News just surfaced of a Facebook transportation patent:
“The new feature Facebook appears ready to launch asks its users attending an event to select whether or not they are driving.
If the Facebooker is driving, they can then select their number of passengers, set of potential passengers and departure location, along with a radius of where they would be willing to pick up other passengers.
The social media network will identify potential matches of people needing rides to the same event. If the user selects that he or she needs a ride to the event, Facebook will list friends with seats available.”
To be clear, this is a patent, not an actual, existing feature. Yet.
Cars last for a long time. In the United States, the average car lasts for about 15 years.
As cars become more reliant on software, this introduces something called the Zombie Problem.
“A car can be on the roads for decades, but the company that made it and the suppliers of its components aren’t likely to keep providing software updates for its full lifetime. ”
There are a few different solutions to this problem:
- Do nothing. Owners of older cars will have to bear the risks posed by out-of-date software.
- Maintain the software. This will be expensive.
- Design cars and components for backward compatibility. This might accelerate disruption in the industry, as newer entrants don’t have to carry the cost of supporting older vehicles.
- Consolidate around a few larger software suppliers. This allows the software suppliers to amortize the cost of backward compatibility across many more vehicles.
GM is putting together a team to focus on autonomous vehicles.
“Doug Parks, GM’s vice president for global product programs, will become vice president for autonomous technology and vehicle execution, reporting to Mark Reuss, head of global product development. Parks will oversee efforts to develop new electrical and battery systems and software for autonomous and electric vehicles, GM said in a statement. The appointments will be effective Feb. 1.”
All that according to Times of India.
That description sounds mostly like a re-org, which is less inspiring than we might hope. My experience is that re-orgs are rarely helpful.
What would be great is to see GM pour more resources into an off-site autonomous vehicle center, or bring in some key hires, or build up a team with new hires, even if it takes cuts to other parts of the business.
Fortune runs with a story about Lyft and Uber and the merits and demerits of vertical integration:
“From a purely technical perspective, it’s unlikely that Uber’s in-house mapping efforts will be able to compete with the massive scale of Waze’s crowdsourced information. Waze is something like the Wikipedia of mapping with, as of last year, almost 300,000 editors worldwide contributing regular updates—all for free.”
Of course this is to some extent a matter of options. Uber has raised enough money to at least attempt building its own features, whereas Lyft is more cash-constrained.
But, as Malcolm Gladwell will tell you, sometimes being smaller comes with surprising advantages.