Archive for January, 2016


The Collaborative Economy Sets the Stage for Autonomous Innovation

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First, we had the Internet Era, when a few people could publish online and e-commerce is born.

Then came the Social Media Age, when anyone could publish online using social tools, including brands. The digital communication floodgates were opened.

Today, many companies are trying to get their arms around the Collaborative Economy, as customers use common technologies to create and share products using P2P commerce. People increasingly get what they need from each other.

But, our digital evolution doesn’t stop with the Collaborative Economy. While we’re deepening our understanding of sharing behaviors, service marketplaces, and the Maker Movement, the next digital era is emerging: the “Autonomous World.” (See below image) In the Autonomous World, we see machines replace humans to deliver even greater convenience and efficiencies. The Collaborative Economy lays the necessary foundation for the Autonomous World to thrive.

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Above Image: The Four Digital Eras

How, exactly, does the Collaborative Economy lay the groundwork for new business models in the Autonomous World?

In the Collaborative Economy, people often access what they need from each other, rather than buying products for ownership. By gaining access to products and services through on-demand business models, customers reduce the need for ownership. Autonomous technologies like self-driving cars are going to extend the access model, by enabling cars to be hailed on-demand rather than having to own vehicles.

At Crowd Companies, we define the Autonomous World as follows:

[Autonomous World: A future state when intelligent technology systems, operating without human participation, enable new business models in a more efficient society]

These intelligent technology systems can take the form of many hardware and software products, including self-driving vehicles, drones, and other artificial intelligence. The Autonomous World is our futuristic vision, with society experiencing an inevitable “semi-autonomous world” with minimal human interaction before fully autonomous systems are operable and dependable.

Here’s an example: we’re already seeing the foundation laid for autonomous vehicle penetration in the ride-sharing and carpooling market of the Collaborative Economy. These services have grown significantly in recent years, with more than 11 million people in the United States utilizing ridesharing services today. By seamlessly ferrying customers at the tap of an app, Uber, Lyft, BlaBlaCar, and others contribute to our increased preference of vehicle access over ownership. Eventually, when drivers are ousted in favor of autonomous cars, riders will experience more efficient routes, increased safety, and reduced transportation costs.

That’s right, the human drivers, whether they be taxis or Uber drivers, will be cut out by robots who can do it better. Alphabet (formerly Google) is leading the way, currently working on a ride-hailing service that utilizes its self-driving car fleet, while GM is close behind with its recent $500 million investment in the development of an autonomous fleet utilizing Lyft’s platform exclusively.

When intelligent technology systems operate with minimal human participation in the application of driverless cars, all industries must adapt to an inevitable transformation of societal behaviors and expectations. At Crowd Companies, we’re exploring these disruptions and impacts as our members chart new territory within their innovation programs.

We’re releasing a research-based infographic to the public this week that will further explore the industrial impacts of self-driving cars, and a more in-depth report exclusively to Crowd Companies members. In our research, we continually seek answers to two key questions:

  1. What role do humans play when robots do it better?
  2. What are the business strategies required to compete in the autonomous world?

I look forward to getting your feedback and would love to explore how our innovation council can help you weather the autonomous disruptions that lie ahead.

Auto industry goes head-to-head with Silicon Valley’s self-driving innovators

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Above: Daimler AG’s Dieter Zetsche and Mercedes executives with the new semi-autonomous Mercedes E-Class at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Image Credit: Naias.com

This post originally published on VentureBeat, based on my recent trip to the Detroit Auto Show.

Google and Tesla may be pushing full-speed ahead in their self-driving car development and testing, but auto manufacturers aren’t sitting idly by. Judging from the outputs of this week’s North American Auto Show in Detroit, as well as CES in Las Vegas last week, it’s clear that incumbent car companies are rising to the challenges of competing in an autonomous world.

Silicon Valley startups and tech giants are launching many threats to the traditional auto industry as part of the Collaborative Economy movement, from ride- and car-sharing platforms like Lyft, Uber, RelayRides, and Getaround, to more recent innovations of autonomous cars that will further enable ride access over car ownership from Google, Uber, and others.

This is forcing brands like GM, Ford, BMW, and Mercedes to reconsider their product offerings to focus more on becoming “mobility companies” that offer an array of services that satisfy the needs of their evolving customers. These pivots are evident in a host of recent announcements of partnerships, investments, and new programs:

I had the privilege of attending the North American Auto Show this week in Detroit, as a guest of Ford, and it was obvious by the announcements and unveilings that car companies want to evolve into new markets — markets where they sell more than just cars. Ford’s CEO Mark Fields spoke during an event, boldly stating that, “We are a mobility company.” The same trend is evident in BMW’s new service offerings across the entire mobility experience. It’s about more than getting from point A to point B for today’s customer. The value proposition is shifting.

To break new ground, auto companies are becoming tech companies. They’re partnering with Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, rather than building from scratch. They’re taking a page from startup playbooks and investing in peer-to-peer car-sharing and ride-sharing companies. Most importantly, they’re seeing new business models emerge and are quickly adapting to disruption.

They must enable rather than resist, leaning in to survive. This includes the building of autonomous vehicles that encourage “rides as a service” behaviors rather than ownership. Motor City may not be operating on as aggressive of a timeline as Silicon valley, but it has a seat at the table. Auto manufacturers are predicting self-driving car consumerization in three to four years, versus Tesla’s expectation of one year and Google’s current deployment of cars already in California.

We’re in the midst of a significant transition for auto companies as they realize a future where people may not want or need to own vehicles. These manufacturers must continue evolving in step with customer behaviors, offering access to vehicles and rides-as-a-service programs as expectations rise. Acquisitions will continue to make headlines as Detroit’s powerhouse manufacturers offer their expertise to Silicon Valley technologists and vice versa.

We can expect to see more changes in an exciting year ahead as auto companies become mobility services and tech companies become auto companies.

Here comes the Autonomous Vehicle Arms Race

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minorityreportdriverlesscars

Above: Sci Fi movie Minority Report envisions a future of fast-moving networked cars

We’re one week out from the Detroit Auto show, 2016, which I’ll be attending. In this new market, many established auto manufactures have shown prototypes, made pronouncements, while young upstarts release their vehicles at CES, all while partnerships between established tech startups and traditional players are announced with great fanfare.

This new Autonomous World has evolved from the Collaborative Economy movement: Uber, Lyft, Didi, Ola, BlaBla have all taught us that we don’t need to own a car to achieve mobility. We can summon a car, on-demand, using an app, whisking us away to our location, without the frets of parking, the stress of driving, and associated management woes of vehicle support. The tenant of “access over ownership” is also driving the Autonomous Vehicle movement, the pains of managing a car can dissipate.

Before we move forward we must acknowledge when companies announce self-driving features, there’s a wide range of features, from driver assist (like helping to park) to autopilot features (auto slowing when a traffic jam is spotted ahead) to full autonomous like Google’s car –which lacks any steering wheel or pedals, learn about the four different phases of self driving maturity in this industry-referenced graph.

The purpose of this post is to aggregate the numerous self-driving car deployments in the industry show the acceleration as the next phase of technology disruption. At Crowd Companies, we’re hosting an event for our members, and launching a premium report that will answer questions on what the business models are of the future, when robots are more efficient than humans. To track this movement, I’ll aggregate (with your help) the players quickly moving into this Autonomous Vehicle market, listed in date order:


Autonomous Vehicle Arms Race Timeline:
While many car companies have secret prototypes testing away from prying eyes, the criteria of this will seek publicly referenced articles from credible source that include testing announcements, spotted prototypes or full blown unveilings.


A quick analysis indicates: the deployments are coming from three groups: 1) Established mainstay auto manufactures, 2) Upstart players, like Tesla, Faraday, 3) Tech startups like Baidu, Google, Uber, and supposedly Apple. There’s a variety of deployments from simple self valet parking, driver assist features, to full freeway driving management.

If you’ve updates, you can leave a comment below, or tweet at me at @jowyang, so we can collaboratively keep this list going, to show the acceleration of this arms race.

If you want to learn how these technology disrupt business models from hospitality, logistics, health and wellness, short haul airlines, insurance and more, this post outlines the major changes coming. The biggest question, which we plan to ask and answer is: “What role to humans play, when robots do it better?”

Welcome my friends, to the Autonomous World.