Category: Technology

Aston Martin returns to Formula 1 with a driverless car


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?

Open Source Banking

Axa Bank launched a forward-looking initiative aimed at gathering worldwide developers' creativity, offering 50,000€ for the most innovative retail banking application developed on the basis of their open APIs.

What does this mean? By registering an account on their developers site, anybody will be able to write an application that makes use of real banking data (anonymized accounts and transactions). In their own words:

this is a secure “entry door” allowing software developers to make the best possible usage of customer retail banking data, anonymized beforehand, under the condition the client has agreed to […]

Protection of personal data is of course a primary concern, and measures have been taken to make sure that this all happens within the regulations. By accessing real data, developers will have to agree to a strong set of rules, including (if my French is good enough) legal responsibility about data usage, cancellation, geographical restrictions, privacy: of course the bank has made it 100% safe for its customers.

Nevertheless, from the communications point of view, it is a really strong positioning statement: I do believe that openness and security are compatible, but would all their customers see it this way?

Measuring Online Reputation

As I introduced the Networked Identity as the cornerstone of the oncoming changes in the way we experience the web, I mentioned reputation as one of the three main areas in which online identity is manifested.

How can we evaluate or even measure reputation? There are some primitive indicators out there, such as the number and frequency of incoming links for a blog, or the number of friends or followers on a Social Network.

Technorati, Blogbabel, Wikio, are platforms that make good use of the hyperlink as the measurement unit – but this has some intrinsic limitations:

  1. it’s neutral: I can link something for a lot of different reasons, both positive and negative – and it counts exactly in the same way;
  2. it has no weight: one link in a “thanks to” list with dozens of people in it carries the same amount of measurable appreciation as a link to the single life-changing post that inspired an extraordinary feat;
  3. it is not universal: I can link only if I have some form of online presence where a link can be originated;
  4. it can be easily reproduced by automatic systems, theoretically (at least) exposing any links-based mechanism to spam attacks

How could these be overcome?