Tag Archives: innovation

Rear Fog Laser

5 Jun

In the EU, it’s standard for all cars to equip what’s called a “rear fog light“. They’re available on a small number of cars in the US, and what it is is a single rear light, brighter than a brake light – on the left on the Continent, and on the right in the UK – which alerts cars driving behind you that you’re there when visibility is poor. 

Audi has taken the idea one step further, designing a laser rear fog light that illuminates an area on the ground behind the vehicle, indicating for motorists behind it a safe following distance. With the slow introduction of LED headlights and DRL, this is a pretty neat innovation. 

The Morning Grumpy – 6/4/12

4 Jun

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

 

1. After a massive decline during the last recession, corporate profits have now skyrocketed to historic levels. Somehow, it’s the fault of the government fault that those companies are not using those profits to hire people who would then use their new salaries to, ya know, buy stuff and stimulate the economy.

As a reminder, the effective corporate tax rate in America is lower than most other developed nations and U.S. corporations ARE actually hiring, they’re just doing it overseas.

2. 32 innovations that will change your tomorrow

We tend to rewrite the histories of technological innovation, making myths about a guy who had a great idea that changed the world. In reality, though, innovation isn’t the goal; it’s everything that gets you there. It’s bad financial decisions and blueprints for machines that weren’t built until decades later. It’s the important leaps forward that synthesize lots of ideas, and it’s the belly-up failures that teach us what not to do.

When we ignore how innovation actually works, we make it hard to see what’s happening right in front of us today.

Worse, the fairy-tale view of history implies that innovation has an end. It doesn’t. What we want and what we need keeps changing. That’s what this issue is about: all the little failures, trivialities and not-quite-solved mysteries that make the successes possible. This is what innovation looks like. It’s messy, and it’s awesome.

An awesome list of cool things that reminds us what a tricky thing innovation can be. I’m a big fan of the “Shut-Up Gun”

3. Are people too dumb to participate in elections? A new study says they are.

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

If you live in Western New York, you know this to be fact.

4. Bill Moyers says we should pity the poor billionaires.

You see, according to the website Politico.com, the so-called “mega-donors,” unleashed by Citizens Unitedand pouring boundless big bucks into this year’s political campaigns, are upset that their massive contributions are being exposed to public view, ignoring the right of every one of us to know who is giving money to candidates — and the opportunity to try to figure out why.

As a reminder, welcome to the plutocracy.

5. A fantastic long read, “Our French Connection“.

For some Americans, the Parisian way of life is best. Others simply prefer “freedom fries.” A two-week journey across the United States—passing through a handful of small towns named Paris—to find out what Americans really think about the French these days.

Our attitudes toward the French tell us as much about our xenophobia as it does our openness to culture. The story is a journalistic diorama of American attitudes.

Fact Of The Day: 12% of all the people ever born are walking the planet at this very moment.

Quote Of The Day: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal” – Oscar Wilde

Video Of The Day: Idea For “Canalside“! This would go really well next to the hot dog shed, deck chairs, and the solar powered whatnot they want to put down there. I’d love to see Donn Esmonde try it.

Song Of The Day: “Ain’t Good Enough For You” – Bruce Springsteen

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

General Motors Bankruptcy, What’s Next?

3 Jun

general-motors-bankrupt

Like most of you, I’ve been following the news and analysis on the drawdown and bankruptcy of General Motors.  

There have quite literally been thousands of obituaries written about the automaker and tens of thousands of opinion articles written about what went wrong.  Hindsight is 20/20 and it seems everyone is an all-knowing expert after the music stops. Jason Kottke has a nice roundup of some of the analysis.

It seems that in recent days, the discussion has been reduced to typical he said/she said punditry flamewars on the nightly opinion shows.  These debates have begun to inform the daytime discussions about General Motors and we’re all getting dumber because of them.  As a result, I think there is a sizable number of people in this country who really don’t give a rat’s ass if GM goes under.  Whether those people are motivated by resentment of union employees, anti-corporatist beliefs, or a general malevolence towards the automobile and its deleterious effect on our society, their numbers seem to be growing.

However, I recently stumbled across an article that I thought was really quite compelling and educational about the demise of GM and potential recovery.  It moves aside the traditional talking points that GM didn’t respond to a purported market desire for smaller cars or that heavy labor costs destroyed the company and instead lays the blame on a lack of general innovation and broken manufacturing processes.  I’d like to share it with you and hopefully have a sensible discussion about what you’re thinking about the future of the automobile industry in America.

Detroit’s Big Three automakers have for decades been notoriously hostile to outside innovation; Flash of Genius and Tucker, films that decry the industry’s insularity, are both based on true stories. No small US company has grown into a big carmaker in the past 50 years—one of the reasons that the automobile itself hasn’t changed more fundamentally during that time. “It’s as if the computer industry were still dominated by Wang and Data General and DEC, and they were still selling minicomputers,” says Henry Chesbrough, executive director at UC Berkeley’s Center for Open Innovation.

By seeking to match the likes of Toyota, Detroit has been trying to come from behind in a game where its adversaries set the rules. To Klepper, the Carnegie Mellon economist, the Big Three today resemble the American television-receiver industry in the 1970s and 1980s, pioneered by US corporations that, after decades of domination, were suddenly confronted by foreign innovation. Companies like RCA and Zenith were slow to incorporate new technologies until it was too late; all exited or sold out to foreign firms. “Every time American companies catch up to the competition,” Klepper says, “the competition already has moved on and instituted new things. In that situation, it’s extremely difficult to get ahead.”

The only escape from this conundrum is to pursue what Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has called disruptive innovation—the kind of change that alters the trajectory of an industry. As Christensen argued in his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, successful companies in mature industries rarely embrace disruptive innovation because, by definition, it threatens their business models.

With GM in bankruptcy, now is the time for the company to push its proverbial chips to the center of the table and embrace the disruptive innovation detailed in the article.  The multiplier effect of such a move by General Motors would be enormous and have an incredibly positive effect on entrepreneurship and the national economy on the whole.  

If they embrace it, the discussion might shift to how soon GM returns to dominance rather than whether it will survive at all.