How The Automotive Industry Can Lead Digital Innovation

Did anyone else else grow-up on stories about the old automotive pioneers? Stories about how every innovation pushed the industry forward. I’m not sure what happened, but let me outline a 5 point plan to re-energize the automotive industry.





Let’s assume the constantly connected car is already here. I think there can be 4G syncing for the short-term, and think wireless networking will become available globally within 5 years. 


If the possibly of having a connected car is already here, why isn’t every car connected and transmitting data? We should have bidirectional communication between the cloud and any vehicle. This communication & data can be built on, and monitored by developers. 


I think this should become standardized, and mandatory for all new vehicles. This could revolutionize traffic reporting, toll roads, parking, law enforcement, driving, emergency response; as well as the automotive aftermarket, and automotive retail.


Automotive manufacturers: Imagine having access to data from every vehicle you have on the road, and imagine offering that data in a smart system to every owner. Imagine those owners monitoring their data through your site & apps. You’ll have the attention of millions, and will have enough data & infrastructure to communicate real-time hyper-targeted notifications to anyone. From traffic alerts, to law enforcement alerts, and from marketing alerts to  alerts based on bio-sensor data; the potential of the CAR API is only limited by what we can imagine.






Understand the value of long-tail innovation. Essentially, there are lots of people who have lots of ideas. They don’t always have good ideas, but establishing a listening & curation team can help utilize the power of the crowd.


Try using the opposite of the long-tail graph to outline how much listening you need to do in order to get the most value from the long-tail.


Some of this is already appearing in social media governance and organizational structure for supporting social business practices. I think the science and art of LISTENING is still in its infancy. Everyone needs to understand that listening isn’t just a passive activity, but deserving of a department, and deserving of active analysis and testing.






I don’t want to get too abstract, but the original requirements for cars were, at one time, fulfilled by horses. The world was getting bigger, and people were living further away. The further we live from each other, the more we rely on vehicles. 


So, now that we live all over the place, and have roads connecting us; why would we want to move in any other way than by car?


This is actually a big issue. Why would any industry work towards its own demise? Because it’s them or us. Either we phase out petroleum reliant vehicles, or we won’t be able to curb climate change enough to continue our way of life. The automotive industry isn’t ignorant to this fact anymore. The overwhelming move to electric & hybrid technology is testament to the shift in thinking. 


Although electric vehicles is a great first-step; we can’t stop there. Clean efficient mass transit for short, medium, and long distances is ideal solution. I think the automotive industry needs to lead this transition, and I believe a CAR API may be a great first step. Complete automation & logistic management over fleets of clean vehicles would allow us to:


A. Reduce/ eliminate roads & associated costs: Creating roads took a long time, and costs a lot of money. Replacing them with anything will take a long time, and will cost a lot of money. If we believe its worth it, we should start immediately diverting funds associated with building new roads to building a new infrastructure of mag-lev rails or something. I’m not staying we have to move to rail transportation, but we can definitely come up with something with a smaller physical and economic footprint than roads.


B. Reduce/ eliminate vehicular crashes: If we’re building new infrastructure anyway, lets build it with automation controls to avoid people from having the ability to get into accidents, or drink and drive, or purposely run someone down.


C. Improve planet health: Obviously reducing emissions associated with vehicles will help curb climate change, it can’t be the only effort. 


D. Improve human health: Again, it’s obvious that making people walk a little bit, and bike a little bit, will make people a little bit more healthy. A side effect of shifting people away from cars, and building facilities to accommodate more bikes & people on-foot, is that more people will feel safe and encouraged to take healthier alternatives. I mean, I’d bike if I didn’t see at least one bike accident each day. There are also psychological benefits associated with being more social and spending time around others.






By now, I’m sure everyone’s seen Transcendent Man, and understands the idea behind the Singularity premise. For those who don’t know: Transcendent Man is about a guy who thinks technology will merge with biology enough to allow us to live forever and connect in a way never thought possible. No one’s really sure what it’ll look like, but I’m thinking it’ll start like the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution; with technological enhancements. 


Anyway, roads were always meant to be a way to connect people. They helped make the world smaller and more accessible. I think the internet represents the foundation for new roads. If vehicle automation is going to work, we need to have a network that can support that kind of traffic without losing connection. Essentially, we’ll need to have access to the network from anywhere. There are several technologies that could provide us with global coverage. 


Once we have access to the network from anywhere, we’ll need to improve bandwidth – or data compression. We’ll need to prepare the network for improved interfaces. Now, when you think about it, our current interfaces rely on human physiology to interface with machines. (i.e. we have gestural interfaces because we have fingers, we have vocal interfaces because we can speak.)


So, once we have an omnipresent network that can transfer huge amounts of data, we can take advantage of biological & cognitive interfaces. We’ll essentially be able to move from an age of sharing knowledge to an age of sharing understanding.







I think, at this point, everyone knows that corn is the most pervasive ingredient in the North American food industry. Corn starch, corn glutton, corn syrup, and a host of other corn byproducts make it directly into our foods and corn feed is often given to farm animals. 


Cars have become the corn of the modern world. Cars gave way to roads, roads shaped cities, and cities shape the world. I think the oil industry got a bad rap – I think the oil industry scaled up to meet the demands the automotive industry put on it.


What kind of world to we want to live in? Why don’t we work backwards from there? Let’s say we want to live in the world of 1000 years ago, with all of the conveniences of today. What would it take to get that done? 


1. Landscape


Ideal: Remove all the roads.

Problem: How will we be able to connect with one another?

Solutions: Either live closer together or find a way to travel long distances without roads.


2. Unite & Understand


Ideal: Reduce Population.

Problem: No one likes regulations, especially not on life.

Solution: International support of community planning initiatives. At one point in time, the automotive industry united communities. We need that sense of community again, this time on a global level. Individuals tend to do what’s best for their community when community planning works.


3. Connect


Ideal: Wireless Innovation

Problem: Infrastructure 

Solution: WIthout diving too deeply into the technology, I believe wireless networking technology can encompass the world. This would essentially provide connectivity to anyone anywhere on the planet. I also, believe this same solution can be applied to power distribution. Allowing devices to access power anywhere.


4. Move Forward


Ideal: Learn from the Past

Problem: Mediocrity & Survival. People don’t all like things the way they are, but are all used to them. It’s hard enough to survive in the world we live in. Many people just want to get by.

Solution: Revolutionize the education system. Stop focusing on teaching every child the same stuff, in the same way. Start bringing psychology and anthropology into teaching by observing and listening to children in the early grades. Use empathy and sociological experimentation to determine what each student likes to do. Allow their interests to guide their educational experience. 

OK, so I’m not saying all of my ideas warrant exploration; but if you’re reading this, I’m sure you have your own ideas that are worth exploring. Don’t wait for the automotive industry, start exploring your ideas on your own. Explore them, and find a way to share them. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m alright with things changing if they change for the better. I’m even ok with things changing for the worse, if we’re striving for a long-term improvement. 

All I’m saying is, if we know we need to change the automotive industry – can someone please figure out how; and how we’re going to get there? 



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