Expert Blog

Inside Track, V4

Welcome back to the Inside Track (V4), where we gather some of the past month’s best stories about the future of motoring.

Here’s our latest selection:

Driverless cars

  • Last month’s Inside Track was dominated by Elon Musk’s announcement of the Tesla Model 3 – and it hasn’t gone away this month. Over at the Washington Post, Vivek Wadhwa wonders whether, rather than trying to compete with Tesla, Apple might simply buy them out. ‘A combination of an operations executive such as Cook and a visionary such as Musk,’ writes Wadhwa, ‘would be formidable. Apple’s vast resources would allow Tesla to scale up his operations to deliver the nearly 400,000 orders it has received for the Model 3. Tesla would be able to leverage Apple’s global distribution network and incorporate many new technologies.'
  • Or perhaps Apple will try to compete with Tesla, after all. A report in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, translated and summarised on the MacRumors website, claimed that Apple is already running a secret vehicle lab in the middle of Berlin. Apparently, the American company has employed around 15 to 20 ‘progressive thinkers’ from the German car industry to help them develop…an electric vehicle? A driverless one? No-one really knows for sure, although it does seem certain that Apple is circling around the marketplace
  • One person who believes that Apple is developing a car is the chief executive of Ford. ‘Our working assumption is that they are,’ is how Mark Fields put it in a recent interview with the BBC. The whole interview is worth watching, as it suggests how the traditional car manufacturers are facing up to the disruptive force of tech giants such as Apple and Google. According to Fields, ‘we’re looking at a number of the technological changes in the industry, and we’re viewing that as an opportunity, not a threat.’
  • An opportunity, not a threat? Try telling that to the elderly lady who was filmed in an autopiloted Tesla out on the open road. It’s clearly an uncomfortable outing for her. ‘Ooh, there’s cars coming! There’s cars!’ she wails as her hands quiver in front of her face. It’s amusing at first, but it provokes some serious questions. As we’ve noted in a previous Inside Track, the makers of self-driving cars see old people as exactly the sort of people who might appreciate being digitally chauffeured around town. But what if old people are more scared than enchanted by the experience? And what if the rest of us feel the same way?

Uber's rise continues

  • The present is often a battle for the future – and that’s certainly the case when it comes to the taxi industry. In an article for the Guardian, Sam Knight reveals how Uber has managed to spread across the streets of London, much to the chagrin of existing cabbies. The whole article is too long to summarise here, although this passage is worth pulling out: ‘Judging on the evidence of his own eyes, O’Reilly, like most black cab drivers, has come to believe that the threat of Uber is mortal. “I genuinely believe their aim is to wipe us out,” O’Reilly told me, “Starve black taxis into submission and then run riot with that marketplace.”’ We recommend that you read the whole thing.

Look out for the next Inside Track, coming to you in June!

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