Archive for the ‘Autonomous World’ Category


Robots, Yes Robots, Could Be Trump’s Greatest Threat

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The rise of automation is destined to replace some worker employment, and it could increasingly cause friction with efforts to create new jobs, a hallmark of the Donald Trump administration.

Many studies have forecast a day when repetitive and labor-intensive jobs will be recast by automation, though the jury is still out about whether the humans now holding those jobs will be elevated to more meaningful positions that utilize automation or will be replaced outright.

One particular technology, self-driving cars, is on pace to emerge en masse in 2021, right around the next election, as most car manufacturers will offer these features in their fleets. Furthermore, Lyft has partnered with GM to roll out self-driving on-demand fleets, and Uber and Mercedes have forged a partnership with a similar offering. Uber also purchased Otto, which automates large trucks — a move that will have profound effects on safety, speed, and the shortage of truck drivers.

Today, a large segment of working Americans are professional drivers, which means that many will soon find themselves questioning whether they have a career, job, or income. This will leave the current Trump administration at a crossroads of deciding how to respond. Currently, the Trump administration has pinned its campaign and promise on keeping jobs on American soil and keeping products made in America. This played well to the base of the working class and resulted in his rise to the highest seat in politics. Meanwhile, however, Trump has been very quiet on the topic of automation, and some suggest that automation could undermine his core position.

Far from mainstream America, Silicon Valley represents a bubble that reveals parts of what the future will hold. Just last week, I filmed an automated barista serving coffee in San Francisco without the need for humans, and a few months ago, I visited an automated restaurant in the same neighborhood. In my local city, Starship Technologies is already starting to ship food to people’s homes and offices using a robot. Mercedes, Amazon, Google, GE, and many other companies are also quickly advancing in robotics.

It’s not limited to the physical world, either. As bots and artificial intelligence continue to rise, we’ll see that lower-level white-collar and even mid-level white-collar workers will be impacted (either augmented or replaced) by automation. Take, for example, Walmart, which recently laid off 7,000 in its white-collar billing department by using back office automation technologies.

How will this administration respond to automation? I see a few options:

  1. Resist automation and place limitations. The current administration may seek to limit the amount of automation that can be deployed, keeping American workers intact. The risk is that foreign competitors could leapfrog ahead in productivity by deploying robots, as China-based Foxconn is already doing.
  2. Embrace automation, as it lifts American productivity and GDP. The administration might welcome automation, embracing the productivity benefits it brings to company performance, country GDP, and taxes. The risk is that displaced workers who are unable to upskill will be left in the cold.
  3. Upskill workers with STEAM education. All workers whose positions are threatened by automation could benefit from provided or low-cost education that enables them to upskill so they can manage or support automation rather than be displaced. Some have found that robots actually increase the number of jobs in some scenarios.
  4. Embrace universal basic income. In a less likely scenario, I could imagine the current administration embracing universal basic income, which would be a social program to provide all citizens with a living wage (food, clothing, shelter, and education) regardless of employment status or age. The funds would be derived from taxes on the companies that are deploying automation. The hope is that automation increases total productivity, generating more food, goods, and services than ever before, thereby creating a surplus for humanity. However, IDC industry analyst Alan Webber has given me feedback on this scenario that suggests it is at odds with Republican values, an assessment that’s in agreement with government expert Alan Silberberg in a phone discussion with me.

America and other countries can’t stop innovating their automation and risk lagging behind, as that will give other competitors the opportunity to leap forward. Within the next few years, the Trump administration and other global leaders focused on nationalism will need to prepare a message and plan to deal with the automation that will certainly change the job landscape.

My suggestions: The Trump administration (or any administration, for that matter) should quickly: 1) assess which jobs will be automated, 2) make plans to communicate this to the public, 3) prepare its base with upskilling, 4) and prepare to partner with the technology companies that will be driving this new future. This is the best path forward for the people, businesses, government, country, and world — there’s more at stake than political position.

Automation Is the Next Phase of the Collaborative Economy

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This may come as a shocker to many, but in the next few years, the peer-based sharing/collaborative economy will shift to automation.

I’ve studied this market closely and want to make some clear predictions on where things will head. Four years ago, I mapped out the Collaborative Economy, which is the phase where humans get what they need from each other (peer-to-peer commerce). In the next phase, the Autonomous World, robots will augment and replace humans, and they will serve humans. In some cases, robots will serve other robots as we advance further.

The transition from traditional business models to the Collaborative Economy and ultimately to the Autonomous World is already creating ripples throughout the world. We are in the midst of global disruption due to widespread mobile Internet and cloud technology, vastly improved processing power and Big Data, and the rise of the sharing economy and crowdsourcing, according to the World Economic Forum. These changes have prompted new waves of geopolitical volatility and the creation of a new middle class in emerging markets.

These innovations are now spawning new energy supplies and technology, the Internet of Things, advanced manufacturing and 3D printing, and societies that live longer — all of which are quickly altering expectations about the future.

The next turn is likely to produce robots and autonomous transport, AI, and breakthroughs in advanced materials and biotechnology. These represent a new frontier that may only be a few years on the horizon. WEF posits that the world could look fundamentally different by 2020.

Let’s indicate how timely this is, and how it lines up with what we see.

How the Collaborative Economy will shift to Automation

Category Automation Phase Examples Impact
Ride Sharing

(Uber, Lyft, Didi, Ola)

Self-driving cars are quickly emerging, most by 2021, from many car manufacturers Uber has experimented with cars, Lyft’s bold pronouncement, and Didi Professional drivers will need to upskill and find a new career
Delivery

(Postmates, Instacart)

Wheeled and flying drones will deliver packages, beyond humans Starship, based in my area, is delivering food, and Amazon’s patents are inspiring Postmates, Instacart and other couriers will be displaced by robots
Home Sharing (Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway) Home automation will enable hosts to offer hospitality without being present Airbnb could offer digital locks, Wi-Fi management, digitized home appliances, and more Hosts can manage more properties, and guests get a personalized experience
Online Service Marketplaces (Upwork/Freelancer) Simple AI bots will complete rote tasks currently performed by online service providers While a plethora of early-stage bots have emerged from M, Alex, and Watson, advanced AI to conduct intermediate tasks hasn’t emerged Online workers will need to specialize their skills for project or robot management, human-based design, community skills, and humanities
What’s next? Anywhere repetitive tasks exist but could be automated Simple machines will replicate human behaviors Jobs will be lost, so humans must upskill or specialize in humanities

 

The implications of these coming changes will likely have a profound effect on the people of the world. Here are some concrete observations:

  1. Only some, not all, humans will be able to upskill, unlike other social economic revolutions. Humans could grasp industrial revolution roles as we shifted out of agriculture because they were taught single repetitive jobs. The challenge now is that robots will always learn faster than humans, as they are networked and can process faster and work at an accelerated pace.
  2. The world will need solutions to unemployment. From a nonpartisan standpoint, the next threat to Western employment isn’t offshore workers but the rise of automation. Predictions from the former White House administration predict that automation could replace 83% percent of lower paying human jobs. The impact to other nations that will develop these automated technologies are also at hand, they must prepare for changes in society and their economy. Humans will need to redefine what purpose means, for those where human labor is the primary driver.
  3. The impetus to push for universal basic income is at hand. The experiments are happening in Finland, Oakland and more, proposing such a policy would provide every human — regardless of age, gender, educational attainment, or intelligence — with a guaranteed living wage to cover basic needs: food, shelter, and clothes. For anything else they want, they will have to earn it. The companies that own and/or profit from these technologies should be taxed to cover this societal benefit. The robots should not only provide more resources to the planet for cheaper, but they should also fund a quality life for others.
  4. Who will maintain employment: Those who manage robots, humanities, nonlinear roles. While we actively try to teach our children coding, technology is quickly advancing that robots will be able to self-code. This means that understanding how to manage systems of robots towards solving problems will be key. Secondly, arts, humanities, entertainment, sports, psychology and other softer skills will rise to the forefront as skills that are needed. It’s assumed that robots will replace many repetitive and rote jobs, humans that can solve complex tasks that are constantly unique, will thrive.

In summary, Uber, Lyft are ushering in self-driving cars and a wave of automation that will cascade across the broader ecosystem as humans are augmented then often replaced by robotic systems.

So Who’s Really Going to Own Autonomous Cars? There’s Four Scenarios.

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Above: Mercedes Benz Autonomous Car

Two mega trends are coming together: The Collaborative Economy and the Autonomous World, which means shared mobility from self-driving cars.

Early this year, we published a research report on the Business Models of Self-Driving Cars, and we’ve presented our findings at a number of industry events. A commonly asked question is: “In the future, will we even own cars?” I want to share a few scenarios that are likely to emerge.

Today’s 3-year-old toddlers are unlikely to ever learn how to drive. With autonomous cars already making their debut now, and then en masse in 2021, per Ford and others, these toddlers are unlikely to require driving skills in the year 2031.

Here are four scenarios of car ownership that could play out:

  1. The on-demand model, a.k.a. “Uber/Lyft” model. In this model, autonomous cars would be like a “utility” where most don’t own them, certainly in cities; they are summoned on demand.  John Zimmer, the CEO of Lyft, put forth a visionary piece where most city dwellers do not own cars in cities by the year 2025. Uber’s executives paint a future where mobility is like any other utility, where at a “twist of the tap,” mobility can flow out of a nozzle. In urban areas, home garages could be converted to living space (or Airbnb rentals), and large multi-story garages could be converted to green spaces.
  2. The shared car model, a.k.a. “Zipcar” model. A group of cars are available in a convenient regional area, where many can share and own these cars. For example, some progressive apartments now have shared vehicles in their garage for renters. In this model, a group of neighbors could invest in the commonly owned costs of these cars, and share insurance, car ownership, and maintenance costs. We’ve seen a growth in P2P insurance models, which could further enable this market.
  3. The wholly owned model, akin to current ownership. Just as we currently own most vehicles, we could continue to own vehicles in the future, but they will self-drive. This makes the most sense in rural areas and, to some degree, in suburban areas. Some people with families that have specific car seat or mobility needs (the elderly, those with wheelchairs, etc.) may require their own self-driving vehicles. Others we have spoken to suggest that human-driven cars will only be owned by the very rich — or very poor — similar to how horses are owned today.
  4. Autonomous cars own themselves. Also called a distributed autonomous organization (DAO), self-driving cars could become sentient creatures in the radical future that can not only self-drive and self-charge, but also then take themselves to be repaired at a local garage, and pay for it on their ownership. In this future, the excess profits generated from these self-driving cars would enable them to purchase an additional vehicle, expanding themselves from one car to eventually a fleet. All of this, in theory, could occur without human intervention and without human ownership.

In the end, there won’t be one single model. We’ll likely see a mixture occurring, just as we see this occurring now. Below, the models are broken out into a grid.


Matrix: Scenarios of Future Car Ownership

Mobility Model Who’s Likely to Adopt Who Will Own Business Model
On Demand Urban areas will embrace Uber, Lyft, car manufacturers On-demand service
Shared Car Urban areas, suburban Enterprise, Avis, private owners offering cars on Getaround, Turo Subscription, pro-rata
Wholly Owned Car Wealthy, young families, special care Individual owners Ownership/lease
Autonomous Cars Own Themselves An advanced artificial intelligence that can self-manage a fleet Cars will own themselves Computer-owned “corporation,” an undefined model, or a nonprofit akin to Wikipedia

tesla-autopilot

Above: Tesla’s Autonomous Car

Tesla showed its hand by prohibiting customers from sharing.
Recently, Tesla made an unusual mandate, that its own customers cannot enable their privately purchased self-driving Teslas to be listed on Uber or Lyft. This is a strange mandate considering the cars were purchased outright. It, of course, forebodes a few future business models that we’ll see from Tesla; it’ll likely offer a service model where the owners, or Tesla themsleves enable their autonomous cars to be made available to others as a service.

When would human-driven cars become obsolete?
While Elon Musk suggests that manually driving a car may someday be illegal due to human error and safety reasons, such vehicles won’t go away anytime soon. There would be a significant economic bottom if so many owned assets were quickly depreciated by a government decree. But looking decades forward, when autonomous cars become dominant and common, we will see a social and perhaps government cry for human drivers to be curbed. Perhaps if it’s not illegal, the insurance costs of manually driving would become too high.

To summarize, autonomous vehicles will not only significantly impact how we will be transported, but also the very business models in which our economy operates and how cities will change.

bmw-concept-4-1000x600

Above: BMW’s Autonomous Concept Car

Chart: Autonomous Cars Change Every Industry, Even Yours

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Autonomus-world_F2_HighRes_RGB

Above graphic: Autonomous vehicles impact every business model. This infographic illustrates some the many industries that will be impacted, from Insurance, Logistics, Retail, Auto, and Cities.

Though your company may still be adapting to social media technologies or Collaborative Economy disruptions, even more business model changes are coming. New autonomous technologies on the horizon are triggering greater acceleration of innovation programs to keep up. Google, Uber, Apple, Lyft, Tesla, BMW, Ford, Volvo, Yamaha, Mercedes, and other car manufacturers are working on producing self-driving cars, and the industry impacts will reverberate.

At Crowd Companies, we’re focusing on the autonomous world as the next phase of the Collaborative Economy, and define it asfollows:

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.

That’s right, the human drivers of taxis or Ubers will be cut out by robots who can do it better. Uber’s CEO elaborates further in BusinessInsider as to why they’re developing self-driving cars. Alphabet (formerly Google) is leading the way in self-driving car testing, and today it was even announced that autonomous cars could be considereddrivers.” Meanwhile, GM is close behind with its recent $500 million investmentin the development of an autonomous fleet utilizing Lyft’s platform exclusively.

Silicon Valley tech companies like Uber, Google, Tesla, and Apple are heavily investing in these autonomous cars, leading with a technology approach rather than with a traditional Motor City approach. Meanwhile, Detroit and other car manufacturers are opening up labs and innovation centers in Silicon Valley as they, too, strive to integrate tech.

We’re releasing this research-based infographic to the public, with a detailed report available to Crowd Companies members that further explores the industrial impacts of self-driving cars. 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?

At Crowd Companies, an innovation council, we recently hosted an event in Silicon Valley for our corporate members where we toured Stanford’s mobility lab, to see these vehicles first hand. Then, we held a panel of experts and council members responded to the impacts that are looming on the horizon from this next set of technologies. Brace yourself …more changes are coming soon.

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.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 6.56.46 PM

 

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.