The Future of Cars

I’ve been reading and listening a lot about cars and their evolution lately. It’s pretty fascinating.

It seems that three trends are converging to shape our future:

  1. Electric cars are becoming a real option.  This changes the game by making the hard part of building a car shift from making an engine to making a battery. This is a much different, and much easier, problem.  Opens the market to many more and different companies. 
  2. Self-Driving cars.  This has been happening at Google for over a decade. Now Tesla has one, so does Audi and BMW, and Uber has said this is the future and is pouring resources into it. Apparently the only hard parts remaining for self-driving cars to figure out is how to drive in bad weather and how to see through fog and haze.  I’d say that lots of humans struggle in these areas too. 
  3. On-demand cars.  You can call a car at the push of a button.  Uber and Lyft’s come to me  in under 3 minutes now.  They are everywhere and growing.

The mix of all three of these make for some interesting scenarios.  Some quick ones that i’ve been pondering about:

  1. In the future, you own a self driving car.  You go to dinner in the city and it drops you off at the restaurant. It then can drive around the city and pick up people (like an Uber) and make some quick cash.  Will we allow just any self-driving car to do this?
  2. What do the interior of these new self-driving cars look like?  You don’t have to face forward and you don’t have to have a dashboard. You don’t even have to sit up — you could be lying down and sleeping while they drive.  The extra sleep or productive time I would gain from a self-driving car is hours a day week and days a month.  The found time would be incredible. 
  3. In the future, do people even own cars or are there just a lot of on-demand vehicles of them out there that are available on demand?
  4. Self-driving cars have better collision detection that humans.  They can communicate with cars around them and decide on where they are going ahead of time. In that case, do we even have lanes on the road anymore? Do we have stop signs and stoplights?  Are there a lot more bicyclists because you know it’s 100% safe to ride your bike on the road?
  5. Who makes all of these cars? The car industry is $1 trillion. To put that into perspective: the global advertising industry is $500 billion.  The 3 luxury car manufacturers of BMW, Lexus an Audi make up a market about the same size of the iPhone market.  There are very few things in this world that are as big as the car industry. So, you can see why it’d be enticing for Apple to get into this game.

It’s interesting that Uber thinks of the driver as a major cost issue in their platform and getting rid of the driver gets rid of 70% of the costs of a trip.  This is why they are aggressively exploring “smart routes” and Uber Pools as 1.0 version of driverless cars. 

I’ve noticed that some of the people I talk to about this are hesitant or resistant to this future. People love their cars. I know that i do.  But i have to imagine that people use to love their horses too.  In fact, i’m guessing that people liked horses back in the day more than we like cars now.

 

I Love Luxe

Parking in San Francisco is a pain and I always dreaded visiting some of my friends as i knew i’d be circling for a long long time.

The Luxe team

That is, until i met Luxe.  They are an on-demand valet service.  About 10 minutes before you arrive somewhere, you open the app and drop a pin at where you’re going.  They will then have someone meet you there who will then take your car and park it for you in one of their lots.  The valets cruise around on little foot scooters which they put into your trunk when they take your car.

Also, you can have them bring your car to a different spot than where you dropped it off.  So, on a friday night if I meet my friend at his house and then we walk to dinner and then take a Lyft/Uber to a movie/show somewhere, i can then have my car delivered to me once we’re all done so I can drive home.

The price is what makes it doable.  It’s $5 an hour or $15 daily max. It’s less than most garages in the city but with more convenience.

They also have a $300 monthly unlimited use rate which is also cool if you want to use it for work or if you don’t have a parking spot at home.  I somehow doubt that it’s that profitable, or profitable at all as a business, but if VC’s want to fund my convenience, i’ll take them up on that offer.

Note: they just switched all of the employees to be W2 workers.  Interesting.

Driving in San Francisco

I was out in SF these past two days.  A few observations: 

First, i was stuck in traffic for about 2 hours trying to get from Oakland airport to SF city.  The Bay Bridge was backed up and we just sat for hours.  Finally, when the traffic parted, i looked to my left and saw a rainbow and knew that everything going forward would be alright:

 

After hitting the city, i cruised down to Palo Alto area and saw an interesting sight.  It was my first sighting of the new BMW i3.  The i3 is the Bavarian automaker’s first fully electric vehicle available to buy. I thought it was fitting that i saw the electric car surrounded by the biggest polluting trucks i’ve ever seen.  Check it: 

I also had a great time jamming out to new favorite tune.  It’s Bruno Mars’s new song which just jams.  I saw it on SNL this weekend and was blown away.  Check it out: 

Anyway, it was a successful trip to the bay area although I’m happy to be headed back to Colorado.  Given the Jan. 3 due date of baby #2, i expect i’ll be taking a little hiatus from traveling for a while. 

 

Tesla and Continuous Deployment

I’m thinking about getting a new car. Mostly because i never drive my car, it frequently needs maintenance, and it just sits in my garage depreciating. So, i’d like to have a less expensive, more reliable car depreciating. 

Of course, the car i want is the Tesla.  It has everything a guy could want.  But it’s too expensive and the Tesla SUV (the Tesla X) isn’t available yet.  So, back to the drawing board.  I’ll keep you posted as to what i get around to. 

In the meantime, i thought i’d write a little about why I think Tesla is so great.  One key characteristic is how they release their cars. Most car manufacturers do a waterfall-style release schedule, meaning they do one step of the manufacturing process after another in a linear way:

  1. First, design the car and call it a model name (usually after a year)
  2. Second, produce the car in a factory
  3. Finally, release the car to the public
  4. Then, start the process over again with a different model. 

Most software companies (Kapost included) do it a different way, called “continuous deployment” where you release your product and then continuously update it every day, week and month.  This way you can take customer feedback and immediately make change and improvements for all customers. 

Telsa is doing this too. Their Model S sedan downloads firmware updates on a regular basis.  These software changes go much further than simply changing user interface elements in the dashboard (which is a monster 11 inch touch screen).  Instead, Tesla will modify major elements of the car from the suspension to its acceleration and handling characteristics.  When they found out that people were lowering the height of the car too much on highways resulting in fires from drivers running into debris, they made a quick firmware update not allowing the car to be lowered as much.  

What’s even cooler about doing this continuous release cycle is that Tesla has broken automobiles traditional release schedule.  Rather than waiting a year to roll out a new Model S, they have been continuously improving the product every quarter on the assembly line.  There are no model years to differentiate a Model S in 2012 from one in 2014.  

That’s just one of the reasons they’ll disrupting the industry.  I love it. 

 

A Bet For Self-Driving Cars

I’m a huge fan of self-driving cars.  Google’s effort to make a car that drives itself is pretty awesome. If you have read about them, read the Wired article here.  Just think of all the time and productivity you would earn if you could have a car drive you everywhere.  For all the minutes you’re in a car, you could now be doing something else.  It’ll be found time.  It’s glorious.

Because of my enthusiasm, I made a bet a few weeks ago here at work.  I’m betting that a self-driving car will be available for me to purchase before 3/1/2023.

Some details:

  • The car has to be on the road and legal to drive somewhere in USA
  • It must cost under $150k

I’m taking the under for $200 against Keith.


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Local Motors

Screen shot 2009-11-05 at 4.23.23 PM

This is a company, Local Motors, i just found out about (from Toni) that crowd-sources the designs of cars and then builds them in a micro-production environment.  This is the next car their are building (below).  It looks totally sweet.  They build each car one by one and costs roughly $50k per car.  But they are (1) totally unique; (2) quite fast; (3) environmentally sound – 30 mpg on clean desiel; (4) and kick ass!

I’d love to have one of these.  To me, cars are getting more and more similar.  As a kid, i used to be able to identify the make of a car by their headlights in the dark.  Now i can’t even identify them in the daylight. A Nissan looks like a Toyota which looks like a Ford.

I love the thought of crowdsourcing and micro-producing for cars.  We’re already doing with t-shirts (threadless), shoes (nikeID), and airplanes (Epic planes)

rally-fighter

The Grindhouse is a Double Dose of Awesome

Tarantino and Rodriguez are teaming up to do a double feature called The Grindhouse.  It’s a movie that shows 2 separate films back-to-back. The first (Rodriguez’s) is a horror movie called Planet Terror which includes has a chick with 1 normal let and 1 leg as an assault rifle.  The second (Tarantino’s) is an action adventure flick with a scarred (physically and emotionally) Kurt Russell who drives a tricked out car and kicks some ass.  It’s as if you took all the great parts of Knight Rider, Roadhouse, Tango & Cash into a room with a gallon of whiskey and then made it all ironic.  At least that’s what i’m expecting.  See for yourself….

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5L4vvNpvYw&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Egoogle%2Ecom%2Freader%2Fview%2F]

Knight Rider is Coming Back

They’re finishing up the script and getting ready to remake the original pilot episode “Knight of the Phoenix” into a feature film.  One thing that has been confirmed: Hasslehoff will not be in the film.  Below is one of the proposed cars for K.I.T.T. (which is a Koenigsegg CCS) although the rumors are that it’ll be more like a 2006 Camero.  All details are fleshed out in this article.  Whatever the car is, i loved the show and am pretty excited to see it come to the big screen. KITT

Coolest New Fuel Efficient Car

Driving sucks. I've been driving back and forth from DC to Frederick alot lately and putting all those miles on Chester (my car) has been taking its toll.  That, and i'm feeling a need to be better to our environment.  Our poor planet hates us and i want to be one of the good guys.  Plus, Chester is sooo pretentious that he doesn't even care. 

Clever CarSo, what can be done? Well, take a look at the new CLEVER car.  It's a kickass one-seater.  Mixing the efficiency and compactness of a motorcycle with the comfort and safety of a car, the CLEVER car can go up to 80 mph is tops on my list of what i want to get to tool around town in. 

I was very psyched on the Tango's from Commuter Cars, but they seem to be a little to futuristic in a bad way – in a similar way that everyone wearing silver colored fullTango2.jpg body suits (onesies) with a purple 'V' on the front is futuristic in a bad way.  (Note – the CLEVER car is futuristic cool similar to shooting laser beams out of pencil is cool).  An amazing thing about the Tango is that it's an electric car and can go 0-60 in 4 seconds, so it's fast as hell and totally environment-friendly.  The Tango (see pics) is closer to reality – you can order it now – and while it would be a fun way to get around town, i like the look of my half-motorcycle/half-car CLEVER.