Aston Martin returns to Formula 1 with a driverless car

f1

After 60 years, the world-renowed brand of is planning a comeback to Formula 1 after its brief appearance in the late 50’s. And the announcement is a true revolution, not an easy feat in a world that is by definition on the cutting edge of techological innovation: in a joint venture with Google, Aston Martin will take part in the 2018 Championship with a driverless car.

According to anonymous sources, early tests seem to show that an automated F1 car can be competitive with an equivalent car driven by an expert human and, in challenging conditions such as a wet track, could even perform slightly better.

 

Current rules, however, require pilots to be sitting in the cars. This brings us to one more astonishing part of the announcement, even though the names are not public yet: the main sponsor of the venture is going to be Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, owner of the James Bond and 007 franchise. Tis is directly related to the names of the pilots, who will be announced during the presentation of the next James Bond movie and will be, with a magnificent marketing stunt, the agent himself and the “Bond girl”. Rumors report that Daniel Craig is carefully considering accepting the role despite the risks, probably weighing the potentially monumental boost to his fame. As for the Bond girl, chances are on the rise for the relatively unknown but undoubtedly charming April Foolsmyth.

A paradigm shift for motor insurance, but which one?

"Volvo will accept full liability whenever one of our cars is in autonomous mode." Hakan Samuelsson - Volvo Car Group President and CEO

This is a strong statement on a topic for which Volvo is seen as a world leader: safety, with a 360-degrees approach.

But the most interesting part is that it implies a wide range of consequences – a real paradigm shift – for motor insurance: is the whole business model shifting away from retail towards B2B or will there rather be a mixed model, with a B2B component (transparent for the driver) for the kilometers driven autonomously by the car, complemented by a retail component for “traditional” driving?

Whatever the case, the way tariffs are calculated is going to change as well: will they depend on make and model, that would actually mean on the quality of software provided by different manufacturers on different models?

In order to differentiate themselves from competitors, will some manufacturers include different “driving style” options to be chosen by the passenger, such as an “emergency” button, commanding the car to get to a place as soon as possible and featuring a higher tolerance for risks?

In consideration of the new intrinsic nature of the reasons why an accident occurs, driven by fixed rules set by software developers – and not anymore by drivers’ mistakes – is the role of underwriters and claims inspectors going to change and include strong expertise on software design and business analysis?

And, in ultimate analysis – and concerning not only driverless cars but rather all the ways in which AI is going to play a relevant role in our lives: is software development going to embrace so many moral and ethic challenges, that an oath – such as the one doctors take – will be required for the profession?

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The easiest role in a project?

What is the easiest thing that a person with no musical education could do in an orchestra? According to a research I read some time ago (actually, it looks like it’s a lot of time ago as I can’t find any reference online), most people think that the easiest job – one that they could probably do without anybody noticing the difference – is the conductor’s.

700px-eduardo_marturet_dirigiendoPhoto credits: By MariaVictoriaSO (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This curious idea, carried by a common analogy between the Conductor and the Project Manager roles, keeps coming to my mind every time I head somebody claiming to be a “project manager”, without neither the theoretical knowledge nor, what’s worse, the experience – and this is exactly the reason why I believe that this is good news: the US President Barack Obama has signed the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act into law, enhancing accountability and best practices in project and program management throughout the federal government. The legislation was strongly endorsed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and was approved by both chambers of Congress with bi-partisan support.

 

Unconventional competitors

carIt is a commonplace topic in innovation: what if (name of a Company that is widely regarded as innovative) starts selling a product or service that is generally regarded as traditional, with well-established brands as market leaders?

Let’s play with a template:

What happens to (your Company) if

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Virgin
  • Apple
  • Tesla
  • Uber

announces its own

  • Bank
  • TV channel
  • car
  • airline
  • phone
  • Insurance company

?

We’ve seen some of those combinations become real in the recent years, and it is always a good, thought-provoking question, a great starting point for brainstorming, a reliable source of ideas for innovation-oriented analyses… a template for attention-catching titles.

However, nothing prevents traditional companies from becoming an unconventional competitor in some other industry. I recently ran into a brilliant example: UBS launched their digital safe service. All digital communications to customers will be saved there by the Bank, but customers will be also able to use the personal storage space to save their own important files: certificates, documents, receipts, invoices, all tax and bureaucracy-related stuff, in a safe (Swiss standards!) storage space. It definitely sounds like a high-quality solution, and it might well take away one reason to pay a fee for other online backup solutions. At least, in my case it did… so, who is the unconventional competitor in this case?

It ain’t literature

The correct argument against Bob Dylan winning the Nobel prize in literature is not about songs not belonging to literature, it’s about Dylan himself.
 theguardian

There are many others who would represent the literary virtue of song lyrics more rightfully than Bob Dylan. But I am not going to make a list of my own, as it would only reflect my taste (however, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy reading your lists in the comments).

One half of the point is well explained by Germaine Greer, as she explains why he believes that lyrics are not literature: I do not agree with this point, but the argument is nevertheless valid for most lyrics – and definitely is for Dylan’s. Here she goes with a beautiful description of the alchemy between words and music, working together to create an artistic effect:
When Morrissey sings a Morrissey song, he knows exactly what colour every part of every word is meant to be, and whether it crosses the rhythm to build up tension, or cannons into it to gain emphasis. If Morrissey repeats a line, he may vary it in a new context, or he may keep it exactly the same, as he does with “Every day is like Sunday”, because part of the point of the song is the anguish of monotony as perceived by hapless youth – but the music catapults the repetition towards us like a javelin. The music does what the words alone cannot do. To present the words without the music is to emasculate them.

The other half of my point is that I believe that there is at least one author whose songs operate the magic in the other direction: Leonard Cohen. It’s not because I like him better than Dylan (by the way, there are others whom I like much better than both), but Leonard Cohen truly belongs to literature, as he does exactly the opposite: his words enlighten his unremarkable music.

Just listen to the first 15 seconds:
Not exactly a great piece of sophisticated music, is it? Now just read the following aloud, with a plain voice:
Here is your crown
And your seal and rings;
And here is your love
For all things.
Here is your cart,

And your cardboard and piss;
And here is your love
For all of this.

and you are tangled in the symmetry between these two extremes, the king and the homeless. When you add the music, it will sound tragic and sublime and Cohen’s voice will speak to you as if a fallen angel were disclosing you the secret of life and death.

Here is it.

5 simple steps to make football interesting

Soccer

It might be surprising to think of football as something that could be interesting itself, and not as a societal phenomenon. Yet, I am sure that with a few changes it could really become something worth watching.

  1. Once the ball has been taken to the other half of the playing field, it can’t be taken back. If you do, your opponents will benefit from a throw-in. Come on, all these passings are simply pointless.
  2. Forget offside. The rule is as outdated as the second amendment. And, by the way, it is absurd to make the few interesting passings (see 1.) irregular!
  3. Actual playing time. 2 halves, 25 minutes each. 50′ of real play would be enough – and, anyway, much better than 80′ of backwards passings.
  4. Unlimited substitutions. Why bother?
  5. When a draw is not allowed, as in World Cup finals, just go on playing until somebody scores. They will be motivated to make some action happen.

Well, I know. Just joking, I know I’ll just have to keep following other stuff.