Expert Blog

The Inside Track, V12

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Each month, Hitachi Capital scours the Internet for articles about electric and autonomous vehicle technology that you might have missed.

Here’s our reading list for the past month:

  • Autonomous cars have been a regular theme of our Inside Tracks, and one of the big questions is the impact they will have on future car ownership. KPMG has surveyed almost 1,000 automotive executives from around the world to find out what they think the answer is, and its report contains some dramatic predictions. 59% of the executives agreed that, by 2025, half of today’s car owners will no longer want to own one. And even those that do still buy cars will base their purchases on different criteria, according to 68% of the executives. Instead, the report argues, customers will be more interested in what they can do with their newly-freed-up time in the car.
  • As its drivers ferry passengers around, Uber is constantly collecting huge amounts of data about the journeys. An unnerving thought, perhaps, but the company is keen to show that data can be used for good. Hence its new tool, ‘Movement’, which maps travel times and shows how journeys get quicker or slower over time. As The Verge reports: ‘Movement is designed particularly for city governments and urban planners, who often conduct detailed traffic studies when considering whether to alter lane patterns or build new highways. Collecting the information for those studies can be expensive and time-consuming, so having access to Uber’s data could offer significant savings for some departments.’
  • Cars are smarter than ever, but has the amount of information they display gone too far? Tech venture capitalist and blogger Benedict Evans certainly thinks so. He says the dashboards of today’s new cars have got too cluttered, comparing them to mobile phones from a decade ago. ‘There are so many buttons that even the buttons have buttons’, he says, ‘and though each particular feature makes sense on its own, and might even be implemented quite well, when they're all added together the effect is absurd.’ When cars become fully-autonomous, this problem will disappear, as drivers won’t need the information. But until then? Evans argues that cars may need a fundamentally new user-interface – a job, he suggests, for the company that transformed computer interfaces: Apple.
  • Sat navs have revolutionised the way we travel. No longer do we need to thumb through the A-to-Z or unfold the road map – just punch in the postcode, and away we go. But while your sat nav might tell how to get where you’re going, it’s not always so helpful in working out what to do once you get there. How often have you heard those celebratory words ‘You have reached your destination’, only to be left thinking ‘So where do I park?’ Well, as Mashable reports, help may be at hand. The latest version of Google Maps tells you how good the parking is at your destination: ‘easy’, ‘medium’ or ‘limited’. And it could get better still, author Brett Williams suggests: ‘As the feature is developed… it’s not too outlandish to think it might someday give users more exact guidance to open spots.’
  • With Donald Trump’s inauguration and Theresa May’s visit to the White House, we’ve seen our fair share of motorcades this month. But what can you tell about a country by the convoys that transport its dignitaries? That’s the question David Rennie – The Economist’s man in Washington – sets out to answer in this month’s 1843 magazine. ‘Britain’, he claims, ‘is unusually good at motorcades.’ But surely a motorcade can’t really reflect a whole nation? ‘American motorcades may be fast and efficient, but that’s more as a result of horsepower and swagger than finesse’, says Rennie. ‘British motorcades, by contrast, are understated, elegant and ruthless.’ OK, maybe they can.

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