in their existing vehicle upon their new purchase could be side- stepping inventory from dealers.
 
CPO Volume Remains Flat
Certi ed Pre-Owned sales inched up with a 0.1% li over 2016 and accounted for 22.2% of all franchise used sales.
 
Used Values Up, but Mixed Signals Ahead
The average retail used vehicle sold for $19,227 in Q1 2017, an increase of 2.1% year over year. This record-breaking high can partially be attributed to a higher mix of vehicles being sold that are only 3 years old or newer (53% of sales in Q1 2017) and these 3-year-old vehicles began with much higher MSRPs versus years prior. One caveat is that, while the MSRPs are up and so is the share, these vehicles aren’t retaining nearly as much value as before.
 
Older Inventory Squeezed, Newer in Surplus
In Q1 2017, the average age of traded-in vehicles was 6.4 years old, essentially at from last year, but the percent of buyers willing to part with their existing vehicle is down from 45.0% last year to 42.8%. With a forecast for fewer sales, this further constrains the availability of older vehicles. On the other hand, leasing’s supply of near-new is forecast to last nearly three more years.

German tortoise and Tesla hare in electric car race Traditional carmakers power up for battle with pioneer of battery charged vehicles

Patrick McGhee:

My Electric Bike is Not ‘Cheating.’ And It Could Replace Cars for Millions of People

Pam Mendel:

“Hey, no fair! You’re cheating!”
 
 The guy was wrapped head to toe in black Lycra. He had clip-in cleats and a racing helmet. I was wearing a skirt and blue suede shoes. He was annoyed because I’d passed him. He was riding hard, I could see his effort and as I pulled out on the left, I could hear him breathing.
 
 This stretch of road doesn’t look like much, but it’s an uphill grade. When I’m heading into town, I hit it from a right turn or a full stop, both of which kill my momentum. It’s nowhere near the gut emptying climb before you reach my house, but it’s not a coast, either. Road bike guy had probably come from the park at sea level; he’d likely been climbing for a mile already.

Berkshire Bill Dead in Texas?

Cliff Banks:

Texas law considers Berkshire to be a vehicle manufacturer because it also owns the Indiana-based $4 billion a year RV manufacturer Forest River Inc. As a result, Berkshire legally isn’t allowed to sell cars in Texas. Engine maker Cummins,which has nine dealerships in the state, is also affected. (It’s not certain how much impact Berkshire’s investment in Chinese automaker BYD — now at a reported 10% — has on its classification as a vehicle manufacturer).
 
 The franchise laws were created to protect car dealers from having to compete with their manufacturers.
 
 After Berkshire Automotive discovered the problem a couple of months ago, its chairman, Warren Buffett, flew to Austin, TX in April to meet with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Patrick and Senator Kelly Hancock (R). The next day, senate leaders fast-tracked SB 2279, legislation creating a special exemption for Berkshire, out of committee.
 
 But the bill never reached the senate floor for debate due to a loud outcry from consumer rights organizations, environmental groups and Republican Tea Party members. They resented Buffett, whom they consider to be an out-of-state businessman, getting special treatment. They also saw an opportunity to break the power grip the Texas Automobile Dealers Association by pushing for the elimination of the franchise laws they say limit competition.

Uber Doesn’t Want You to See This Document About Its Vast Data Surveillance System

Kashmir Hill:

The ever-expanding operations of Uber are defined by two interlocking and zealously guarded sets of information: the things the world-dominating ride-hailing company knows about you, and the things it doesn’t want you to know about it. Both kinds of secrets have been in play in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, as Ward Spangenberg, a former forensic investigator for Uber, has pursued a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the company.
 
 The case, filed in May of last year, has weaponized Uber’s secrecy. Most sensationally, Spangenberg’s suit got significant press coverage in December for his claims that company employees accessed its data inappropriately to track exes and to spy on celebrities like Beyoncé. Uber responded to those claims by saying that employees only have access to the amount of customer data they need to do their jobs and that all data access is logged and routinely audited, with thorough investigations performed in the event of potential violations.

We’ve made a list because Facebook has had to check its math more than twice.

Tim Peterson:

To paraphrase J. Cole, Facebook messes up on its math one time; shame on Facebook. Facebook messes up on its math a second time; shame on those of us blindly trusting Facebook’s math. Facebook messes up on its math a third time; time to make a list.
 
 To help myself and anyone else keep track of Facebook’s measurement errors, here’s an itemized list of each error Facebook has announced to date, a (hopefully) normal-speak explanation of what the error was, whether Facebook has corrected it or plans to, how it has/will correct the error and what impact the error had on the measurements Facebook reported.
 
 Average watch time of Facebook page videos

How Coca-Cola targeted ads based on people’s Facebook, Instagram photos

Tanya Dua:

When Coca-Cola wanted to push iced-tea drinkers to consider its Gold Peak brand this summer, it didn’t target people like most brands do by using their search history. Instead, it combed through consumers’ photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and served them ads based on images they shared on those platforms.
 
 Gold Peak tapped into an image recognition engine that identified people who posted images that featured glasses or jugs of iced tea, displayed emotions such as happiness and excitement as well as contained cans or bottles of its competitors, including Snapple, Honest Tea, Lipton and others. Those people were then served Gold Peak ads on 40 mobile sites and apps after leaving Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
 
 For example, if you posted a picnic table spread with a jug of iced tea somewhere in the mix on Instagram, Gold Peak could have targeted you with ads while you read an article on Business Insider or checked the weather on the AccuWeather app in the past month, thanks to your photo.

Innisfil partners with Uber to provide public transport

BBC:

A small Canadian town has launched a first-of-its-kind ride sharing-transit partnership with Uber.
 
 Innisfil will subsidise a portion of the fare for all trips with the taxi firm taken by residents within the town’s boundaries.
 
 Officials say the deal offers more flexibility for residents and is cheaper than adding a town bus service.
 
 Uber Canada public policy manager Chris Schafer says the project has sparked global interest.
 
 The cost of a ride to any four of the community’s transport or recreation hubs will cost residents between C$3 (US$2.20/£1.70) and C$5 (US$3.60/£2.80).
 
 They will also get a C$5 discount on any custom trip within Innisfil, a lake-side Ontario town of about 36,000 people 100 km (62 miles) north of Toronto.

The end of petrol and diesel cars? All vehicles will be electric by 2025, says expert

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century.
 
 This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba. His report, with the deceptively bland title Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, has gone viral in green circles and is causing spasms of anxiety in the established industries.

US Government Fears a Monday Explosion of the Ransomware Plague It Helped Create

Rhett Jones:

But many experts are afraid the beginning of the new work week will bring more attacks and reveal ones that already existed that went unnoticed. Many workers in Asia had already finished their business for the day on Friday. It’s possible that people could be heading into the office to find a nasty surprise. And despite the best efforts of a young security researcher in the UK who goes by MalwareTech, the temporarily halted ransomware has simply been altered and is being spread by copycats. “We are in the second wave,” Matthieu Suiche of Comae Technologies, tells the New York Times. “As expected, the attackers have released new variants of the malware. We can surely expect more.”

India aims for a massive shift to electric cars, taking cue from China

Sumit Chakraberty:

Niti Aayog, a government think tank headed by India’s prime minister, has prepared a new policy aiming to electrify all vehicles in the country by 2032. It proposes lower taxes and interest rates on loans for fully electric cars, as well as a phased reduction in the number of conventional and hybrid vehicles that can be registered.
 
 The government intends to kickstart the shift by setting up and incentivizing manufacturers of batteries and other components as well as charging stations. It aims to bring price parity between electric cars and conventional or hybrid vehicles by 2025.

Profits From Store-Branded Credit Cards Hide Depth of Retailers’ Troubles

Michael Corkery & Jessica Silver-Greenberg:

Department stores and big name retailers are increasingly making the hard sell to sign up customers for credit cards at the register. The store cards promise deep discounts on clothing, furniture and electronics, and are tough for shoppers to resist.
 
 For some retailers, those credit cards are not just a sales tool, but also an essential way to bolster their struggling businesses — a trend that has worrisome implications for the industry and its customers.
 
 The store cards, with steep interest rates that are often twice that of the average credit card, generate a rich profit stream for retailers at a time when many of America’s traditional retailers are losing the battle for sales against Amazon and other e-commerce rivals. Those profits on plastic are helping obscure the true extent of the industry’s pain, a major pressure point for a piece of the economy that employs one in 10 Americans.

An Introduction to LIDAR: The Key Self-Driving Car Sensor

Oliver Cameron:

At Voyage we recently shared the news of Homer, our first self-driving taxi. Homer is outfitted with a whole range of sensors to aid in understanding and navigating the world, key to which is LIDAR (short for light detection and ranging). In this post you’ll learn more about LIDAR, its origins in the self-driving car space, and how it stacks against other sensors. Enjoy!

Discounted Cars Benefit Buyers, but May Spell Trouble for Industry

Neil Boudette:

Now that sales of new cars and trucks are slowing down, automakers and their dealers are starting to lop thousands of dollars off sticker prices — sometimes slashing the final cost by a third — a sales tactic that helps consumers but has led to industry troubles in the past.
 
 Take the Nissan Altima, one of the country’s top-selling cars. Dealers around the country are now offering the midsize sedan for $6,000 to $8,000 below list prices. In Stafford, Va., Leckner Nissan has marked down all 59 Altimas in stock, including a black 2017 Altima SV now selling for $21,593 — $7,195 below its sticker price.
 
 Similar price cuts are being offered on the Hyundai Sonata, the Chevrolet Malibu, the Ford Fusion and many other models.

Rent seeking and digital monopolies

pro market:

“The deeper you delve into the reasons artists are struggling in the digital age, the more you see that internet monopolies are at the heart of the problem and that the problem is no longer just for artists,” he writes. “Monopoly control of our data and corporate lobbying are at the heart of this story.”
 
 In an interview with ProMarket,1) Taplin discussed the rise of monopoly platforms and the part that rent-seeking and regulatory capture play in the digital economy today.
 
 Q: How did you become interested in antimonopoly?
 
 It was a very personal story. Levon Helm, who was the drummer for The Band, got throat cancer in 2000. He’d been making a decent living off of royalties from past records that he had made 15 years before, then Napster happened and that just ended. It just so happened that he got throat cancer at that very point. He had to pay for medical bills and he couldn’t go on the road because he could hardly sing.
 
 Eventually he figured out how to do something by having shows at his house, getting a bunch of friends to come and play and calling it the Midnight Rambles. He made a little money, but not enough, just barely paid his bills. It just seemed incredibly unfair to me. That’s how it started.

How my car insurance exposed my position

Andrea Scarpino:

As many car insurances companies do, my car insurance company provides a satellite device that can be put inside your car to provide its location at any time in any place.
 
 By installing such device in your car, the car insurance profiles your conduct, of course, but it could also help the police in finding your car if it gets stolen and you will probably get a nice discount over the insurance price (even up to 40%!). Long story short: I got one.
 
 Often such companies also provide an “App” for smartphones to easily track your car when you are away or to monitor your partner…mine (the company!) do.
 
 Then I downloaded my company’s application for Android, but unluckily it needs the Google Play Services to run. I am a FOSS evangelist and, as such, I try to use FOSS apps only and without gapps.
 
 Luckily I’m also a developer and, as such, I try to develop the applications I need most; using mitmproxy, I started to analyze the APIs used by the App to write my own client.

Danger Ahead: The Government’s Plan for Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Threatens Privacy, Security, and Common Sense

Jamie Williams:

Imagine if your car could send messages about its speed and movements to other cars on the road around it. That’s the dream of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which thinks of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication technology as the leading solution for reducing accident rates in the United States. But there’s a huge problem: it’s extremely difficult to have cars “talk” to each other in a way that protects the privacy and security of the people inside them, and NHTSA’s proposal doesn’t come close to successfully addressing those issues. EFF filed public comments with both NHTSA and the FTC explaining why it needs to go back to the drawing board—and spend some serious time there—before moving forward with any V2V proposal.