Plea to Detroit: Less Tech, Please

 Go Lean Commentary

It’s competition time for the cockpits of today’s automobiles.CU Blog - Plea to Detroit - Less Tech, Please - Photo 1

The appeal here is being made to Detroit. In this case the city is referenced as a metonym for the Automaker Planners and Decision-makers. Metonyms are frequent references in the book Go Lean…Caribbean, with the following considerations:

Silicon Valley – Page 30 – American High Tech Center
Wall Street – Page 155 – Big Banks/Financial Centers
Hollywood – Page 203 – US Movie/TV/Media Producers

This book Go Lean… Caribbean, serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This effort will marshal the region to avail the opportunities associated with technology and automobiles – there is a plan to foster a local automotive industry. In fact The CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

Automakers are competing in a “space race” for more and more technology in the cockpits (Car decks and Heads-Up Display) of cars. This is not always good; as related by the following news/opinion writer:

By: John C. Abell, Senior Editor
Title: My Plea to Detroit: Less Tech, Please

CU Blog - Plea to Detroit - Less Tech, Please - Photo 2I once ranted that the only thing I wanted in a “smart” TV was Bluetooth. I was only half kidding. But car-markers are going down the same road as some TV set manufacturers by bloating their products with too much of the wrong tech, adding expense and complexity that we do not need. “We took a look from the ground up of what a self-driving car would look like,” Brin said.

“Smart” has become an overused modifier for devices that are better off dumb. Do you really need a connected refrigerator that tells you to buy milk and streams music?

You aren’t going to be forced to buy a smart fridge. There are too many other choices. But if automakers aren’t stopped they will install useless, redundant technology as standard equipment for you will have to buy, maintain and even keep paying subscription fees to justify the existence of something you didn’t need in the first place.

Consider today’s news of Ford’s latest attempt to market an in-dash tech system. Let’s leave aside the safety discussion about whether the driver should be messing around with pinch-to-zoom multitouch screens and looking for entertainment while operating a massive vehicle at highway speeds. Let’s also concede that voice control addresses much of the safety concern and that the quiet, serene environment that is a car interior is made for that kind of interface.

I’m still stuck on a basic question: What cabin technology can an automaker build into a car that I can’t bring myself, more cheaply? What I need, still, only, is Bluetooth and a comfortable seat for my smartphone, which is as smart as can be and always with me.

There’s ample history to push back against so-called tech advancement in cars.

In the year 2000 President Clinton opened up the satellite GPS tracking system to anybody at a resolution of down to 10 meters. That 10-fold improvement suddenly made military-grade tech practical for your family car. Companies like Garmin and Magellan, which had been catering to sporting folk, found a new market. And newcomers like TomTom and Dash got into the game.

As a chronic early adopter I have owned several stand-alone GPS units and have always resisted buying $2,000 in-dash GPS because I could always get $200 on-dash equivalents. And then smartphones became the only GPS device you needed, reducing the cost to about zero while also making the device infinitely portable. Goodbye Garmin.

Carmakers merely co-opted a good idea, charging us a stiff premium for what it presented as essentially style choice. Remember that theme …

Several automakers tout that their cars are “Pandora ready.” Who cares? Pandora is only one of more than 100 streaming music services, has fewer than half the subscribers of Spotify and about a million fewer songs than major rivals. And — oh yeah — Apple recently got into the game with a native iPhone service that oddly enough looks and feels exactly like its more established predecessors.

Detroit has also discovered hotspots and thinks it’s doing you a favor building that into your next car. GM and Ford, the Wall Street Journal reports, are convinced “technology offerings are increasingly important to new car buyers. A total of 38% of those buying domestic vehicles cite the latest technology features as a reason for their purchase, according to a recent survey by automotive consultants J.D. Power and Associates.”

Sigh. Here’s an opportunity for you to pay for yet another data plan, in addition to the one you use at home and the one you use on your phone. Or, instead, you can remember that your phone is a 4G hotspot, and that some plans don’t charge you more to use it. Want something even more robust? Get a MiFi for a hotspot that you also don’t have to leave in your car and has excellent battery life.

I’m a little less sure that OnStar has outlived its usefulness. This service — which pre-dates the GPS and mobile phone revolution — is a uniquely human-powered concierge service that many will find valuable for that kind of piece of mind. But if a panic button is all you need, it’s probably overkill. Plus, they are serious boosters of Bluetooth, so good for them.

Instead of adding to sticker shock with shiny things Detroit should take a look at what appliance companies like GE and Whirlpool are doing. Connected appliances leverage the smartphone their designers very safely assume you already have. So your smart oven won’t remind you that it’s your anniversary, but it will respond to a command to pre-heat that you might send as you leave the supermarket.

Like appliance makers, automaker need to realize that the smartphone has become the ultimate universal remote and gateway that they cannot and should not try to improve upon. Save the innovation for under the hood — and for making the cabin as smartphone friendly as possible.
Are you among the 38% J.D. Powers say are enticed by “technology offerings” or does your car still have roll-up windows? Are you in the auto industry and convinced that in-cabin tech is the future?
Linked-In Blogger: John C Abell  (Posted 12-12-2014) –

This assessment on Detroit is being made from … Detroit. In addition to the automotive industry, there is a lot of economic lessons to learn from the city itself. This once great industrial center has endured a failed-city status – 18 months under Bankruptcy Court oversight – and is now strategizing a turn-around. There is a lot of parallel with Caribbean communities, except for the lack of core competence in the automotive industry space. (The Go Lean book describes other core competencies related to the Caribbean – Page 58).

The Caribbean region cannot ignore technological advances and industrial developments. This means jobs; for today and tomorrow. The automotive industry have always been a source of high-paying jobs that transformed society. The Go Lean book relates the factor of high-job multipliers, where each direct job in a community creates multiple indirect jobs – the automotive industry is #1 for job multipliers. The roadmap’s quest to increase the regional economy and create 2.2 million new jobs, must consider all dimensions of this industry. We can  learn so much about job creation from Detroit.

This is the declaration of the book Go Lean…Caribbean. This purports that a new industrial revolution is emerging and Caribbean society must engage. This is  pronounced in the Declaration of Interdependence (Page 14), with these opening statements:

xxvii. Whereas the Caribbean region must have new jobs to empower the engines of the economy and create the income sources for prosperity, and encourage the next generation to forge their dreams right at home, the Federation must therefore foster the development of new industries, like that of ship-building, automobile manufacturing, pre-fabricated housing, frozen foods, pipelines, call centers, and the prison industrial complex. In addition, the Federation must invigorate the enterprises related to existing industries like tourism, fisheries and lotteries – impacting the region with more jobs.

xxviii. Whereas the region has endured a spectator status during the Industrial Revolution, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this new economy, the Information Revolution. Rather, the Federation must embrace all the tenets of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to serve as an equalizing element in competition with the rest of the world. The Federation must bridge the digital divide and promote the community ethos that research/development is valuable and must be promoted and incentivized for adoption.

There is a lot at stake for the Caribbean in considering this subject area. One Caribbean icon/artist, Bob Marley, wrote not to be a “stock on the shelf” (“Pimpers Paradise” Uprising Album 1980). The region’s 42 million people demand a supply of innovative automobiles – real innovation, not just fluff to increase the sticker price as reported in the foregoing article. We do not only want to consume, we want to supply!

Producing and not only consuming has been a consistent theme in prior Go Lean blog/commentaries, sampled here:

Role Model Shaking Up the World of Cancer Research & Innovation
Where the Jobs Are – Computers Reshaping Global Job Market
Where the Jobs Are – One Scenario: Ship-breaking
STEM Jobs Are Filling Slowly; Despite High Demand
Google conducting research for highway safety innovations
Ghost ships – Autonomous cargo vessels without a crew

The Go Lean book provides a roadmap for developing and fostering a domestic automotive industry. The process starts with a spirit/attitude to not tolerate the status quo. This spirit is described in the book as a community ethos for research-and-development. The book details other ethos to adopt, plus the executions of the following strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to forge innovation and industrial growth in Caribbean communities:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – People Respond to Incentives Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – “Crap” Happens Page 23
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Return on Investments (ROI) Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Research & Development Page 30
Community Ethos – Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Agents of Change – Technology Page 48
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – How to Calculate GDP Page 67
Tactical – Growing Economy – New High Multiplier Industries Page 68
Separation of Powers – Public Works & Infrastructure Page 82
Separation of Powers – Department of Transportation Page 84
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Planning – 10 Big Ideas Page 127
Planning – Lessons from Detroit Page 140
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Technology Page 197
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Transportation Page 205
Advocacy – Ways to Develop the Auto Industry Page 206
Appendix – Job Multipliers – Detroit 11.0 Rate #1 of all industries Page 260

The laws of supply and demand is the bedrock of economics. This roadmap to elevate Caribbean society must lead first with a strong economic plan. The goal is to increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so this means more domestic consumption and less imports. This is possible in the automotive industry space if the new domestic automotive product offerings are appealing and innovative. The Caribbean region has historically been slow at adopting technological innovation. But change has now come to the Caribbean! This is bigger than just being the first to adopt new innovation; we want to be the innovators.

The focus is automotive and yet the topic featured in the foregoing article include phrases like Internet Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, music streaming (Pandora & Spotify) and satellite concierge. This is not your “grandfather’s Chevrolet”; yet this is not even the future; this is the present state of “Detroit”!

The insights from the foregoing article and the embedded VIDEO below, help us to appreciate that the future is now! We, the Caribbean region, want to be consequential in that future, not just “a stock on the shelf”. With the proper planning, preparation and participation, we help to make our homeland a better place to live, work and play. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix VIDEO: CNET On Cars – Car Tech 101: The future of head-up displays –

Published on Nov 24, 2014 – Head-up displays are starting to show up everywhere. Brian Cooley tells you why HUDs may be the next revolution in car tech.


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