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The-brave-new-world

The brave new world – well, not just yet

If we listen to some of the futurists and tech pundits, very soon, we will all be sitting back in the driver’s seat and letting the autonomous car do all the work. In this brave new world, there will no road fatalities, traffic will flow smoothly and we will all arrive at our individual destinations relaxed and on time.

Like all utopian dreams the impact of the single most troublesome variant is often omitted. Humans. Humans with individual needs, desires, objectives, with their capriciousness, unpredictability, selfishness, inattentiveness and competitiveness. All of which any autonomous vehicle system will have to cope with.

Even if we were to ban all direct human control of motor vehicles (and that’s just not going to happen) humans will still share spaces with such vehicles, interact with them and come up with incalculable variations as to what they expect such vehicles to do for them. Otherwise they will not be individual vehicles at all, they will be public transport – with all the predictability yet limitation that entails.

The technology to allow vehicles to be partially, even largely, autonomous already exists. What does not is an agreed public policy and regulatory framework for the operation of such vehicles nor the closed systems within which they can operate free from the risks of human vicissitudes.

In an ideal scenario autonomous vehicles will talk to each other, operate within a network that has infrastructure also providing interactive information, plan and execute trips based on individual choice yet consistent with capacity, and prioritise user and community protection. Never mind that there can be cases where that last dual requirement is not easily reconciled.

No road fatalities, even within an autonomous system, is impossible. Yet the argument runs that the fatality cases will be so few that the larger gains justify the far lesser exceptions. But who makes that ethical judgement? Moreover, who takes responsibility when things inevitably, go spectacularly and tragically pear-shaped.

One of the luxury car companies recently issued a very brave statement saying that they would take full responsibility for any failure, causing accident, of one of their vehicles operating in autonomous mode. Quite apart from the lawyer’s picnic that can be had from the effort to define both failure and cause, any company with international exposure would soon find even a tiny percentage of incidents within their global fleet enough to drown them in claims.

The truth is that fully autonomous private motor vehicles (that is running all the time autonomously) is as much science fiction as the flying cars of the Jetsons. Yes, there will be more and more sophisticated ‘driver aids’, many of which will allow full autonomous operation in certain circumstances, under certain conditions and with certain supporting infrastructure. Yes, there may even be closed systems – such as inner city grids – where only vehicles that can be switched to autonomous mode will be allowed to enter. There may well be a day when all new cars and heavy vehicles will have such capability. However, so long as there are humans in the mix, there will remain the need for personal responsibility and ultimately, intervention and control.

The more likely outcome is a sensible combination of both improved vehicle capability and improved infrastructure allowing for opportunities to decrease road trauma whist increasing efficiency. To say nothing of better driver education and increasingly convenient public transport options.

We already have a closed system mass transport platform where the operating vehicles can perform the tasks assigned to their human controllers, without intervention. The air transport system. Yet pilots not only remain in the cockpit they also continue to carry individual responsibility for controlling their aircraft. At all times! Can’t see that changing anytime soon.

RMK+A consults widely to automotive businesses on matters of vehicle industry and transport public policy and government engagement.

WHO-IS-CONNECTED-TO-MY-CAR

Who Is Connected To My Car?

Imagine. The driverless and connected car. The Jetsons meets Blade Runner, with wheels– for now!

The benefits are mind-boggling – but so too are the challenges affecting safety, privacy, regulation, law enforcement, and more.

Yet, to the general community, car makers don’t appear as alert and active as they could be in confronting these issues. Do they understand the value of engaging with major stakeholders long before the technologies swamp markets with unexpected vulnerabilities and are hit heavily by retrospective regulation?

So, keep imagining. You enter your “car”, without even a fob, and merely utter your destination. The Occupant ID and GPS already know you. The electric powertrain whirrs. You’re off, as you swivel on a monocoque-encased seat to face …. your workstation, where once was a steering wheel and dashboard.

Is this automotive nirvana for real?

Would you be in your seat, “unnecessarily” scanning the road; fretting about whether those twitchy 50 on-board modules are blinded by the sun and will plough you into a truck? Or would you be totally disengaged? What will be your legal obligation in terms of being “in control”? We’ve seen the first fatality already with a driverless Tesla.

But while the current question may be whether program engineers can foresee every permutation of personal safety risk, this is far from the only issue. In fact, the connected car will no longer be just your car. It is your life, your possessions, your history, your business, your misdemeanors, your purchases, your buying, travel and driving habits and all that can be communicated by networks.

What happens when you being driven along and, abruptly, everything powers down? As the vehicle slides itself safely into a roadside bay, a message instructs: “Your vehicle authority is suspended.”

It seems your bank has won a court order to take over your vehicle … it’s about a disputed payment, or a business debt, or an identity anomaly, or … Whatever. But what is clear is you are not in control. The cloud, and everyone connected to it, can potentially and remotely take control.

What else can happen? May creditors pinpoint your location to serve you? Can mobile salespeople intercept you in car parks? Will alienated spouses find you? Are business secrets accessible via your mobile platform? You, and your data, are an open “book”. Legal use of data may come with the purchase or lease of your vehicle, and on-selling deals done without you; like online software. Do we really understand what will be done with our data?

Of course all of this may be solved with a combination of regulation, legislation and technology.

But is the automotive industry active enough in shaping the outcome before it is shaped for it?

There is a huge task ahead in co-ordinating stakeholder relations, community consultation and government relations to draw the parameters of acceptability for communities and customers.

Without this, the legislation and regulation will come anyway – especially after some data breach, like the census scenario. At that point everything will happen to the car industry, not with it.

We see the opportunity to be active now and to allow customers and communities to shape the local evolution of the connected car … rather than try to do this after a crisis. The question is: will the car industry be caught asleep at the wheel?

ICG Auto - Insight

Market Data – Harnessing The Power of Attraction

ICG Auto Insight works with leading consumer behaviour academics to develop market data analytics that will identify the relative attraction of your brand and help guide strategy by pinpointing your brand’s growth potential against the competition.

Many measures have been tried with collation of market data to quantify the value of an automotive brand in a competitive market place.

The core objective is to understand where your brand stands relative to your competitors and what drives customers to you versus the competition.

CSI scores only really tell you what has happened – the hope is that if the results are good there will be peer group brand promotion.

Another measure is known as the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This measure seeks to quantify the level of advocacy of your brand by those who have had contact with it. Once more it is a historical measure that assumes higher brand advocacy translates into greater future engagement.

What is much harder to measure, but critical to future sales, particularly where conquest growth is required, is a robust measure of your brand’s relative attraction within your key competitive set.

This is where ICG has partnered with leading academics to devise a robust measure of relative attraction.

Relative attraction is made up of key elements such as overall brand strength, brand loyalty, areas where your brand position and customer base can be threatened and areas where you can grow, either through conquest or growing the market.

A relative attraction measure can rate the view of both customers and prospects. It can help you devise strategies that reduce attrition and increase attraction within your competitor customer groups.

ICG Auto Insight can help you develop a clear view of how your brand is seen by customers and non-customers and can be key to developing your next successful growth strategy.

Talk to us on 03 9036 6300 about how ICG Auto can deliver that clear view.

ICG Auto

RMKA Auto tailors solutions for the vehicle industry

Automotive Public Relations by RMKA

The pace of day-to-day business in a dynamic sector such as automotive shows every sign of continuing to increase.

Add to this the tough and competitive nature of the Australian market and it is easy to see why many companies in the automotive sector carry limited specialist resources.

RMKA has identified a need for highly experienced key support services, both strategic and operational, to assist companies operating at all levels of the automotive industry.

The result is the creation of a suite of services that harnesses RMKA’s indepth history and extensive knowledge in automotive communication, and focuses these skills with the benefit of an equally comprehensive experience-base in the automotive business.

RMKA has identified key areas of support where the consultancy can add value by addressing specific communication, marketing and research needs.

RMKA Auto has been created to make it easier for executives in the automotive industry to match their needs to the skills and services that RMKA can bring in helping to meet business objectives.