When I look at the friendships I’ve had over my life, some of my closest friends are the ones who I’ve been through the hardest times with. If you’ve ever been through a difficult experience with a group of friends, you know how much of a bonding experience it can be. You remember it for the rest of your life. Usually, these experiences aren’t planned, but about six months ago, a group of my oldest and best friends and I decided to take on what may be the most difficult challenge we’ve faced as a group yet. Over the last 20 or 25 years, we’ve reunited in many places near and far, but this year we’re tackling the Kokoda Track.
For those of you who don’t know, the Kokoda Track is a historical trail in Papua New Guinea. This track is well-known in Australia, as a very famous episode in Australian history took place there during World War II. It was at a time when Australia was at risk of being invaded, and this was the last point of defense before the Japanese potentially took over Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, and then from there could launch attacks and raids into Australia. Australian troops were sent into Papua New Guinea to protect and defend the country from this threat.. These heroes fought in the most difficult conditions, and the Kokoda Track became their battleground. For many Australians, walking the Kokoda Track is the chance to walk in the footsteps of those men and better appreciate the hardships they endured under and the sacrifices they made for their country. It’s a personal challenge but also a walk of remembrance and appreciation. I imagine it will be quite emotional because of that, walking in those footsteps and imagining what it must have been like for them to endure the unimaginable conditions of the Kokoda Track during World War II.
It’s such a difficult track that I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’m still not, if I’m being honest, but the challenge appealed to me, and I’ve learned that having a really difficult goal motivates you to train hard. My friends are also extremely motivating, though not in the way you might expect. The Australian ethos between good friends isn’t so much encouragement, but rather a playful goading. It’s perfectly acceptable, and more than that, it’s expected.
While we’re not able to physically train together since we live all over the world, we do share our progress over WhatsApp and AllTrails, an app that allows you to download maps and find trails near you. In the very beginning, one of my best friends, with whom I have a very competitive streak, posted an AllTrails update that he had walked 13.5 miles. Of course, I had to one-up him, so I went out and walked 15 miles. I could hardly walk for a few days afterward, but since then it’s been this escalation of what everyone’s doing to get ready. The next week, I saw that he planned to tackle 26 miles, and I was 20 miles into it before I realized that it was actually 26 kilometers, since he is based in Australia, and I’d done 32 of those! It’s friendly rivalry, and it’s how we’re motivating each other to stick with it and put in the hard work.
Since I’m over 50 (shhh, don’t tell anyone!), I had to complete a stress test in order to have medical clearance to take on the Kokoda Track, so they’re sure that you won’t have to leave the trail in a helicopter (still a possibility, I think). It’s a big mental challenge, knowing that in 15 minutes a treadmill is going to work you to the point of exhaustion, and your only focus is to stay on it as long as you can without collapsing. You’re like a hamster on a treadmill, almost literally. When you start, you know it’s going to be hard, and part of you is excited about testing yourself to see how far you can go. The other part, however, is full of dread for the pain that’s coming. The point is, you always have to push yourself past what you think you can do to continue to improve, and most of that is mental not physical. I know this trek is bound to be difficult, but I know I’m more prepared now than I was when I started. No pain, no gain, as they say.
Another part of being prepared is making sure you have all the right gear. I’m big into researching things, so I watched tons of videos and read all of these books and blogs about the Kokoda experience. Considering that the longest walk I typically did was from my house to the beach, it’s fair to say doing a 10-day backpacking trip was all new to me. I spent many hours going through the packing list, which has a weight limit, and choosing the right items to pack. I knew that hiking boots are extremely important, so I bought those nearly 4 months ago so I could wear them and break them in. I similarly went through hours of analysis for each piece of equipment to figure out which was the best to take. I researched how to purify water. It’s a science in and of itself, how to stay hydrated on a trek like this. It’s also important to learn how to prevent and treat blisters. You don’t want to overlook things like that or the trek becomes nearly impossible. In many cases it’s the little things that matter most.
So why am I doing this and why all the hard work? I want to prove to myself that I can do this, and I want to do it in style. I don’t want to be crawling, panting, crying or struggling. I want to be looking up at the sky and nature around me. I want to really enjoy this experience with some of my closest friends. I want this to be one of the things that I look back on, like other big milestones in my life, and remember the experience and everything that went into achieving it. And when I’ve finished the Kokoda Track, I hope to pass on valuable lessons in perseverance, attitude, and working through hard times, which apply to everything from personal growth to entrepreneurship.
You have a reliable way to archive all your email so you never have to worry about deleting an email again.
You have a way to unclutter your inbox.
You have a way to process your inbox.
You have a way to track everything you delegate and everything you are ‘waiting for’ via a Pending folder.
In this post I want to outline how to manage and track all of your next actions so you never have to worry about dropping the ball again.
As mentioned previously, efficiently processing your inbox involves doing one of four things with each email:
Read and delete. No action needed.
Do. If I think it will take me less than 2 mins to respond to an email, I will do it then and there and then delete.
Delegate. Forward and ask someone to do something based on the email, and then delete. As per my previous post on this topic, remember to copy yourself when you delegate over email so you have a list of everything you’re waiting on someone for in your Pending folder!
Queue up for next action needed. These are the emails I need to spend more time on, and that I haven’t been able to delete, delegate or do within the 2 mins rule.
The focus of this post is on that last point, how to queue up things for next action needed.
One of the core tenants of “Getting Things Done” is to group all your next actions by context. For example, there might be some things you can only do when you are at home. When you’re not at home you don’t need to see those next actions because there’s nothing you can do about them. However, when you are at home you do want to see them, because in that context (“I’m at home”) all of those next actions are fair game for follow-up. Grouping all your next actions by context helps you focus on only the things you can do in that moment, without distracting yourself with all the things you can’t do in that moment.
Everyone will have a different set of contexts they want to work across (see below for mine). The trick here is to define those contexts in a way that makes sense for you and are as simple as possible. It is also important to define them in such a way that each next action only goes into one context. This keeps the overhead of managing next actions by context to a minimum. Here are mine:
Calls I need to make when I have the time and am with my phone (typically when I’m driving)
Things I can only do when I’m physically at the office
Things I can only do when I’m physically at home
Things I can only do when I’m out and about, typically near where I live
Things I need to do when I’m at my laptop (or on my phone)
Things I need to read
Things I need to talk to someone about in person or at an upcoming meeting
Things not important to me now, but worth considering ‘someday’ when I have the time
The way that I implement this for my email is by creating an email folder for each ‘context’ and then moving each ‘next action’ from my inbox to that folder.
Here are a few examples:
A friend emails me and wants to catch up. I simply drag the email from my inbox into my Call folder.
My wife emails me and asks if I can pick up paper towels. Into the Errands folder.
My colleague emails me and requests I review a presentation. Into the Laptop folder.
Someone sends me an interesting article on Vegemite. Into the Read folder it goes.
My boss emails me and says he wants to talk about an upcoming site visit. Into the Agenda folder for when I meet with him next.
Someone emails me to recommend walking the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea but I don’t have time to think about it now. Into the Someday folder. (More to come on that, later!)
Hopefully you get the idea.
Later, when I find myself out and about driving to the grocery store, I check my Errands folder and go buy paper towels.
When I meet with my boss I go to my Agendas folder to remind myself of all the things I need to speak with him about.
When I have a spare moment, I hit my Read folder for all the catch up reading I need to do, including how to make Vegemite at home.
Then, when I’m done with all my projects and have time to breathe, I check my Someday folder for new things to do.
Never drop the ball again.
Creating a Code
Now, the above works great when you are receiving emails and taking action on them, but what if you want to create and manage next actions for things not associated with an email you have received? For example, you think of something you need to do at home, or you think of something you want to read. How do you get those next actions into your email system? Here’s what I do.
Let’s take a ‘work’ next action as an example. If I want to remind myself to print a presentation the next time I’m in the office, I simply send myself an email with a Subject of “Print out presentation $w”. I have a rule that looks for emails from myself with a “$w” in the subject line, and which then automatically moves that email into my Work folder. Voila! Next time I’m in the office I check my Work folder and there’s my next action to print out the presentation.
To break this down further, for each context:
Come up with a code you can put in the Subject for any next action you want to automatically move to the folder for that context.
Create a rule for the context that will look for that code as part of the Subject and then do the move.
For the example above the rule would look like this:
See below for the codes I use for all the contexts mentioned above. All you need to do now is to create a rule for each code that is exactly the same as for the work example above, but with the corresponding code for each context.
With the above in place you can also handle the following scenarios:
Someone sends you an email to ask you for something, and when you respond to say, “I’m on it!” you tag the subject with “$l” so your ‘next action’ is automatically put in your Laptop folder for follow-up. This saves you from having to respond AND manually moving the original email to Laptop yourself. Yes, it’s only a few extra steps, but over the course of a day or a week or a year it all adds up. And these posts are all about being an email ninja, not an email grasshopper. 🙂
Now, just two more things and we’re done, but these are very important to remember.
First, the ordering of your rules in your email system matters. It’s important that the first rule is the rule to move all received emails to your Received folder. This ensures you will continue to archive all received emails as explained in my first post. Then come the rules to manage context based next actions as explained above. Finally, the last rule should be the rule to manage Pending emails; those emails you copy yourself on when you want to track or monitor that something gets done. Ordering your rules in this way ensures they are applied in the right order so that the system works.
Second, you will need to update your Pending rule so that it doesn’t also move all these next action emails to your Pending folder. To do this, simply exclude all these emails from the rule as shown below.
That’s it! You now have a way to track next actions by context. Whenever you complete a next action you can simply delete it out of the context folder and move on to the next one!
At this point:
You have a reliable way to archive all your email so you never have to worry about deleting an email again.
You have a way to unclutter your inbox.
You have a way to process your inbox.
You have a way to track everything you delegate and everything you are ‘waiting for’ via a Pending folder.
You have a way to track next actions by context.
Stay tuned for part 3 on how to use this system to manage projects and deliverables that require lots of ‘next actions’ to complete, with maybe a few additional advanced techniques to move you into black belt territory.
Automate email management so you have time for more meaningful tasks
Who doesn’t want to be more productive? When the end of your day rolls around, are you looking at your to-do list wishing you could cross off more items? In my experience, I’ve discovered the most productive people do things differently. They use their time more efficiently and often achieve better results.
Just when you thought a new era of disruption is upon us, another one comes right behind it. The latest disruption, 3D printing, is by some estimates predicted to have a greater impact on the world over the next 20 years than all of the innovations from the industrial revolution combined. 4D printing is a further evolution of 3D printing and is set to completely alter how we create and produce materials by adding the dimension of transformation over time into the creation process.
3D printing is currently transforming the manufacturing of everything from shoes, cars, space stations parts, buildings, and much more by allowing us to produce custom materials and products on demand. 3D printing leads to quicker response, reduced lead times, swift innovation, rapid manufacturing, reduced overhead, mass customization, mass production, use of unique materials, and economies of scale, according to Deloitte.
The technology holds so much promise that some companies are looking to build entire cities from massive 3D printers. A 3D-printing crane dubbed the Minitank can layer up to 2,153 square feet of concrete per day for the construction of buildings, making it 50 percent faster than traditional construction methods.
As 3D printing is now steadily changing the way we produce items, 4D printing is evolving right behind it. 4D printing involves 3D printing objects that can self-assemble and transform based on some external stimuli. For example, a table that assembles itself when you touch a part, or an airplane wing that transforms with wind speed, or a temperature-activated cardio stent. 4D printing is similar to 3D printing since it uses the same techniques of computer-programmed “printing” of layered materials to create a three-dimensional object. However, during the fabrication process of 4D printing, the printed produce reacts to external stimuli — heat, water, chemical, pressure, etc. — to self-assemble or change.
MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab is at the forefront of the 4D printing movement. The lab was created to see how researchers could 3D print an object without relying on sensors or chips. In order to make something “4D” — assemble itself or change precisely under certain conditions — a precise geometric code is used based on the object’s angles and dimensions, as well as measurements that dictate how it should change shape when interacting with outside forces.
“Normally, we print things and we think they’re done,” said Skylar Tibbits, a research scientist at MIT. “That’s the final output and then we assemble them. But we want them to be able to transform and change shape over time. And we want them to assemble themselves.”
Tibbits sees numerous uses for 4D printing technology, including footwear that can adapt to particular sports: “If I start running,” he said, “[the sneakers] should adapt to being running shoes. If I play basketball, they adapt to support my ankles more. If I go on grass, they should grow cleats or become waterproof if it’s raining. It’s not like the shoe would understand that you’re playing basketball, of course, but it can tell what kind of energy or what type of forces are being applied by your foot. It could transform based on pressure. Or it could be moisture or temperature change.”
Numerous organizations are pouring money in 4D printing research and development, including Airbus SAS who is using 4D-related “smart” material that reacts to temperature to cool jet engines and a wing that morphs according to aerodynamic conditions to decrease air resistance. Briggs Automotive Company is developing a morphable wing for its supercar that can adjust to external weather conditions and automatically adjust itself to provide maximum downforce to the car.
“The ability to program a particular area of the material and be able to activate it through heat, water, chemical reaction, pressure and many other external influences to actually do self-assembly. Altogether these represent what we believe will be the next industrial revolution and a fundamental transformation in manufacturing overall.” — Shane Wall, HP CTO
The U.S. Army Research Center is developing a variety of applications including a soldier’s uniform that can alter its camouflage or provide more effective protection against poisonous gases or shrapnel upon contact. Plus, the U.S. Army gave a grant to Harvard University, University of Pittsburgh and University of Illinois to explore ways the military could use self-assembling objects, including the possibility of shelters or bridges that assemble themselves.
Shane Wall, our chief technology officer at HP believes, “That is what 4D printing is about, self-assembly. The ability to program a particular area of the material and be able to activate it through heat, water, chemical reaction, pressure and many other external influences to actually do self-assembly. Altogether these represent what we believe will be the next industrial revolution and a fundamental transformation in manufacturing overall.”
Wall said 4D printing technology is not merely a novelty, but a necessity due to increasing urbanization caused by world population growth that is expected to reach 8 billion people over the next 30 years. This will cause an increase in “megacities — or cities with populations over 10 million people — from 10 in 1990 to 41 over the next ten years. This rapid urbanization will put an incredible demand on manufacturing and the distribution of materials.
The 4D printing industry is expected to be worth upwards of $537 million by 2025 and grow by a CAGR of 42.95 percent between 2019 and 2025. This is being driven by the need to reduce the costs of manufacturing and processing in the face of an increasing focus to ensure a sustainable environment.
“A 4D printed product would incur lesser manufacturing, transportation, and handling costs, which, in turn, would lead to the saving of resources and efforts, thereby sustaining the environment,” according to a report by Grandview Research.
The primary materials segments used for 4D printing are programmable carbon fiber, programmable wood grain, and programmable textiles, with the programmable carbon fiber segment expected to be the largest segment in the overall 4D printing market, according to the Grandview Research.
Since programmable carbon fiber has high stiffness, low weight, and tensile strength, it can be beneficial for many industrial applications, says Grandview Research. It can be autonomously transformed by printing active material on flexible carbon fiber using heat as an activator and it doesn’t require complex electronics, actuators, or sensors.
4D printing to save lives
The healthcare industry is set to take advantage of 4D printing since 4D printed products will be responsive to body needs once ejected in the human body. This could be used for tissue engineering, self-assembling human-scale biomaterials, design of nanoparticles, and nanorobots for chemotherapy. A Frost & Sullivan report finds that 4D printing is still in its infancy and not yet ready for widespread use, yet the potential for the technology in the medical field is significant.
“The potential of this technology to create programmable biological materials that can change shape and properties can be a foundation for enabling smart pharmacology, personalized medicine, and programmable cells and tissues that could be employed in precisely targeted treatments for a number of diseases,” the report notes.
A researcher at the University of Michigan developed a 3D printed splint that can hold open airways of newborn children for two to three years, then absorb into the body. The device was successfully implanted in four babies. Medical researchers are also looking into using 4D biomaterials to help adults correct skeletal applications like facial reconstruction or rebuilding ears.
After about 4.5 billion years of solid research and development, nature has developed some ingenious solutions. From transporting water and nutrients up a 300-foot-tall redwood tree to defying gravity, nature has developed some of the best known methods for life to adapt and thrive.
Researchers and scientists have been increasingly keen to study nature in search of new innovations. Sometimes, they simply present themselves. Velcro, for example was created after a Swiss scientist went on a hike in the Alps and noticed that burdock burrs were stuck on his clothes and his dog. It took him 10 years to develop velcro, but now he’s resting comfortably having given the world a new way to stick.
BioConvergence is, put simply, the study of nature and the application of natural processes and phenomena to innovation. Technically it’s the convergence of biological, physical, and computing technologies inspired by nature. This field is now developing some of the most exciting and innovative developments in science and technology, including new materials and new fabrication processes for more efficient and resilient products.
Researchers are drawing on BioConvergence to find efficient, diverse, and ingenious approaches to problem-solving. New solutions are needed now more than ever, as the world’s population is expected to expand to an estimated 8.5 billion people by 2030, including 1 billion new people joining the middle class and consuming more resources. Concerns over sustainability as it relates to these projected needs are prompting new approaches to how we harness energy, consume resources and produce products.
The following are some examples of how BioConvergence is transforming the world as we know it.
In a future where demand could outweigh resources, alternative materials and fabrication methods may be needed–and soon. While previously the majority of our product manufacturing relied on a subtractive and replicative fabrication, we are now seeing increasing interest and use of additive manufacturing processes, that will give us greater control and less waste in product fabrication.
This form of manufacturing allows us to spend more time focusing on the detail of materials properties and science we are actually using to make fabrication and manufacturing more efficient and to increase throughput. It also inspires us to create products with varying material customization and personalization. It’s akin to the organization of cellulose fibers in the branch of a tree give the tree branch flexibility and yield. These properties are substantially different from the material in the trunk of the same tree. It’s the same wood but their mechanical properties are different based on the function of that region of the wood. We are moving into a world where instead of removing material, we add details needed by modifying the material rather than assembling another part.
Additive manufacturing, is an area HP is helping to pioneer and advance with its Jet Fusion technology. With HP’s Jet Fusion technology, users can control a material’s properties, such as color, mechanical strength,texture, elasticity, electrical and thermal conductivity, index of refraction, opacity, and more. This technology allows for the manufacture of parts with different qualities from common material. A part can have durable, hard surfaces with low friction where contact and wear will occur, and a differing index of refraction in another area.
Bioinspired materials are synthetic materials whose structure, properties or function mimic those of natural materials or living matter. Examples of bioinspired materials are light-harvesting photonic materials that mimic photosynthesis, structural composites that imitate the structure of nacre (aka mother-of-pearl), and metal actuators inspired by the movements of jellyfish.
With the rise of 3D printing, greater inspiration is being gleaned from nature to construct new materials, substitute existing materials and develop new fabrication processes.
“Biological systems have clearly shown that large numbers of molecules, structures, and systems in living organisms possess attractive materials properties that are beyond the reach of current nonbiological synthetic approaches,” states the Materials Research to Meet 21st-Century Defense Needs paper by the National Academies Press. “Many of these molecules, structures, systems, and natural fabrication processes could serve as the basis for synthetic materials with enhanced properties.”
The bones of a bird have inspired new forms of concrete. While a bird’s bones are somewhat hollow, they are highly resilient and efficient, rather than fragile. The Technical University Munich (TUM) is experimenting with 3D printing to create lightweight cement pipes with a network of internal supports, similar to a bird’s bones. With a focus on structural efficiency vs. structural volume. Meeting physical requirements with minimalistic design.
“The design was inspired by the bone of a bird: very thin and light, but still very stable,” said Dr. Klaudius Henke, TUM Chair of Timber Structures and Building Construction, “It would be impossible to make it using traditional methods. 3D printing will change architecture. The technology not only allows more versatile shaping, but also more variety, since each component can be individually designed without incurring any additional costs.”
DNA digital data storage
The natural world is also inspiring researchers pondering our growing data problem. By 2040, the demand for global memory is expected to exceed the projected supply of silicon, the raw material for flash memory, according to some scientists. This is based on projected use of data, which continues to be consumed each year at an exponential rate.
Scientists are seeking solutions by looking to nature’s most efficient storage unit: DNA. DNA is three dimensional, lending vastly more storage space per unit area compared to conventional hard drives, which store information on a two-dimensional surface. Through DNA digital storage, scientists found a way to store 215 petabytes, or 215 million gigabytes– roughly equivalent to all the data on the internet — in a single gram of DNA. DNA is made of nucleotides: chemical “building blocks” of phosphate, sugar and nitrogen. As a raw material, it is highly compact and can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place.
“DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete,” said Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University.
Information has been extracted from DNA in bones that are 700,000 years old. And, this memory uses 100 million times less energy than storing data electronically in flash.
Energy through osmosis
A 300-foot coastal redwood tree transports water and nutrients from deep in the ground, through its trunk, out and up its bark and leaves via its nutrient transport system. This incredible feat has inspired scientists to harness the energy of osmotic reactions to produce renewable energy.
In Tofte, Norway, a prototype power plant was created that uses osmotic processes to generate carbon-free electricity. For this power plant, energy is generated as a result of the concentration gradient in places where freshwater meets dense salt water, as it does along coastlines all over the world.
“We critically need more green energy in the world,” said Skilhagen, Statkraft’s Head of Osmotic Power. “Osmotic can be a valuable contributor. It’s a base load renewable energy. You can make electricity from the combination of fresh water and sea water.”
Statkraft’s plant pulls salt water and fresh water from nearby sources and places them into adjoining chambers separated with a thin, permeable membrane. The freshwater forces its way through to the salt water, creating pressure on the salt water side that turns an energy turbine.
One day osmotic power could generate 1700 TWh of electricity per year, which is about half of the European Union’s current consumption, Skilhagen believes.
To read how computers can simulate the brain, and the rest of the article, head over to HPMegatrends.com.
I want to hear your thoughts, too! Leave a comment below or join in on the Twitter conversation by using the hashtag#MegatrendsbyHP and tweeting me at @AndrewBolwell.
Strategic investments give HP an eye to the future
One of the primary goals for many corporate venture capital units is to help their company capture future opportunities early. Technology change is happening exponentially around us, and no single company can compete in the world today using just internally developed technology. The successful companies of today and tomorrow, by necessity, will need to embrace open innovation and partner closely with the start-up and venture communities to leverage the full breadth and depth of technology innovation that is taking place around us.
Investing in start-ups provides companies not only with foresight about the markets of tomorrow but optionality to enter those markets by partnering with or acquiring startups to bootstrap and accelerate market entry. Investing in start-ups has many benefits to companies like HP, both strategic and financial. It’s never a choice between the two, as a good investment will have strong strategic value and returns.
Successful investing means aligning a complex array of variables. Starting with understanding the financial viability of the investment and likelihood the start-up can achieve a successful exit (via acquisition) or IPO, and at a valuation that makes the investment worthwhile. Next, you need to look at the strategic impact to the company and if the investment aligns with the vision and strategic objectives of the company. Finally, you need to negotiate terms that make sense for both and the start-up, ensuring is strategically positioned as an investor and advisor, and providing the guidance and financial backing the start-up needs to succeed long-term.
So how does a company move through this process efficiently, always keeping strategic and financial objectives in mind?
What happens when computers become intelligent? We are just now beginning to see what this future may look like, as gains in artificial intelligence (AI) are increasing. From intelligent self-driving cars, to AI-powered robot surgeons and smart factories, computers and machines that can learn and adapt will soon change the world as we know it.
While we are still in the nascent phase of AI technology, billions of dollars are being spent on research and development, helping to accelerate AI advancements. IDC predicts AI spending will increase by more than 50 percent year over year and reach $57.6 billion in investments by 2021.
One industry poised for massive disruption from AI-led technology is transportation. Leading automotive manufacturers and technology companies are in a heated race to develop fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) for use as taxis, commercial transportation, personal transportation and more.
All major car manufacturers are currently exploring AV technology. Each day in Arizona, hundreds AVs developed by Google’s Waymo, Lyft, General Motors and Intel roam the streets of Phoenix and other cities. Arizona lawmakers intentionally created minimal regulations for AVs in order to attract AV-related companies, which encouraged a sort of tech boom in the state. Safety advocates have criticized the state’s lax approach, claiming that more regulations around safety, auto cybersecurity, insurance and privacy have not been worked out.
While AVs for personal transportation have garnered a great deal of attention, AI is now disrupting virtually all other areas of transportation. Uber, Waymo and other companies are testing and using autonomous cargo trucks to deliver goods. GE transportation is actively using AI to develop “intelligent” locomotives to improve efficiency of rail transport and Hitachi is using AI to reduce power consumption. Major airline companies already use autopilot technology to do most of the work once a plane is in the sky and can even land a plane in inclement weather. Now they are researching how AI can replace more of a pilot’s responsibilities.
AI is even having an impact on city infrastructure and planning of cities. The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a call for proposals from cities looking into smart infrastructures. It will award 40 million dollars to a city that can demonstrate how to solve critical municipal challenges using innovative transportation technologies, data and applications.
“It is very clear to us that autonomous technology will fundamentally change the industry,” said Michael Ableson, GM’s vice president of global portfolio planning and strategy. “There is no greater impact on the industry than self-driving cars.”
The brains behind self-driving vehicles Soon, we may well see the road filled with AVs. According to WinterGreen Research, over 90 million autonomous-capable consumer vehicles, cars and light trucks will be on the road worldwide by 2023.
In order for this to happen, a fully functioning, safe AV needs an enormous amount of computing resources, power and AI that can sort through large amounts of data in milliseconds. The biggest challenge facing AVs is to improve the software powered by machine learning and AI to correctly interpret data that is fed through the car’s sensors. It needs to safely drive a vehicle through various weather scenarios and identify and respond to other cars, animals, pedestrians, bike riders and more. In other words, the AI that controls self-driving cars needs to be error-free. “This is not a recommendation engine for Netflix,” said Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive at chipmaker Nvidia. “The AI has to be spot on.”
AI is already being used for AVs today, including Tesla’s Autopilot system that helps drivers navigate highways and parking lots. Tesla claims every vehicle it produces has the ability for complete, autonomous driving, yet it will only be activated when the necessary software and government regulations are in place.
Cameras inside certain vehicles now identify drivers and track eye position to see if the driver is distracted or asleep. Cars also now identify and predict potential cross traffic danger. Auto braking features that prevent collisions are in place. In fact, if you have a 2017 car, it most likely has level two partial automation features, which can be steering assistance and accelerating or decelerating under certain situations, as defined by the Taxonomy and Definition for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems. The next three levels in the classification system are all based on vehicles with automated driving systems that monitor and respond to the environment.
As we continue the road to AI-enabled AVs, here are some other exciting details that are expected to emerge in the coming years:
Automotive self-diagnostics and maintenance As automobiles become more like computers with wheels, they are increasingly becoming connected and, with artificial intelligence capabilities, will predictively identify maintenance needs. By combining data from advanced Internet of Things sensors, maintenance logs and other external sources, AI will help with better prediction and avoidance of machine failure, according to McKinsey. This could reduce maintenance costs by up to 10 percent.
Predii, a company that provides a platform that enables organizations greater efficiency for repairs and maintenance, predicts that connected cars will be a source of high-frequency data for predictive and proactive maintenance.
“The availability of continuous streams of data from vehicles will empower vehicle monitoring businesses which are responsible for continuous health checks of your vehicle or fleets of vehicles,” according to a white paper by Predii. “Intelligent repair solutions will monitor check engine lights, diagnostic trouble codes, symptoms and data from advanced driver assistance systems.”
Automated cars are programmed to obey laws Imagine intelligent cars that can drive somebody home who has consumed too much alcohol. Or takes over the wheel if somebody falls asleep. One of the key predicted benefits of having AVs on our roadways is the reduction of traffic accidents. In 2017, there were an estimated 40,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S., with more than 90 percent of them caused by human error, according to the National Safety Council.
Self driving cars are far better than humans at obeying traffic laws, since they are programed to do so. They don’t text and drive, or drive under the influence of alcohol, or drive too fast, which makes them much safer than humans.
Government traffic planners are optimistic that AVs won’t go over the speed limit, which will produce more cohesive and calm roadways with fewer accidents, according to a report last year on speed limits by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Car Rental Companies become Self-Driving Car Fleet management operators If a car can drive itself, do we really need to own our own vehicle? Can’t we call Uber to pick us up in one of their AV taxis? That’s the question posed by various automakers, technology and rental car companies, who envision a near future full of “robot taxis” through a ride sharing or rental car service. This “on-demand autonomous” vehicle is a vision of Michael Ableson, GM’s vice president of global portfolio planning and strategy. And it’s why GM paid $500 million for a stake and a strategic alliance in Lyft, the second biggest ridesharing service behind Uber. Ford isn’t far behind, since in August 2016 the company announced a “high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle for ride sharing” by 2021.
With a fleet of AVs, car-sharing companies are expected to have a coherent view of an AV fleet, monitor and manage it, detect issues and enforce policies. Operators can gather data of each individual vehicle including location, mileage, fuel consumption, driving behaviors and even if a door is left open. The AVs can then be remotely controlled to drive to service stations for repair and refueling.
Reroute traffic based on congestion, accidents, etc. Google maps and other map-based apps have already helped road warriors find the shortest route possible to their destination. As AVs include greater connectivity, the AI behind it can gather data regarding traffic patterns, accidents and slows downs and appropriately — and automatically — reroute for optimal travel. This will help to ultimately lessen traffic congestion.
Tesla’s complete self-driving system will use GPS technology to find the optimal route to its given destination. If the car isn’t given a destination, it can check the owner’s calendar to determine the best destination or take the owner home.
Vehicles as “digital living environments” It now takes the average U.S. worker 25 minutes to travel to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. AVs are expected to free up time for passengers to focus other tasks, including work, socializing, viewing entertainment, etc. Bosch has created a show car to display the company’s “digital living environment” inside AVs. It features large-surface monitors with the ability to have video conferences, display real-time traffic and weather information, email accessibility and entertainment options.
“Alongside the home and the office, the car will become the third living environment and a personal assistant,” said Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner.
Autonomous truck services In October 2016, the world’s first successful autonomous truck delivery was completed when an Uber truck carried 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer over a distance of 120 miles from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, CO. Now Uber’s autonomous trucks are delivering goods throughout Arizona. Other AV companies are following suit.
A report by the International Transport Forum claims autonomous delivery vehicles will save costs, lower emissions and improve road safety, compared with trucks operated by humans. New autonomous trucks will have the ability to perform a host of delivery duties including pick up garbage, deliver packages and food, and a numerous other services. All these services can be optimized through advanced logistics for traffic flow.
Public transportation safety and usage optimization Public transportation also stands to benefit from the use of AVs and the associated logistics operations systems.
In Helsinki, Finland, trial is underway where an autonomous bus transports up to a dozen passengers at a time through a quarter-mile route with restaurants and saunas. The city is expected to expand the trial and provide autonomous bus services throughout the city, in order to measure customer response and basic operations data.
“There’s a lot of demand to solve the last-mile problem,” said Harri Santamala, the city’s project coordinator, referring to the challenge of transporting passengers from centralized transit hubs to their final destinations. “I think this is something we could do with automatic buses. On a real-time basis, we can adjust how they drive and where they make the connection. We’ve learned with this pilot that you can be flexible and synchronize with this technology. We could scale this up to the entire fleet.”
Metro Magazine suggests numerous benefits to a municipal transit system powered by autonomous buses:
Trip-planning information is integrated across modes and agencies (public and private), so the general public has the ability to evaluate their travel options with comprehensive information on travel time, cost, environmental impact, and more.
Real-time schedules for all transportation modes are centrally available.
Vehicles and transit schedules are “right-sized” so fleets are used effectively and there are no more empty buses.
Fare payment is made electronically and only one payment is needed for each whole trip.
Travel times are generally predictable and well-communicated.
Lower income and people with disability populations have access to all of these services.
The future of AVs are near A world of intelligent vehicles is no longer a novel science fiction idea, but a near future. Passenger busses, taxis, personal vehicles, airplanes, trains and more are set to improve the way we get around. Ford, GE, Volkswagen, Audi, Toyota, Ford, BMW and Nissan are all hard at work creating and testing AVs they say will be road ready by 2020. And the U.S. Secretary of Transportation stated at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto show that he expects driverless cars to be in use all over the world within the next 10 years.
This AI-driven transportation revolution is expected to make our roadways safer, ease traffic congestions, make our transportation systems more efficient and make transportation more enjoyable. And, the trend toward urbanization might be reversed as AVs give people more time to work and be productive.
AI’s potential impact on transportation is immense. Advancements will continue to reshape the industry, how we drive, deliver and ship goods on earth and possibly in space in the future. Get ready to start your AI-powered engines.