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Innovation in the Automobile Industry

In the 1900s the automobile industry was the most important and innovation industry in the USA.  But one could question if this was good for our society in the long run.  And one could question if they actually innovated.  See Russ Ackoff's 1994 speech "You see, the automobile is destroying urban life around the world..." 11 minutes mark.

In the early 1900s there were few automobiles, very little infrastructure created to support the industry.  For example the road system was still designed for horse drawn wagons and the wagon wheel (remember a steal rim and wooden compression spoke wheel).  The future US Highways, or the 1950s Interstate Highway System at the cost of $425 billion were decades and many innovations away. There was no gas service station, there were however horse stables, farriers, and blacksmiths in each town along the roads.  There was no real "road map", there was no road naming system, like was created in 1926 - the United States Numbered Highway System.

The industry employees millions of people, and was a large factor in the economy of the USA.  It created or was created by major cities in the USA - for example Detroit.  Countless pattens are related to the industry, yet what has been truly innovative about the industry.  I'm sure we could list wonderful innovations from the industry.
Roberts Electric Car -1896
This is a partial list, but if you look at the history of each of these inventions a pattern emerges.  The pattern is one of slow innovation, delay in introduction of improvements, and sometimes downright refusal to adopt life saving improvements without government interventions.  But the innovation that tops them all is the internal combustion engine.  The first automobiles had a variety of propulsion methods.  The combination of petrol's energy storage and the internal combustion engine create a real innovation.  However it wasn't a quick adoption either.  And it displaced a technology that might have been a better alternative - the electric vehicle (e.g. the 1896 Roberts EV gets 40 miles on a charge, same as the 2010 GM Volt).  Yes, early options were both steam driven and electric motor driven autos.  So why did the petrol version win the market share?



Perhaps it had something to do with the petroleum industry - a synergy of innovations.  The ease of oil drilling and distillation created a ready source of energy in a compact form for use in autos.  And the two industries became very powerful.  Capable of controlling the political process with respect to  many aspects of air quality, safety of the populations, protection of the environment, legislation of all types, and the ability to protect access to  resources via waging wars.

Had the electrical generation and distribution industry been a few decades earlier in development perhaps we would have a different transportation system.  One that was based on Telsa's AC Motor and wireless power transmission.  Perhaps we would be 20 years closer had GM not killed the EV in 1990s.
Tesla Roadster vs Bugatti Chiron
This morning (Jan. 2018) sitting in the Original Pancake House, the table beside us was talking of Tesla Motor Company and the CEO Elon, as if they were the best of pals and they were very proud of Elon's many endeavors.  Being a stock holder I found this overheard conversation encouraging.  And it go me thinking ... do I know the CEO's of any of the other auto companies?  No, no I don't, I wonder if you do?  Then investigating I ran across this article:

New CEO Jim Hackett has promised a new way forward for Ford, including "a total redesign of the surface transportation system with humans and community at the center."
And one article leads to the other:

That starts with two new, fully electric models next year—then at least 18 more by 2023.
Yet, innovation comes from the disruptors:

"Dyson has vast experience with electric motors, and is constantly working to make them more powerful and efficient. Those motors, which power everything from air conditioners, to pool pumps, to heavy machinery, use 40 percent of electricity globally. Making them even a little bit better would lead to big energy savings—and give Dyson a competitive advantage."
"Toyota starts a new $2.8B company to develop self-driving software; the company called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, or TRI-AD wants to create every part of a self-driving car, from the wheels to the software."

Toyota also started a new company Toyota Connected (a Microsoft partnership in April, 2016) with a mission to "re-imagines the use of data and technology to deliver effortless services that make life easier and driving safer, more convenient and fun."

"Mastering the art of past and predictive intelligence, Toyota Connected is determined to improve the human experience through technology that anticipates your needs and makes sure you’re exactly where you want to be when you want to be there."

Toyota has found itself to be lagging the industry in innovations, having outsourced most of it's innovation to other companies with competencies outside auto manufacturing (ex: OnStar & GM, 2000 - "Toyota goes OnStar: Further blurring the "us vs. them" attitude in car wars is the announcement by Toyota that it will soon offer General Motors' OnStar emergency communications service as an option in cars sold in the U.S. "If customers want OnStar, we will offer it," Kosuke Yamamoto, a Toyota executive vice-president, told Reuters.").  If you follow the brand you may remember (2009) Safety Connect for Toyotas, Enform for the Lexus (Entune platform).


See Also:
Nokia's CEO Elop's Announces a Burning Platform - What does a good Product Owner Need?

From Names to Numbers: The Origins of the U.S. Numbered Highway System by Richard F. Weingroff

Facts About My Chevy Volt from: My Electric Vehicle Journey

Steve Job's 2001 eHub strategy plays out... What competes with an iPad?

Henry Ford:  Master of Lean Agile Processes - Agile Connection
"Time to build a Model T car went from 12.5 hours to just 93 minutes, cutting 11 hours of waste out of an already profitable system."
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