The drones are coming!

The commercial use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles is going to literally take off.

The commercial use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles is going to literally take off. The US FAA has allocated over $60 Billion to modernize the country’s air traffic control systems and expand airspace to accommodate the commercial use of these aircraft. Congress has mandated the FAA to come up with regulations in 2015. From Amazon and Google to Dominos Pizza, the interest in this technology is huge (decrease delivery speed and decrease costs: how do you compete with that?). In fact, it is estimated that drones will produce approximately $90 Billion in economic activity between 2015 and 2025, creating about 100,000 jobs. To expedite the process of commercial introduction of these vehicles and shape the commercial regulatory environment, Amazon, Google and others formed a UAV coalition to lobby Washington.

The insurance industry is likely to be a user of such technology – both for claims adjusting and underwriting of certain risks. In fact, USAA, one of the largest insurance companies in the US, petitioned the FAA on October 2nd for permission to use drone aircraft as a way to speed up claim processing. In addition, insurance coverage of drones represents another revenue source for insurers.

Will tomorrow’s auto industry look like today’s PC industry?

Tomorrow’s mobility industry will be increasingly shared and driverless.

The value in a computer today (and the accompanying revenues & profits) resides in the software. Tomorrow’s mobility industry will be increasingly shared and driverless. Shared vehicles means no attachment to the vehicle (like using a taxi today). Mobility on demand will be based on technology and the ability of the vehicle to get the user from point A to point B will be software driven. The shell will be of relatively little value. Will the Bosches, Continentals and Googles of this world grow in importance as the relative value of their contributions increases? Will Ford, GM provide the “shell” and become fleet service mobility providers? The acquisitions, mergers and deals being announced by some of the key players in the automotive space would indicate that in ten years, the transportation industry and the stakeholders will likely be very different from those who play in that sandbox today.

No longer will a major player in the auto industry need to be geographically located near Detroit as software can be developed and delivered anywhere.

And all these changes will have an impact on what shares you want to own and for how long. Wall Street is already picking winners and losers.


Photo : nanhatai /

Meet Bobby: Audi’s driverless race car

Racing at 190 MPH and “beating” the human competitor.

Racing at 190 MPH and “beating” the human competitor, Bobby is proving that driverless technology can be used in yet another area reserved until now only for human drivers
Bloomberg International Correspondent Hans Nichols got to race it. (VIDEO)
Following is a briefed explanation and previous test drive:

Will today’s auto manufacturers be the mobility service providers of tomorrow?

Catherine Kargas’ article discusses the SEAMless Mobility model and the facts, reasons and trends leading up to this necessary change in mobility of people and goods.In this article, she also discusses the link between electric vehicles and driverless technology and explains why the latter is a facilitator for the former.

Network electrification is under way, but there is still a lot to do in Canada in order to achieve sustainable and clean mobility

Electrification of personally owned vehicles in Canada is making progress, but the percentage of EVs in the vehicle fleet remains weak. To help boost EV penetration, several tools are being used, including:

  • Financial incentives: To encourage the move towards cleaner mobility, the most populous Canadian provinces offer financial incentives to lower the purchase price of EVs: currently Québec offers an $8000 discount while Ontario refunds $8500 on the purchase of an EV. As 60% of Canada’s electricity is generated through clean, renewable hydro (approximately 99% in Québec), a shift towards electric mobility would contribute significantly to making Canada’s transportation sustainable and cleaner while decreasing the country’s GHG emissions.
  • Charging stations: To alleviate consumer concerns related to range anxiety, over 2000 public charging stations have been installed with more planned over the course of the next few years. In Québec, North American leader in electrification of transportation, the government is investing in implementing fast chargers on the highway joining Montréal with the city of Québec.  Similarly, in British Columbia, fast chargers have been implemented along the North-South corridor connecting Vancouver with the western US states. These fast are an incentive for users to take their EVs for longer-range trips.

Newer forms of mobility contributing to sustainable transportation

Alternative ways of transportation are also soaring in Canada as the sharing economy offers options to consumers. Both ride sharing and car sharing have made their entrance in numerous Canadian cities.  In fact, car sharing membership is strong and climbing with services offered by Car2Go in a number of Canadian cities and regional offerings such as Communauto in Québec and Autoshare in Ontario.  The more on-street chargers are installed, the more car sharing companies will be encouraged to incorporate EVs in their fleet, which will also help the development of a strong electrified transportation network. Communauto, for example, has introduced EVs in their fleet for certain areas of Montreal.

A recent report by Morgan Stanley calculated that cars are only used for about 4% of their lives. This means that the world’s $20 trillion car fleet achieves only 4% utilization, leaving 8.4 trillion hours per year not used.  Sharing is therefore an important part of a sustainable mobility solution.

While NA culture is still strongly tied to the automobile, car sharing is gaining popularity thanks to its numerous environmental and economic benefits as well as its use of use. In fact, several Canadian families have evolved from two-car households to single-car households replacing the second vehicle with car sharing membership.

Fully autonomous vehicles: a solution to the economic and demographic change we are facing

Another essential trend that might foster the emergence of a more sustainable and safer mobility lies in the use of fully autonomous vehicles.

  • Over the next decade, there will be a 25-50% increase in urban dwelling as about 1 billion people move into cities. Population increases and the mobility demands of a growing middle class will place greater pressure on transportation systems and infrastructure. Clearly our generally inefficient transportation systems will lead to gridlock in most cities. Driverless vehicles offer a more sustainable transportation solution.
  • Most governments, facing economic difficulties, cannot continue to build new highways and infrastructure or to subsidize a transit system that incurs systemic losses despite its increasing popularity to meet the urban demographic boom and rising congestion. Smart vehicles can be part of the solution as they can help users choose the best transit routes, avoid accidents and thus help reduce congestion.
  • In addition, driverless vehicles will help society meet the needs of its aging population. In Canada, more than 120,000 people with some form of dementia have a valid driving license. In this context, driverless cars are a much safer option that can guarantee road safety while offering the elderly and disabled a mobility solution that allows them to remain autonomous and maintain their quality of life, all without placing additional pressure on governments to provide transportation services to the elderly.
  • Further, roughly 10% of world’s population lives with a disability.  Driverless vehicles would provide accessible mobility to the disabled and enable them to lead productive lives.

The link between electric and driverless

Several respected organizations around the world, including Électricité de France (EDF), have made the connection between electric propulsion and driverless technology. In fact, driverless technology is a facilitator for electrification of transportation.  Today, a motorist purchases a vehicle that meets ALL of his/her road travel needs, including those rare trips of several hundred kilometers. Given the limited autonomy of most electric vehicle models on the market today, these rare lengthy trips would require the motorist to make numerous stops for recharging (assuming there are charging stations available along the route).  So, despite the fact that an electric vehicle would meet the large majority of travel needs of most motorists, most EVs are not ideal for all trips.  At least not yet!

In a context where driverless vehicles are shared, the passenger need not think about vehicle autonomy or charging. The intelligent vehicle takes care of all that and more.  The shared electric vehicle would be ideal for most urban travel. Further, for a fleet operator, the electric vehicle, in many jurisdictions, is less expensive to operate than its conventional counterpart.

Tomorrow’s transportation will be SEAMlessTM: Shared, Electric, Autonomous, Multimodal

SEAMless.pngTomorrow’s transportation system will offer SEAMlessTM mobility.  It will be fully autonomous and electric but it will also be shared and multimodal. Multimodal transportation networks, combining car- and bike-sharing solutions, railway, metro (subway) and bus networks, are facilitated by complete information available (possible mobility options with time and cost) free of charge on a smartphone. Apps, such as RideScout, are already providing much of this information.  The seamless interconnectivity between the various modes of transportation is often what’s missing today.

Already, multimodal systems are evident with transit systems partnering with car sharing providers, for example. In Montreal, the transit property (Société de transport de Montréal) offers consumers packages to purchase bus passes and gain access to Communauto car sharing at reduced rates.  Car sharing vehicles are conveniently located around Montréal metro stations to help customers with that first/last mile connection.


phonesmart.jpgIn Europe, Helsinki’s plan to move away from individual passenger vehicles is an excellent example of multimodality. The introduction of a single pass providing access to a fully integrated transportation network in a multimodal ecosystem will provide commuters with complete, affordable on-demand mobility solutions that will make individual car ownership pointless.

But such connected urban networks can only be developed if the different mobility actors agree to integrate their services to build a real connected transportation system.

While some car manufacturers have embraced the rise in multimodality, some consider it as a threat to their established market and business model. Daimler is one of the automotive OEMs that have demonstrated a tremendous ability to adapt to this changing transportation ecosystem. Consider the fact that Daimler has vertically integrated forward into the car sharing space with Car2Go. Consider the fact that it is one of the leading developers of driverless technology. Consider the fact that it recently acquired mytaxi and RideScout.

Government vision and planning are required

The revolutionary change in mobility that will take place within the coming decade will create tremendous opportunity as new industries and business models are shaped.  Numerous businesses, will however be disrupted and others obliterated.  Those that feel threatened by this change will try to delay its introduction.  Governments need not only recognize the need for change to achieve sustainable mobility but be visionary enough to pave the way for such change.  To minimize the pain associated with labour displacement and to maximize the benefits of this change in transportation, governments need to start planning the SEAMlessTM mobility systems of tomorrow.  This includes developing a roadmap that takes infrastructure, people and systems into consideration.

Google’s role will be essential to entice traditional carmakers to adapt to this new mobility model

In this changing context, Google’s role in this ecosystem will indeed be extremely important, in particular for the development and commercialization of driverless vehicles.  In fact, even though many carmakers already have access to the necessary technology to build autonomous vehicles, Google seems to have taken the lead.

With its Google cars, Google has become a “showcase” for this new technology. Given the comfort, safety, economic and environmental advantages of this technology, carmakers will be forced to adapt their models.  As Mr. Ford said not long ago, in the future, carmakers will probably no longer be just carmakers, but mobility services providers.

Catherine Kargas’ article was initially published on Michelin Challenge Bibendum Communityé

Photo : Nataliya Hora

Canadians will waste 330 Billion$ on traffic by 2030

Isn’t it time we started to look at more sustainable transportation solutions?

Yes, you read it correctly.  A recent report undertaken in the US concludes that Americans will waste $2.8 Trillion on traffic if gridlock continues. If time is money, then we’re wasting an enormous amount of it sitting in traffic. We are also wasting fuel needlessly. Our governments are announcing cost cutting measures instead of expenditures to expand highway and road networks. Isn’t it time we started to look at more sustainable transportation solutions?Seamless_mobility

MARCON’s SEAMless mobilityTM model of Shared, Electric, Autonomous, Multimodal integrated mobility will be key to a sustainable transportation system.


Photo:Lissandra Melo /

Robotic telepresence

Projecting yourself at a distance through a robotic avatar is taking off

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, especially in the field of transportation. Surprisingly, one of the most important breakthroughs in this field involves not moving at all: the field of robotic telepresence – projecting yourself at a distance through a robotic avatar is taking off. But before delving into this subject, let’s go back and explore how people projected their presence in the past.

Many centuries ago, kings sent messengers, in human or pigeon form, to inform others of their decisions. Smoke and light signals were also used to send messages quickly over hundreds of kilometres. Usually those means were reserved for the elite. Then, a century or two ago, most countries established a postal service which was fairly quick and inexpensive. The postal service allowed everyone, even the poor, to communicate with others across town or even around the world.

More recently, the telegraph and then the telephone allowed communication in real time over thousands of kilometres. Huge electronic networks connecting a significant portion of humanity were laid out in the last 150 years. Those networks carried voice, and later e-mails and web pages: the internet/web was born.

Humans are not bits and bytes and sending messages through an electronic medium doesn’t carry the non verbal cues that are an integral part of human communication. Teleconferencing tried to bridge that gap but teleconferences were expensive. Skype and similar services managed to bring the costs down significantly but people still felt that they had to be physically present in order to communicate effectively. In fact, a significant part of the profits of the travel and hospitality industries are based on that very human need to be physically present when doing business.

Some companies went so far as to build expensive teleconference rooms that allowed people to interact both verbally and non verbally. Then, a few years ago, another solution became feasible: robotic telepresence, the possibility of using robot avatars to represent people that are located elsewhere.

Robotic telepresence can simply be a Segway-type base supporting an iPad, the solution that Double Robotic put forward on the market. This solution is affordable and the Segway-iPad robot avatar seems to be well accepted in the workplace. Of course, the robot can vary from something basic to something more elaborate. One solution is to have the robot map its environment thereby freeing the user from having to navigate it consciously. In fact, the user can simply say “Go to Martin’s office”. In a few years, the robots should even be able to manipulate objects on verbal command or through thought, your thoughts being read directly through a helmet-like device.

The possibility of tele-manipulating the environment raises an interesting issue. Most of us are familiar with long distance calls going through optic fibres laid down on the ocean floor: there is no significant time lag allowing for calls to occur smoothly. That was not the case a few decades ago when calls were transmitted via satellite. Back then, the lag was quite noticeable making for fairly difficult conversations. That lag was due to the fact that the signal had to travel at the speed of light (around 300,000 km/s) to a satellite in geostationary orbit and then back to Earth, a round trip of about one hundred thousand kilometres. Now, the signal travels through optic fibres and typical distances are usually less then 20,000 kilometres.

This means that even if you can have a smooth teleconference everywhere on Earth through a robot avatar you will not be able to tele-manipulate the robot’s environment effectively unless you have some kind of imbedded robotic intelligence to assist you. The reason for this is that typical lags of around one tenth of a second are quite acceptable for a teleconference but when one plays a computer game, for example, time lags of around one hundredth of a second are required.

One can even go one step further. Experiments in Switzerland with robotic avatars have shown that it is possible to have “out of body experiences” if you are allowed to see only through the robot’s eyes with the aid of virtual reality goggles: you then feel that the robot’s body is really your body, so much so that when someone touches your robotic avatar you have the impression that you are being touched even if there are no pressure sensitive detectors on the robot’s “skin”! At that stage, you have projected your own consciousness in the robotic avatar and, therefore, it could be said that “you” are located where your avatar is located! Is it not rather surprising that the speed of light is just fast enough to make this incredible experience possible on a planetary scale?

The possibility that one could project one’s presence through a robotic avatar anywhere on Earth raises several issues, not least of which legal ones. In fact, a few months ago, Edward Snowden tested those very boundaries by using a simple robotic avatar to give a TED conference in the US. Imagine that this avatar, instead of the simple device that it was, would have been a sophisticated robot allowing Snowden to travel anywhere in the United States!

This new technology also opens up numerous possibilities. We could travel virtually to distant places. Already Marriott Hotels allow you to step in a booth in New-York City and feel as if you were physically located somewhere in Hawaii. They even take care of the smell of the ocean! Of course, virtual telepresence could have a huge impact on the travel industry: airlines, restaurants and hotels might see a drop travel and revenues. The insurance industry also might be impacted: what is the risk of being injured if you only project yourself in distant places? Will our avatars require cyber liability risk coverage? Finally, we could imagine a mix of genres where one’s avatar is an autonomous vehicle. You could “be” a car going down route 66…

Photo credit: VGO

Uber news

Uber is interested in on-call delivery service

In addition to be present as a ride-sharing company in 200 cities, Uber is interested in on-call delivery services. Three pilots in the US: lunch delivery in LA, convenience store pickup & home delivery in Washington and a quick messenger service for Manhattan.

After Uber and UberX, now UberPool: car pooling made easier. According to the Uber site, on average UberX already costs 40% less than a taxi. Imagine reducing that cost by up to another 40% using UberPool (sharing a ride). That means an UberPool ride would cost about 1/3 the price of a taxi.

Ford exec foresees major change for auto industry

A sustainable mobility model is required

Executive Chairman Bill Ford: “Ford Motor Co. is rethinking its mission as an automaker and testing a variety of alternative forms of mobility around the world.”  Makes sense in a context where over the next decade, there will be a 25 to 50% increase in urban dwelling, as about 1 billion people move into cities. In 25 years, a forecasted 9 billion people living in urban areas – more than the entire population of Earth today. And if this growing urban middle class is driving conventional cars, gridlock could block cities from functioning.

A sustainable mobility model is required: electric, autonomous, shared, multi-modal mobility.