a spotter’s guide to the revolution: speed bumps and goosebumps

“nothing tesla does is normal,” says a KBB senior analyst. “[musk] pushes people to think further and faster, and we need people like that.” but despite his visionary prowess, npr reports the innovator’s company has missed its production goals, and it has analysts wondering if the company can keep up with itself.

while carmakers are developing electric vehicles at a breakneck pace, infrastructure is segueing organically… except when it comes to highway chargers, presenting a “buying hurdle” for eager buyers.

volkswagen joins the ranks of car brands taking on tesla with its latest announcement: they’re accelerating a push into electric with plans to develop five all-electric models.

if car makers are going to want their electric vehicles to compete with internal combustion engines, the battery prices will “need to drop by more than half” according to bloomberg new energy finance, and that isn’t projected to happen until 2025.

and this. not only will harmful emissions be cut drastically worldwide when internal combustion engines start fading off the roadways, but researchers expect electric vehicles to displace more than 8 million barrels of oil a day by 2040. that gives me goose bumps. 8 million barrels a day.

a spotter’s guide to the revolution: the crash

is there any topic as ethically loaded as power?

in every application — gender, politics, economics, sexuality — power draws a dotted line in the sand, and every person is forced to decide which side they stand on: with those who have the power, or with those who don’t.

the ethics of power has raced, once again, into the conversation about cars.

the current buzz around the future of the auto industry has been largely focused on electric and autonomous vehicles. i’ve already made the case for why i see this as more of a pivot, than a disruption. and as the conversation continues, it becomes clear that self-driving cars represent just one aspect of the changing vehicular eco-system.

the real disruption is taking place in the development of a different set of technologies: V2V or vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

a recent nytimes article explored this mysterious yet certain intelligent automated future, “what is certain is that those who play the largest roles in solving it will be in a position to dictate — as those who control infrastructure always have been — which people and places they will empower and which they will upend.”

V2V equipped autonomous vehicles are connected to other vehicles on the road, making them able to anticipate potentially life-threatening conditions. so at first glance, the values of V2V stand in saving lives. who can argue with that?

the ethical implications of V2V technology are a bit more complicated, though.

autonomous vehicles demand that we divide the risk of harm amongst all the people on and near the road. whose safety is prioritized? right now, it’s up to you as the driver.

but, according to azim shariff, director of the culture and morality lab at the university of california, irvine most people don’t necessarily think about it that way. shariff says, “leaving that ‘decision’ up to your subconscious becomes its own ethical choice, once ‘the luxury of deliberation’ embodied by the preprogrammed car exists.”

self-interest versus the greater good. where would you draw the line as a crash draws near?

a spotter’s guide to the revolution

“i don’t make this claim lightly,” [mary barra, ceo of general motors] said. “i believe we are on the verge of a revolution in personal transportation.”
porsche announces new sports car and suv subscription program
porsche passport provides members flexible access to porsche vehicles via a mobile app. and… the mythical porsche mission e has been sighted! the most obvious competitor to tesla in the high end market and “one of the most exciting electric cars in the works,” the mission e is slated for 2019 release.
lexus gets dibs on toyota’s self-driving features
the luxury brand will offer “level 4” self-driving technology in the first half of the 2020s. (lexus also canceled its sponsorship deals with weinstein tv and film projects.)
daimler owned car-sharing company car2go is replacing all its smart cars in seattle with mercedes-benz.
they plan to do the same in portland, denver, and austin, citing better smartphone app integration with mercedes, resulting in a smoother experience for users.
bmw reports uptick in electric vehicle sales
sales in the first 9 month of 2017 have exceeded sales for all of 2016 (they sold more than 10,000 vehicles in september alone) and the company is confidently on track to deliver target of 100,000 by year-end.
you can’t buy a self-driving bmw until 2021 (and that’s a good thing)
“right now a lot of that strategy hinges on its partners while the automaker maintains the bmw brand.”
tesla may run out of cash
what?! even though they’re currently valued at more than gm and ford combined, the uncertainty that apple and google present undermines that valuation.
yeah, i think mary barra has it right…

the era that prides itself on disruption

when people start talking about disruption, my mind can’t help but look at what, if anything, is actually changing. 

every brand will come up against the hard edge of the new at some point, because our world is changing, in almost every way. and rapidly.

which is why, three years ago i wrote “in order to survive, let alone succeed, brands must be able to adapt, to accelerate through the turns.”

i have long been a proponent of adaptability as a means of not just surviving, but thriving.

but adaptable does not mean chameleon-like. it means responsive. agile. able to pivot when the success of the play requires it. the interesting thing about a pivot is that, while it can represent a total about-face, it’s often just a tactical shift, with no real objective or vision shift.

the big pivots that are capturing my curiosity are happening within the auto industry. car makers are still car makers, but they’re pivoting on the kinds of engines they manufacture as they look towards an all electric future.

and things like rideshare and car memberships will require a big pivot in their distribution models. exciting.

and then there’s AI. if the proliferation of transportation startups is a sign that we’re entering a new era, then hold onto your hats.


the web will kill you

It’s just so easy to break. recently hal and i went on a trip to meet our friend marie watt, a sculptor who was artist-in-residence for a corning museum installation. there we observed glass artists in process. it struck hal how, in working with a medium that is so difficult to control, their work becomes coaxing it just beyond the most majestic thing that, in its true nature, it’s apt to do: end up in a puddle.

“you always end up at the question of ‘what is this thing’s intrinsic nature’…,” he muttered a bit and then finished, “part of anything’s intrinsic nature is its limitations.”

we talked about how the limitations of web-based media often hit these two hurdles: the deeply entrenched internet business model that leaves little opportunity for digital artists to make money with their art, and the not-quite-simple matter of access and fluidity with the tools themselves.

“there’s plenty of tactile involvement in digital media that’s just not allowed in the interfaces given to the audiences. what we’re doing is exploring the nature of reading versus watching — are those two necessarily mutually exclusive?”

positano creates an argument for long-form digital — an art form that’s very involving in the sense that you’re entering a world and sort of hanging out the way you do in film, but with some way of moving through it, a tactile side like turning the page of the book.

it’s on our minds. I’m sure there will be more.

it’s electric

what will the world sound like when combustion engines are gone?

what happens in the absence of traffic’s steady thrum*?

does the sound of nothing sound like something?

a recent reuters article claimed electric cars may cause “the biggest disruption since the iphone.”

if it’s true, imagine how cool it could be… a disruption, a leap, an opportunity.

for instance, imagine car manufacturers collaborating to create street soundscapes from a palette of brand tones. instead of the rumble of idling engines at a traffic light, there could be symphonies and grooves… the roar of a freeway becomes a deeply layered, high-speed dance track.

the sound of an electric future could be as intentional and life-enhancing as the technology itself. a thrilling disruption.

*gm announces their plan and #hal wonders about composing with the wind

moral leadership

sometimes change happens so slowly, you can barely tell it’s happening. other times it happens so quickly you can hardly keep up. earlier this year we saw ethics begin to reshape luxury and television. this week we watched as ceos not only spoke truth to power, they gave a resolute ‘no’ to power.

“in this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business,” [darren walker, president of the ford foundation] said to the ny times.

in our time it has been revealed that business has a more direct and immediate relationship with the populace than does our government. the people are speaking consistently, loudly, and clearly. business is listening, and taking action.

will the next big change we witness be that our elected officials begin to listen, and take action upon, what we the people are saying?

watching, agog.