Long road ahead before self-driving cars are on the streets

Self-driving car roadblocks

Manufacturers are now admitting that full autonomy of vehicles is at least 10 years away. 

The theory that we can program a car to make complex decisions akin to the human brain is exactly that, just a theory. 

All of the enthusiasm of a few years ago has somewhat petered out as manufacturers dig deep and invest more in R&D to move vehicle autonomy forward. For some parts of the world, vehicle autonomy may make a little sense. But for our part of the world – Western Canada with mountains and winter blizzards and variable conditions – it frankly makes no sense at all. 

With all the sensors in the world, a vehicle with no cell service in a mountain blizzard is either going to kill the occupants or just quit and admit it has no reference to continue. 

The two big questions, and the reason adoption will be further away than 10 years, IMHO, is that other technologies are advancing at a faster rate. By the time cars become autonomous, we likely will have several more choices in regard to how we undertake a journey so the market becomes more competitive. 

The same problem that we see in the flying car market is apparent in the autonomous vehicle market. We deliver flying cars to clients next year, which really means that 10 years ago, municipal planners should have been thinking about the implication of the technology in their planning environment. Sadly, we are now playing catch up. For the autonomous vehicle world, that is much more complex, dedicated roads, shared roads, liability in at-fault accidents, driving licence requirements to own an autonomous car, etc.  

My guess would be that we will not see anything change significantly for at least 15 years, but I know other people will have a different opinion.


Wasting your money on gas

Old habits die hard, including texting while driving. 

Two of the most important aspects of advanced driver training we focus on are teaching people how to brake in an emergency, which surprisingly very few people understand, and learning to drive economically, which is surprisingly easy but under-utilized. 

The simplest things that we take for granted are often the most overlooked. 

In a similar manner, when we purchase a car we should read the owner’s manual. Among other things is an indication as to what kind of gasoline to fill the car up with. It will be written for Canadian grades of gasoline, which vary from 87-91 octane, typically. 

So as I scan the classifieds looking for a replacement vehicle for my wife, why would I be surprised to see many adverts with the statement “always used premium unleaded gas, vehicle is in perfect condition.” It would not be a surprise, except I know the vehicle was manufactured to use 87 octane fuel, so why advertise that the vehicles has been burning much more expensive fuel?

The truth is that a vehicle is manufactured for a particular grade of gasoline and is tuned accordingly. Some performance vehicles are designed for a higher grade fuel, and in some instances, using a lower grade fuel can increase something called “knock” – which is really uneven fuel combustion and can lead to engine damage. 

Fuel grade choices are designed by the vehicle manufacturer based on a variety of conditions, such as whether the engine works with a turbo or super-charger, if it is a high combustion engine, or whether cylinder temperatures and other parameters need to be carefully monitored.

The important thing to remember is that increasing the octane of fuel above the required octane suggested does absolutely nothing for your engine. It is not more economical and it will not last longer or extend service or oil change intervals. In short, putting higher octane gasoline than required is a little like flushing hard earned dollars down the toilet.

Your car is designed to run optimally on the fuel that is recommended for it in the user manual. 

ICBC renewal woes

I am starting to tire of saying “it is what it is.” Living life with BOHICA syndrome (bend over here it comes again) is tough.

Perhaps I get confused, but a guy runs for the highest office in the U.S. saying openly that he can grope women wherever he wants, lies, cheats and wins an election. Then a few years later he admits that he asked a “political favour” from a foreign country to help win an election and passes trade secrets to an enemy of his own state, and he gets taken to court and is found innocent! 

On a less dramatic note, insurance renewals at ICBC are pretty interesting, and as always it is a very controversial organization that serves no real purpose other than to lose my taxpayer money by charging me about 40% more than they should for insurance and wasting it.

That aside, I was confused when I went in for a renewal, which is not easy because every potential driver in the house now has to accompany me or fill in forms (which by the way never worked online every time I tried to get a quote). I asked the lady helping to make sure she looked at which profile ICBC uses for me because for the past 20 odd years they have one profile at maximum discounts and one that is absolutely not at any discounts. Apparently in their wisdom they could never figure out a way to cancel the bad profile. I did ask once, if I got a DUI, would it only apply to one of may profiles… you can guess the answer. 

The lady looked at me and said there is no such thing as a discount anymore. OK, I get it, so I asked how they accounted for my driving experience, skills and no claims status. “Now, you are assigned a number,” she exclaimed. Brilliant I thought and asked how does that work? “I don’t know,” was the reply. 

My insurance surprise, surprise had gone up a lot. So I tried a different way to get my question answered. “So how does my number add up compared to everyone else?” Straight away she replied, “You are middle of the pack.”

I might have looked a little flustered at that point, so I asked in plain English. “Does it make any sense to you that a guy who last year had the maximum discounts, has been driving for the past 40-plus years, has only had one speeding ticket in his life and has never had a claim, let alone at fault, who is also an advanced driving instructor would be mid-pack”

“Dunno,” she replied… “Nothing makes sense at ICBC. You can call them if you want; it might save you a few hundred bucks.” 

So far I am waiting for the meds to bring my blood pressure down so I can make the call. 

Perhaps nothing makes sense anymore.


Bottom line needs to change

Many years ago I was talking to audiences about the power of CSR for corporations. 

My message was the vast majority of charitable endeavours are supported by individuals compared to corporations, yet large corporations around the world are taking advantage of beneficial tax planning to keep more money aside, much of it dormant. 

Nowadays, the terminology is different but the message is the same. ESG or Environmental, Social, and Governance have become the pillars of focus for new age corporations. They understand without a commitment to maintain or enhance the environment and social aspects of their community and without sound governance that put other important aspects on par with profits, the world will continue to face the adverse effects of unchecked growth.

That means we will continue to see rising sea levels, increasing average temperatures and even more homeless people on the streets of cities that are supposed to be progressive, caring and offering services that give us the most luxurious life anyone has ever experienced in the history of the world. 

Yet, things still fall through the cracks, some businesses still hide bad practices whether fiscal or practical and others prioritise capital over human capital. 

This week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Prince Charles gave a presentation and the message was simple yet complicated. He challenged people to think less about money and more about the environment. He floated some examples of tools to mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

I think you can perhaps change the focus to think about what we can do with the capital that we are fortunate to be able to earn in order to enhance the lives of others, and not necessarily about how we can simply enhance our own lives. 

Years ago, PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) books were revealing time-old secrets of success. Over time, the titles of books moved to a very self-centred perspective of success. It went from We to Me. It wasn’t a beneficial change because the initial books were written form the perspective of enhancing communities.

That centric focus of being a pillar of your community and enhancing the lives of others through your rewards now appears to be about as old fashioned as making a telephone call with your cellphone.

We need to rethink success!

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About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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