If you ask yourself how automakers will monetize the data collected from their cars once they are connected, all you need to do is listen to Nissan’s global after-sales chief Kent O’Hara. Connectivity “will allow us to retain more service customers at our dealership network,” O’Hara said today in Yokohama. It is a well-kept secret in the automotive business that car service is a major profit source for automakers, and even more so for car dealers. Electronically connected with the customer through the life of the car, automakers plan to grab a much bigger share of that lucrative business, leading to disruption of independent service chains, and 3rd party parts suppliers.
Together with Toyota and Volkswagen, Nissan is just one of a number of large automakers that announced aggressive connected car plans in recent weeks. Their strategy is similar: Give customers the Internet connectivity and apps they demand, and doing that, collect the data that drive a giant customer retention and after-sales marketing program, while making sure that no outsiders such as Google or Apple get their hands on the data.
OEMs are salivating at the chance to finally stay in direct contact with the car owner throughout the car’s life-cycle. Service business generates big profits for automakers through high margin original parts sales. For most franchised dealers, service business generates the lion share of their profits.
Up to now, the individual car owner is not known to the OEM in many markets, the dealer often controls that information. Customers tend to divorce themselves from franchised dealer shops once the warranty is over, and contact is lost irretrievably. When the car is sold after a few years, the used car customer usually frequents independent, or 3rd party chain shops. A system that identifies the customer, and signals when and where the car needs service, can be a goldmine for OEMs and their dealers, to the detriment of 3rd party providers.
Over the past 15 years, the trucking industry has periodically struggled with a shortage of truck drivers.1 The first shortage during this period was documented in a 2005 report. At that time, the shortage was roughly 20,000. During the last recession starting in 2008, the driver shortage was eliminated as industry volumes plummeted, resulting in fewer drivers needed. However, as industry volumes began to recover in 2011, the shortage slowly returned. The driver market continued to tighten and the shortage skyrocketed to 38,000 by 2014.
However, machine learning remains a relatively ‘hard’ problem. There is no doubt the science of advancing machine learning algorithms through research is difficult. It requires creativity, experimentation and tenacity. Machine learning remains a hard problem when implementing existing algorithms and models to work well for your new application. Engineers specializing in machine learning continue to command a salary premium in the job market over standard software engineers.
This difficulty is often not due to math – because of the aforementioned frameworks machine learning implementations do not require intense mathematics. An aspect of this difficulty involves building an intuition for what tool should be leveraged to solve a problem. This requires being aware of available algorithms and models and the trade-offs and constraints of each one. By itself this skill is learned through exposure to these models (classes, textbooks and papers) but even more so by attempting to implement and test out these models yourself. However, this type of knowledge building exists in all areas of computer science and is not unique to machine learning. Regular software engineering requires awareness of the trade offs of competing frameworks, tools and techniques and judicious design decisions.
There’s so much change happening around us these days that it’s easy to forget the speed at which things are changing.
We now have more computing power in our pocket than all of NASA had in 1969 to put the first man on the moon. India sent a spacecraft to Mars for less money than it took Hollywood to make the movie Gravity.1 It took Uber a mere four years to hit $10 Billion in gross revenue.2 And Artificial Intelligence took just 42 hours to solve the 100-year-old mystery of how flatworms regenerate body parts.3
This pace of change will continue to accelerate at warp speed, with more change expected in the next 15 years than in all of human history to date.
So how does a company like HP stay ahead of all this change, to innovate, adapt, reinvent and engineer experiences for a future that promises to look very different from today?
While we can’t know what the future will hold, we can look to the major socio-economic, demographic and technological trends occurring across the globe to help guide us: megatrends that we believe will have a sustained, transformative impact on the world in the years ahead – on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives.
At HP, we’ve identified four major megatrends: Rapid Urbanization, Changing Demographics, Hyper Globalization, and Accelerated Innovation.
Technology is advancing so rapidly that we will experience radical changes in society not only in our lifetimes but in the coming years. We have already begun to see ways in which computing, sensors, artificial intelligence and genomics are reshaping entire industries and our daily lives.
As we undergo this rapid change, many of the old assumptions that we have relied will no longer apply. Technology is creating a new set of rules that will change our very existence. Here are six:
1. Anything that can be digitised will be
Digitisation began with words and numbers. Then we moved into games and later into rich media, such as movies, images and music. We also moved complex business functions, medical tools, industrial processes and transportation systems into the digital realm. Now, we are digitising everything about our daily lives: our actions, words and thoughts. Inexpensive DNA sequencing and machine learning are unlocking the keys to the systems of life. Cheap, ubiquitous sensors are documenting everything we do and creating rich digital records of our entire lives.
The group ‘Citizens for the Republic’ targeted Musk and Tesla for taking subsidies from the government, which they referred to as “defrauding American taxpayers”. But according to their manifesto, they are against all subsidies, which is something a lot of people can get behind, but it raises the question of why are they targeting Musk and Tesla?
If you want to campaign against subsidies, it would make sense to target all subsidies or at least the corporations that are getting away with the lion’s share of them and contrary to what has long been reported, Tesla is actually receiving only a small fraction of what the Big Three automakers and oil companies are receiving.
The market for electric cars and all sorts of other electric vehicles keeps booming in China. Subsidies can be as high as 90,000 yuan ($13,000) and more and more consumers and companies are buying in. Local Chinese automakers make up most of the electric car market and are now seriously investing in research & development, leading to better cars with more power and longer range, and thus to more sales.
This year’s Guangzhou Auto Show saw the debut of over 30 new energy vehicles (NEVs). For this article I take a look at the most interesting new cars in five electric vehicle segments:
Also, looking at his Instagram history it appears that Kim is a fan of Porsche’s design and he is a Porsche owner himself. Among his new colleagues at Tesla’s Design Studio in Hawthorne, Félix Godard is a former Porsche interior designer credited with the design of the Mission E.
As we reported last month in our write up of ‘Tesla Vision’, Kim will not be the only employee at Tesla from Microsoft’s HoloLens program. Last year, Tesla hired Yekeun Jeong, a computer vision expert working on the HoloLens, to work on Tesla Vision.
Our so-called information economy mainly serves to manage an ever faster, larger and more complex production and consumption system, of which we have only outsourced the manufacturing part.
Consequently, without the information economy — without the office — the industrial system would collape. Without the industrial system, there would be no need for the information society or the office — in fact, office work could be like it was before 1850, when the biggest bank in the US was run by just three people with a quill. 
The sustainable image of the information society — as contrasted to the dirty image of the industrial society — is built on an obsession with dividing energy use into different statistical categories, fiddling around with figures on electronic calculating tools. In other words, it’s a product of office work, hiding the true nature of office work.
Related: The Transportationist.
Yet what if it were true that diamonds really can be manufactured? When GE revealed the discovery, the stock of the De Beers diamond cartel in South Africa, which dominated the global market, plummeted. It seemed like a rare and precious commodity was about to be supplanted by an artificial form that could be fabricated by the ton, mirroring a millennia-old concern about the devastating power of fakes. Concerns over the devaluation of gold currency led the Roman emperor Diocletian to ban alchemy in the third century, and worries about counterfeiting and debased coinage also lay behind the condemnations of the art by Pope John XXII in 1317 and of King Henry IV of England in 1403.
This, though, was no alchemy: The GE diamonds were perfect chemical replicas of the real thing. Was it the end of a billion-dollar market?
In the last six years, (2010–2015), according to the IFR (International Federation of Robotics), US industry has installed around 135,000 new industrial robots. The principal driver is automation in the car industry. During this same period, (2010–2015), the number of employees in the automotive sector increased by 230,000.
This news affirms the conclusions of a study conducted by the market research firm, Metra Martech, “Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment,” that there will be growth in robot use over the next five years resulting in the creation of one million high-quality jobs around the world. “Robots, in addition to the auto industry, will help to create jobs in some of the most critical industries of this century: consumer electronics, food, solar & wind power, and advanced battery manufacturing to name just a few.”
Seattle on Wednesday issued proposed rules governing which app-based taxi drivers could vote to unionize, drawing rebukes from both Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc.
The draft rules, released by the Seattle Finance and Administrative Services department, allow for drivers with at least 52 rides over a three-month period to vote in a potential union election.
That qualification excludes more infrequent drivers, which Uber and Lyft say would lead to a less-representative vote. Full-time drivers are more likely to support the idea of unions than part-time drivers, who prefer the flexibility of contractor status.
Cadillac is delaying for a second time the start of a controversial new retail strategy for its 925 dealerships, the latest setback in brand chief Johan de Nysschen’s bid to refashion General Motors Co.’s luxury brand to take on BMW and other luxury players.
Cadillac is pushing back the implementation of the plan, named Project Pinnacle, until April, from Jan. 1, amid criticism from dealers who say the program is tedious and costly for big-volume operators and could compel smaller dealers to give up their Cadillac franchises.
The program overhauls the way Cadillac dealers get paid by GM for new vehicle sales. To receive maximum profit margins, dealers must follow a set of “brand standards” that dictate everything from use of tablet computers by service advisers to offering complimentary roadside assistance.
BMW’s range is already too big for dealerships compared with a few years ago, when it primarily consisted of only the 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series, admitted Fuhs. The current BMW line-up has ten times as many models as only around a decade ago.
“We have to completely revolutionise our network; we can’t have 24,000 square feet in central Amsterdam,” said Fuhs.
Numerous ideas about future retail solutions were discussed and floated, including the possibility of boutique-style stores, more experience-based brand spaces, and both physical and digital presences. A virtual showroom, like the Rockar ones employed by Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover, were conspicuous in their lack of discussion, however.
Why are established organizations listing towards reliability and exploitation? Perhaps the clearest explanation came from Nicholas Colin, Associate Professor in business strategy, Université Paris-Dauphine, who pointed to the shifting power relationships between workers, executives, shareholders and customers.
In the 1960s, Colin explained, workers were in a strong position. But in the 1970s, the situation changed. Capital was both more mobile and more concentrated and could now exert pressure on corporations and obtain higher returns over shorter periods.
In most cities, the taxi industry is highly regulated and utilizes technology developed in the 1940s. Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, which use modern internet-based mobile technology to connect passengers and drivers, have begun to compete with traditional taxis. This paper examines the efficiency of ride sharing services vis-à-vis taxis by comparing the capacity utilization rate of UberX drivers with that of traditional taxi drivers in five cities. The capacity utilization rate is measured by the fraction of time a driver has a fare-paying passenger in the car while he or she is working, and by the share of total miles that drivers log in which a passenger is in their car. The main conclusion is that, in most cities with data available, UberX drivers spend a significantly higher fraction of their time, and drive a substantially higher share of miles, with a passenger in their car than do taxi drivers. Four factors likely contribute to the higher capacity utilization rate of UberX drivers: 1) Uber’s more efficient driver-passenger matching technology; 2)the larger scale of Uber than taxi companies; 3) inefficient taxi regulations; and 4) Uber’s flexible labor suppl
Verizon has topped itself by playing Russian roulette with consumer trust in an attempt to compete with the advertising businesses of Google and Facebook. In an email announcement last Sunday night to select subscribers, Verizon signaled how it intends to compete with those two powerhouses, outlining its plan to combine offline information, such as postal address, email address and device type, with AOL browser cookies, Apple and Google advertising IDs, and their own unique identifier header. Coupled with all of their customers’ browsing history and app usage, this mass of customer data will make for a rich competitive product to Facebook and Google.
Hit hard by the recall of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, Samsung is switching lanes. The electronics giant said this morning that it was paying $8 billion to buy automotive tech firm Harman International, effectively a massive bet on smarter cars.
Connected cars are the latest hot automotive trend. While much of the world was changed by the smartphone revolution, car dashboards remain dated and closed to the outside world. Compare your smartwatch to your car. The watch tells your phone how many steps you’ve walked in a given day. Try easily getting that information from your car.
The North American push is part of a sweeping overhaul to improve profitability at VW, one of the auto industry’s least efficient brands. Under the new strategy, the German carmaker’s biggest unit plans to more than triple its profit margin to 6 percent and increase sales of electric cars to 1 million vehicles per year by 2025. Efforts to boost the margin are critical as Volkswagen faces at least 18.2 billion euros of fines and repairs in the wake of the emissions crisis.
To help cover those damages and the cost of developing battery-powered and self-driving technologies, VW reached a landmark agreement with workers last week, to cut as many as 30,000 jobs worldwide and slash 3.7 billion euros of expenses. The electric-car transition will be funded in part by eliminating more than 2.5 billion euros of costs by scrapping underperforming conventional models, while the annual investment budget will remain stable at about 4.5 billion euros, the company said.
As the high-tech and automotive worlds merge—with four disruptive technology trends driving change—a complex ecosystem is creating new rules for success.
As four technology trends reshape the global automotive sector, customer preferences are moving away from its traditional strongholds, such as chassis and engine development. This shift in customer preferences and the sheer size of the automotive sector have attracted new players: a potent mix of large high-tech companies and start-ups. Both differ from the automotive incumbents on virtually every level.
These new entrants and the disruptive trends they bring—electrification, autonomous driving, diverse mobility, and connectivity—will transform typically vertically integrated automotive value chains into a complex, horizontally structured ecosystem. The newcomers are well positioned (and expected) to make moves in novel areas such as autonomous driving. Consequently, today’s OEMs and tier-one suppliers must abandon strategies aiming at total control of vehicles and instead pick and choose where and how to play by shedding assets, streamlining operations, and embracing digital acquisitions.
German automaker BMW and Chinese internet giant Baidu will end their joint research on self-driving cars, executives for the two firms said on Friday, with Baidu now searching for new global research partners.
Wang Jing, the head of autonomous car development at Baidu, told Reuters the company was now using cars from Ford’s Lincoln in its U.S. testing, declining to elaborate.
“I’m open for any partners, actually I’m talking to many,” Wang said, speaking on the sidelines of China’s third World Internet Conference in the eastern Chinese city of Wuzhen.
NuTonomy, the startup that beat Uber Technologies Inc. to public streets with robot taxis, will begin trying out autonomous vehicles in Boston by year’s end.
The company, financed in part by Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford’s venture fund, announced on Monday a deal with the city of Boston and state of Massachusetts to test on public roads a Renault Zoe electric car with nuTonomy’s self-driving software.
The Cambridge, Mass., startup is racing to roll out an autonomous commercial fleet in Singapore in 2018, well ahead of the time frame announced by auto makers for bringing self-driving vehicles to market. BMW AG and Ford, for example, have targeted 2021.
Carmakers around the world are lining up behind Automotive Grade Linux as the operating system for their connected cars. “For the car industry, Automotive Grade Linux is very analogous to what Android did for the mobile phone industry,” said Dan Cauchy, Executive Director of the AGL project. This time, the software won’t be supplied by Google. Under the umbrella of the non-profit Linux Foundation, AGL is an open source collaborative effort of automakers and suppliers around the world.
Via Roman Meliška.
“Hong Kong Captured: Motor-Car Invasion by American Sailors”, ran a headline in the South China Morning Post on May 27, 1910.
“Hongkong was captured Wednesday by American ‘jack tars,’” the story that marked the Post’s first mention of the motor car continued. “In a big touring car they oper ated in the vicinity of the Hongkong Hotel and other equally well-known hostelries. The invaders were extremely dignified, and very clean in their white suits, but the ribald cries of the populace as echoes of the horn’s ‘honk, honk,’ somewhat marred the general effect.”
Europe’s largest carmaker Volkswagen sees building its own factory to make electronic vehicle batteries as a logical move as it expands production of low-emission cars after its emissions scandal.
Volkswagen and its labor unions agreed on Friday to cut 30,000 jobs at the core VW brand in exchange for a commitment to avoid forced redundancies in Germany until 2025.
The cuts came with a management pledge to create 9,000 new jobs in the area of battery production and mobility services at factories in Germany as part of efforts to shift toward electric and self-driving cars.
Hyundai plans to offer “subscriptions” its Ioniq EV like a cellphone plan, which it calls Ioniq Unlimited.
When the new Hyundai Ioniq battery-electric vehicle rolls into California showrooms next year, the Korean carmaker wants to create what it calls a “worry-free ownership experience.”
And that means it won’t sell you the Ioniq but instead let you subscribe, much the way you might when it’s time to trade in your old smartphone in a program called “Ioniq Unlimited.”
Auto Show News!
“We looked at the cellular phone industry,” explained David Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, “and nobody buys their phone. They sign up for a package.”
Ioniq is the dedicated platform Hyundai has developed, its response to the long-popular Toyota Prius. It will eventually be offered in three different forms, a plug-in hybrid version introduced earlier this year, with the pure battery-electric Ioniq making its debut on Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show. A conventional hybrid version is set to follow next year.
Internet giant Baidu is fast-forwarding its own self-driving car tests with a new public trial of autonomous vehicles, including cars supplied by Chinese automakers BYD, Chery and BAIC. The public tests opened for passengers on Tuesday, and have ferried around 200 people, as of today, across a 3.16 km (around 2 miles) stretch of road in tourist destination Wuzhen, which has been “mapped with centimetre accuracy,” according to Baidu.
Volkswagen Group makes 10 million vehicles per year with twice as many people as its neck-and-neck competitor Toyota — with predictably meager results. To boost profits, the German carmaker wants to do the job with 30,000 fewer people, the company announced Friday in presenting a ”future pact” with its unions. Why did the unions say ja? Because the plan is not quite the “cutting to the bone” that Germany’s Handelsblatt and Seeking Alpha are making it out to be. At closer inspection, the plan signals who’s in charge in Wolfsburg: The unions.
“Today’s best news is that the works council has achieved a job guarantee through 2025,” said a burly Bernd Osterloh today at a press conference in Volkswagen’s hometown Wolfsburg, Germany. “That’s nine years without worrying about losing the job.” Osterloh, a member of the IG Metall metalworkers union, heads Volkswagen’s works council. He is also vice chairman of Volkswagen’s Supervisory Board.
Recent reports have cast doubt on Apple’s automobile ambitions. With Apple shifting its focus to auto software and autonomous driving, many have interpreted the move as Apple giving up on building its own car. I look at the situation very differently. Apple remains interested in transportation, and the case for an Apple Car continues to build.
Apple’s Initial Car Strategy
Apple management began to think about the feasibility of designing and selling its own car in early 2014, and early musings likely stretched as far back as late 2013. This was right around the time that management was becoming confident in Apple Watch becoming a commercial success. It is conceivable that Apple had begun to contemplate new product categories after Apple Watch.
As seen in the photos below, what had seemed like Tim Cook innocently checking out BMW’s new i8 electric car outside of Apple HQ in June 2014 took on a whole new meaning eight months later when the Financial Times was the first publication to break the story of Apple thinking about selling its own electric car.
Visitors to the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show will see supercars, hoverboards, self-propelling luggage and all manner of new transportation options.
But they’ll be hard pressed to find a clutch pedal or a stick shift. Available in nearly half of new models in the U.S. a decade ago, the manual transmission is going the way of the rumble seat, with stick availability falling to about a quarter this year.
For about $50, you can get a smartphone with a high-definition display, fast data service and, according to security contractors, a secret feature: a backdoor that sends all your text messages to China every 72 hours.
Security contractors recently discovered preinstalled software in some Android phones that monitors where users go, whom they talk to and what they write in text messages. The American authorities say it is not clear whether this represents secretive data mining for advertising purposes or a Chinese government effort to collect intelligence.
International customers and users of disposable or prepaid phones are the people most affected by the software. But the scope is unclear. The Chinese company that wrote the software, Shanghai Adups Technology Company, says its code runs on more than 700 million phones, cars and other smart devices. One American phone manufacturer, BLU Products, said that 120,000 of its phones had been affected and that it had updated the software to eliminate the feature.
“Our AlphaWise survey shows rising Airbnb adoption (now ~18 percent of travelers) with demand increasingly coming from hotels,” the team, led by Brian Nowak, writes. “While still small, we believe Airbnb has been almost double the threat to hotels in 2016 than previously believed, and the threat is growing.”
Samsung Electronics Co. is spending $8 billion to buy its way into a burgeoning market for automotive technology alongside Apple Inc. and Google as the smartphone business wanes.
The company is making its largest-ever overseas acquisition with an offer for Harman International Industries Inc., angling to become the go-to supplier of everything from in-car entertainment to connected-auto services. It comes days after Samsung Group heir-apparent Jay Y. Lee formally ascended to the board of the electronics firm, a move expected to shore up his influence over the family-run conglomerate’s prized asset.
The Harman acquisition will lift Samsung into the top ranks of auto technology suppliers and give it existing relationships with BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. While Harman became a legendary name in high-end audio equipment, it’s pushed deeper into automotive supplies and now gets 65 percent of sales from the sector. Samsung’s $112-a-share offer stood 28 percent above Harman’s closing price of $87.65 in New York on Friday.
Electric motors aren’t as complicated as combustion engines. As battery vehicles become common, carmakers probably won’t need as many production staff. So when BMW AG’s chief labor representative starts criticizing management for being “too slow” to invest in electric cars, you know something’s up.Manfred Schoch, who’s also the German auto giant’s deputy chairman, told Bloomberg News last week that to stay competitive, it must build more electric cars, including versions of the 3, 5 and 7-series saloon. BMW’s a conservative place, not given to airing differences in public. The models Schoch’s talking about are its holiest-of-holies. So his intervention matters.
The architect of BMW’s autonomous car strategy, Elmar Frickenstein, has said that supercomputers, 100pc 5G connectivity and artificial intelligence will be needed to make self-driving cars a worldwide reality by 2021.
Frickenstein, who is senior vice president of electrics/electronics and driver environment at BMW, told the Web Summit in Lisbon that the world has already had 100 years of people driving themselves – now is the time for the machines to do the work.
The coming weeks offer big new showcases for the humble electric-vehicle.
Auto makers, rushing to meet tightening emissions standards, are unveiling new battery-powered vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, mirroring last month’s flood of such cars by European companies. These curtain-raisers will be followed by first shipments of General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Bolt, a $35,000 Tesla fighter that goes on sale next month.
What’s missing are consumers, however. Auto makers are suffering from a glut of U.S. sedan and coupe inventory amid strong demand for light-trucks. The coming addition of electric-vehicle capacity could worsen that oversupply if shoppers continue to prefer pickups and sport-utility vehicles to plug-in cars.
The Republican party’s sweeping victory at the polls Tuesday may deal a difficult blow to one of America’s most closely watched companies: Tesla, the electric car maker that’s trying to revolutionize the auto industry.
Some of the biggest implications for Tesla may come in the form of new U.S. energy policies that favor traditional fuel sources such as oil and coal, said Kathryn Thomson, a former top lawyer for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation.
“Anybody who advocates for energy-efficient, sustainable solutions should be worried,” said Thomson. “On the one hand, Trump is saying, ‘Let’s look at all the options,’ and that’s positive. On the other hand, he seems to be pushing more-conventional fuels and technologies. And that’s not good for innovation, and that’s not good for efficiency and sustainability.”
Our modern society runs on software. But the tools we use to build software are buckling under increased demand.
Nearly all software today relies on free, public code, written and maintained by communities of developers and other talent. This code can be used by anyone—from companies to individuals—to write their own software. Shared, public code makes up the digital infrastructure of our society today.
Everybody relies on shared code to write software, including Fortune 500 companies, government, major software companies and startups. In a world driven by technology, we are putting increased demand on those who maintain our digital infrastructure. Yet because these communities are not highly visible, the rest of the world has been slow to notice.
Just like physical infrastructure, digital infrastructure needs regular upkeep and maintenance. But financial support for digital infrastructure is much harder to come by.
“We find trucks today totally unacceptable. At Charge we are making trucks the way they should be – affordable, elegant, quiet, clean and safe. We are removing all the barriers to entry for electric vehicles by pricing them in line with conventional trucks, giving every fleet manager, tradesman or company, no matter how big or small, the opportunity to change the way they transport goods and make our towns and cities better places to live,” said Denis Sverdlov, CEO. The vehicles are built using revolutionary ultra-lightweight composite materials that significantly reduce the weight of the vehicle and by combining this technology with Charge’s custom built hardware, including power electronics and motors, they have been able to reduce the cost of operating by more than 50%. In an industry which is driven by price and weight this will help to transform the highly complex logistics sector.
The Android operating system for smartphones is one of the most successful technologies ever created. Apple Inc. sparked the smartphone revolution, but Android spread it to the masses. The software backed by Google parent company Alphabet Inc. powers more than 85 percent of the roughly 1.5 billion new smartphones sold each year.Yet for all its success, Android looks increasingly in danger of falling apart.
This September, Uber, the app-summoned taxi service, launched a fleet of driverless Volvos and Fords in the city of Pittsburgh. While Google has had its own autonomous vehicles on the roads of Mountain View, California, Austin, Texas, Kirkland, Washington, and Phoenix, Arizona, for a few years, gathering data and refining its technology, Uber’s Pittsburgh venture marks the first time such cars will be available to be hailed by the American public. (The world’s first autonomous taxi service began offering rides in Singapore at the end of August, edging out Uber by a few weeks.)
Pittsburgh, with its hills, narrow side streets, snow, and many bridges, may not seem like the ideal venue to deploy cars that can have difficulty navigating hills, narrow streets, snow, and bridges. But the city is home to Carnegie Mellon’s renowned National Robotics Engineering Center, and in the winter of 2015, Uber lured away forty of its researchers and engineers for its new Advanced Technologies Center, also in Pittsburgh, to jump-start the company’s entry into the driverless car business.
A new kind of vehicle has taken to the roads, and people aren’t sure what to make of it. Is it safe? Can it cope with other road users? Will it require a radical overhaul of the transport infrastructure? The questions that are being asked today about self-driving cars were raised a century ago when the first motor cars roared onto the roads. So how can the concerns raised during the first road revolution help us think about the second?
Safety is the main concern at the moment, after the first fatality in a self-driving car, which took place in May. Joshua Brown, the owner of a Tesla Model S, was killed when he set the car to “Autopilot” mode and it ran into the side of a lorry which its sensors had failed to spot. Autopilot is still in “beta” (ie, it is an unfinished prototype): drivers are supposed to keep their eyes on the road and take over if anything looks amiss. In this case, that did not happen. Tesla notes that this is the first-known fatality in 130m miles of its cars driving themselves; the American average for road deaths is one every 94m miles, and the global average is one every 60m miles. In other words, Autopilot is already safer, on average, than human drivers. But the company, nonetheless, has been criticised for using its customers as guinea pigs for an unfinished and imperfect technology. Never mind that in America alone, around 90 people die in road-traffic accidents every day: Autopilot, it seems, is expected to be flawless.
Exactly the same debate took place a century ago. The first deaths in car accidents attracted much attention – church bells tolled in Memphis, black flags were flown in Detroit and stone memorials erected in Baltimore. The car’s defenders hit back: an Italian car magazine argued in 1912: “Horses, trams, trains can collide, smash, kill half the world, and nobody cares. But if an automobile leaves a scratch on an urchin who dances in front of it, or on a drunken carter who is driving without a light,” then people blamed the scourge of motor cars. Yet people gradually came to accept road deaths. Self-driving cars are being held to an impossible safety standard today, but eventually the benefits of safer – if not perfectly infallible – vehicles will become apparent.
With all the anxiety around driverless cars lately, it’s worth remembering there was a time people worried about cars exactly because they had human drivers. In fact, it was the removal of the horses—the horseless carriage—that gave some people fits.
In the 1890s, the prospect of a person driving without the aid of a second intelligence was a real concern. A horse, or team of horses, acted as a crude form of cruise control and collision aversion.
In 1896 Alfred Sennett warned, “We should not overlook the fact that the driving of a horseless carriage calls for a larger amount of attention for he has not the advantage of the intelligence of the horse in shaping his path, and it is consequently incumbent upon him to be ever watchful of the course his vehicle is taking.”
Distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents today, so maybe it wasn’t a bad point. Although he was forgetting automobiles actually had brakes, unlike a horse and cart—and they didn’t scare.
A battered Dodge Challenger roars past as I head out on the nine-lane highway, riding past shuttered shops and decaying restaurants and row upon row of vacant, overgrown housing lots.
Normally I wouldn’t even consider cycling on such an expanse of road, but it’s not so bad in Detroit. After all, the birthplace of America’s car industry doesn’t have that many cars any more.
My ride along Jefferson Avenue passes the low bulk of Chrysler’s car assembly factory. Along with General Motors’ Hamtramck plant, it is all that remains of the once-great industry which supported this city. Where there were 285,000 jobs, now there are just 10,000.
In 1940, Detroit was the fourth largest city in the US; now it doesn’t even make the top 20. From a peak of 1.8 million inhabitants, the population now stands at 677,000.
Currently, most roads in the U.S. are designed around the needs of drivers, making them inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst for walkers and cyclists. With more vehicles on the roads, pedestrian fatalities are surging nationwide. You’ve already heard that autonomous vehicles stand to make streets much, much safer by putting a computer fully in charge of the split-second road-reactions that human drivers so routinely flub. They might also succeed in upending an age-old vehicular hierarchy: In a world where most cars are driving themselves, pedestrians could reign supreme.
That’s the premise of new research by Adam Millard-Ball, a professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He uses game theory to suggest that autonomous vehicles could benefit pedestrians by being more responsive to their behavior. “In most urban areas, pedestrians have many more rights than they actually assert,” says Millard-Ball—for example, they don’t always cross when they’ve got the light, fearing a collision. Once self-driving cars arrive en masse, walkers might be more even assertive than laws generally permit.
Cities such as New York and San Francisco have extensive public-transportation systems that carry millions of residents by bus, train, boat, and light rail. But in recent years, there’s been an expanding fleet of private vehicles too: Lyft, Uber, Juno, Uber Pool, and the Google Bus, to name a few. These offerings give commuters more choices, but may also undermine the public services available. They raise fundamental questions about the future of how people will get around cities.
I used to think these services were just for the rich—a friend of mine who lived in New York insisted on taking an Uber Pool to work every day because he said it was a much better experience than public transit. But as the options increase, they carry an expanding array of people. This morning, for instance, I walked one block from my house to take a private van service called Chariot to my office in San Francisco. Before Chariot, this commute took at least 40 minutes and consisted of riding a bus to the subway to another bus. Chariot—a shared van service run by a private company—brought me directly from my house to my office in just over 20 minutes. And it cost roughly the same price as the lengthier public transit option.
Despite congressional hawing, in October 1966 Johnson signed into law the bill that bundled almost three-dozen federal groups and agencies into one executive department. The DOT was up and running in about six months, quickly becoming the fourth-largest federal agency with almost 100,000 employees. The Federal Highway Administration emerged as the largest and most active branch of the DOT, spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to maintain the nation’s interstate highways. The DOT has influenced the evolution of the automobile, especially in the mid-’80s when then-director Elizabeth Dole pushed states to pass laws requiring seat-belt usage and called for the ubiquitous installation of the “Dole brake light” (commonly known as the third brake light).
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the world’s second-biggest energy company by market value, thinks demand for oil could peak in as little as five years, a rare statement in an industry that commonly forecasts decades of growth.
“We’ve long been of the opinion that demand will peak before supply,” Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry said on a conference call on Tuesday. “And that peak may be somewhere between 5 and 15 years hence, and it will be driven by efficiency and substitution, more than offsetting the new demand for transport.”
Shell’s view puts it at odds with some of its biggest competitors. Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest publicly traded oil company, said in its annual outlook that “global demand for oil and other liquids is projected to rise by about 20 percent from 2014 to 2040.” Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer, with enough reserves to last it 70 years, has said demand will continue to grow, boosted by consumption in emerging markets.
German prosecutors have widened a probe into suspected market manipulation by managers at Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) to include the carmaker’s supervisory board Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch, VW said on Sunday.
The investigation, which relates to Poetsch’s time as finance chief of VW, is the latest fallout from the carmaker’s admission last year that it cheated on diesel emissions tests.
VW has admitted that it installed software that deactivated pollution controls on more than 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide, rattling its global business, damaging its reputation and prompting the departure of Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn.
The unemployment rate in the Detroit area is moving below the rate in metropolitan Houston for the first time in more than a decade—and gasoline prices are fueling the change.
The Motor City’s unemployment rate was 5.4% in September, marking only the second month since 2003 Detroit’s jobless rate was below that of the Texas energy hub, according to Labor Department data released Wednesday.
At law courts throughout Greece, people are lining up to file papers renouncing their inheritance. Not necessarily because some feckless uncle left them with a pile of debt at the end of his revels; they are turning their backs on what used to be a pillar of Greece’s economy and society: real estate. Growing personal debt, declining incomes and ever higher taxes as Greece’s depression grinds on have turned property and the dream of easy money into dread of a catastrophic burden.
The figures are clear. In 2013, two years after a property tax was introduced (previously, real estate tax revenue came mainly from transfers or conveyance taxes), 29,200 people declined to accept their inheritance, according to the Justice Ministry. In 2015, the number had climbed to 45,627, an increase of 56 percent in two years. Reports from across the country suggest that this year, too, large numbers of people are refusing to inherit.
One of the biggest insurance companies in Britain is to use social media to analyse the personalities of car owners and set the price of their insurance.
The unprecedented move highlights the start of a new era for how companies use online personal data and will start a debate about privacy.
Admiral Insurance will analyse the Facebook accounts of first-time car owners to look for personality traits that are linked to safe driving. For example, individuals who are identified as conscientious and well-organised will score well.
Toyota Motor is widening the scope of its business to establish new sources of revenue from products and services geared toward the connected car.
The Japanese automaker intends to incorporate internet connectivity as standard equipment in almost all of its cars, and to offer a range of products and services for Toyota drivers and business partners, including car- and ride-sharing services.
Toyota outlined the plan Tuesday at a meeting in Tokyo held to describe its connected-car strategy. Senior Managing Officer Shigeki Tomoyama, who heads Toyota’s connected-car operations, said that while Toyota will maintain its identity as a company that makes and sells cars, it will also wear the hat of a service provider.
By 2020, virtually all the Toyota cars sold in Japan and the U.S will come with communications capabilities as standard equipment. This kind of connectivity is now mainly limited to the luxury Lexus brand, but moving forward cars sold under the Toyota moniker will also come internet-ready. That would place some 4 million more connected cars on the road yearly.
As a first step, Toyota plans to equip the Prius PHV plug-in hybrid coming out this winter with communications capabilities. Owners will have access to a service that lets them use their smartphones to check the status of battery charging and to remotely fire up heating and air conditioning. The service will be free for the first three years and 12,000 yen ($115) annually thereafter.
Toyota is also using the connected car as a launching pad for new businesses.
One example is its partnership with the U.S. company Getaround, which operates a car-sharing service. With car sharing, the keys to the car need to be passed from one user to the next. But Toyota has developed devices that can be fitted to cars so a smartphone can be used to both unlock the car and start the engine. Toyota’s business model is to provide the devices and collect a usage fee.
The automaker has also partnered with U.S. ride-sharing giant Uber Technologies. Starting in December the two plan to test a business where people buy vehicles and pay back the loans by working as Uber drivers.
A federal judge last week approved a $14.7 billion settlement to partially resolve the legal fallout over Volkswagen’s installation of “defeat devices” designed to cheat air quality rules in more than 500,000 vehicles sold in the U.S.
The complicated settlement resolves a number of legitimate claims, providing relief for car owners, the state of California and the Federal Trade Commission. But it also includes a dubious provision that Volkswagen invest $1.2 billion in a plan to be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to promote “zero-emissions vehicle technology,” a euphemism for electric vehicle charging stations. This is an affront to both common sense and the Constitution.
According to the Justice Department, the $1.2 billion investment remedies Clean Air Act violations for “deceptive marketing.” But this is absurd. The Clean Air Act has nothing to do with the policing of false advertising, of which Volkswagen was guilty. That’s the job of the FTC, which is party to the settlement.
Google and Apple can be proud of one thing: They lifted global automakers off their collective duffs. Around the world, OEMs suddenly race to close the perceived digital gap, they are hell bent on connecting the billion or so cars on the world’s roads to the cloud. Problem for Google and Apple: One by one, OEMs announce that they will shoot for the cloud without the help of Google, or Apple. Case in Point: Toyota. Today in Tokyo, the world’s largest automaker unveiled parts of its digital strategy, and the plan has Google and Apple under also ran.
“To guarantee the safety of the customer, the manufacturer must be the platform provider,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, President of Toyota’s newly founded connected car company, which in tune with the prevailing Zeitgeist is simply called “Connected Car Company.” The platform has a likewise simple name: “Mobility Service Platform,” or MSPF for the acronym-addicted. To build that platform, Toyota did not go the simple route of calling Cupertino, or Mountain View. Toyota built its own platform.