Looking Out - The Podcast: Ep. 6

In this episode:

GMs post-CarPlay Culture

So GMs gone out on a limb and said they’re ditching Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for their next generation of cars. To help them on their way, they’ve hired Mike Abbot, formerly head of Apple’s (notoriously) flakey iCloud services.

But we reckon that hiring a big name from another sector won’t be enough to fulfil GMs connected car ambitions. The company will need to fundamentally rethink their culture, and we offer a few ideas for how they might get started.

The Paris Scooter Ban

Despite a voter turnout of only 7%, 89% of those voters decided to ban eScooters from the streets of Paris.

In one of the cities we’ve previously noted as on of the most progressive when it comes to adopting micromobility solutions, one which has invested heroically in reducing the dominance of the car, it was a sad day.

Joe references some research that shows why Parisians might have felt so strongly about the arrival of the scooters (hint: it has to do with parking), and we talk about the long arc of change in our city environments, and how we might work with it, rather than against it.

Generative AI and Auto Industry Biases

As the world debates whether AI is going to kill us or save us, some automotive designers have taken to generative AI tools like DALL.E and MidJourney with unsurpassed glee.

But as Drew reveals, the tools are currently perpetuating the worst of the automotive industry’s biases when it comes to gender diversity, representation, and inclusion.

It’s a rapidly evolving space and a split is already emerging between designers who love the tools, and those who are against the creative theft that underlies the models on which they’re based.

We talk about the need for car companies to consciously and intentionally engage with these topics to make sure they’re not caught up in another Volkswagen/Xinjinang situation.

That’s it for this episode! Thanks for listening.

If you like what you hear, please leave a review for us on your favourite podcasting platform. It helps other folk like you find us!

And you can sign up for Looking Out - The Newsletter, the sidekick to our podcast, here: automobility.substack.com

Show produced by Chris Frith

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  • The End of Grey at Fiat - Fiat takes a stand against the dull days of grey
  • AI Is a Lot of Work - an article looking at the vast numbers of people needed to classify the content that informs artificial intelligence models

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July 19, 2023 Podcast GM AI Micromobility

Looking Out - The Podcast: Ep. 5

In this very special episode, Joe and Drew revisit Drew’s interview with the father of micromobility, Horace Dediu.

This isn’t the first time this interview’s gone to air. You may have heard it first time around on Drew’s other podcast, The Next Billion Seconds, or on Horace’s own Micromobility podcast.

It is, however, the first time we’ve sat down to discuss the many implications of what Horace shares for automotive design and strategy.

If you want to cut to our analysis, fast forward to these points:

what does it mean for the industry to make a worse car, and where might we start? (starting at 24m 57s) how does looking down versus looking out change how we think about designing for automobility? (starting at 50m) and just how screwed are the economics of automobiles in a heavily urbanised future? (starting at 1h 14m 57s)

But of course, we’d love you to listen to the whole thing!

Show produced by Chris Frith

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May 15, 2023 Podcast Horace Dedieu Micromobility Design Strategy

Looking Out - The Podcast: Ep. 4

In this episode of Looking Out - The Podcast, Joe and Drew discuss:

BMWs i Vision Dee, why some folk find her scary, and what she says about BMWs future

Why is it that a lot of folk in the West find robots scary and a lot of folk in the East don’t?

It’s a story that goes way back: about 400 years in the West, and about a thousand years in the East.

It’s also the lens through which we unpick BMWs virtual personal assistant, known as Dee, and her deep integration into their latest concept car.

Is the era of the Ultimate Driving Machine finally coming to an end? And is the Ultimate Entertainment Machine really what’s going to replace it?

(For a deeper dive on i Vision Dee, read Drew’s take here.)

Joe’s surprisingly normal Christmas run in an EV from Gothenburg to Leeds

Who’d have thought that Joe and his family would run out of range before his wife’s Polestar 2? But that’s precisely what happened on the family trip home for Christmas, as toilet breaks, driver swaps and snack stops intervened before the car ran out of charge.

Across the 3,227 kilometres, Joe learned that the factors limiting EV adoption in Europe are less to do with absolute range and the availability of chargers, and more to do with how people think about recharging versus refuelling.

It’s a mindset shift that we need to make if we’re to manage the compromises between vehicle cost, range, weight and safety. But, we wonder, when - and how - is the industry going to tackle that?

Why CES left us longing for a more systemic approach from the auto industry to the challenges we face

The Consumer Electronics Show is the most significant motor show — by a different name — on the global calendar. Suppliers and OEMs alike head there to share their take on the future of the car, and the future of mobility.

It’s quite ironic that they do so in isolated conference halls dispersed across an impossible-to-walk city in the middle of the desert. We reckon it speaks to a deep philosophical challenge that the automotive industry is facing: how do we better integrate our products and services in to existing sociocultural and economic systems, rather than imposing ourselves upon them?

Joe also gives a preview of an upcoming piece for Looking Out - The Newsletter about the Tesla Semi, and Drew wonders what Apple’s struggles in China might mean for the automotive industry.

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January 30, 2023 Podcast BMW i Vision Dee Electrification Charging Polestar

Looking Out - The Podcast: Ep. 3

In this episode of Looking Out - The Podcast, we discuss:

The success of Hyundai design and how — to the surprise of many — Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis are becoming aspirational brands.

Sure, Peter Schreyer and his acolytes from VW, Bentley and Lamborghini have had a massive impact.

But we’re also seeing the fruit born form seeds sown much earlier, with Giorgetto Giugiaro’s delightful Pony Coupe concept recently reimagined as the N Vision 74.

For us, the South Korean brands have become some of the standard bearers of genuinely interesting, aspirational design.

The implications of Apple demoting design and how this could affect other companies.

People often talk about the magic pairing that was Steve Jobs (the visionary) and Jony Ive (the designer), but without Tim Cook (the executor), Apple wouldn’t be anything like the success it is today.

But with Jobs and Ive now long gone, and continued churn in the design ranks, there’s been precious little genuinely new — or deeply good — stuff for Tim to ship.

Nonetheless, Apple’s cash pile keeps growing. As Marco Arment, famed independent Apple developer said on Twitter:

Tim Cook is a good business person, Tim Cook does not have good taste. We all want this to not be true, but we know that it is.

The impact on how design is valued at other companies, now that Apple’s growing ever fatter on past successes, could be far reaching.

What’s to become of the small car market as Volkswagen struggles to produce EVs cheaply and the potential of other transportation methods such as e-bikes.

It’s a recurring theme for us, if only because the impacts of European manufacturers scaling back or terminating their small car programmes has such wide-ranging implications.

Fewer people will be able to afford their cars, which means factories will be producing less of them, which means OEMs will be employing fewer people. The societal consequences are hard to ignore.

The Chinese manufacturers, however, have no such problems and are preparing an onslaught of affordable, class-competitive EVs. And, of course, micromobility is bound to play a role.

The social capital of Mercedes’ new performance upgrade subscription and how that might determine its success.

Why social capital? Because — if we take a lesson from the growth of social networks — the ease with which something allows us accrue social capital or, in simpler terms, to look good in front of our peers, will determine how willing we are to pay for said thing.

Mercedes’ $100/month upgrade for the EQS, EQE, and EQS SUV doesn’t make the car hugely faster, nor can you tell that it’s fitted, so: no social capital.

Drew reckons it’s going to be a tough sell.

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January 30, 2023 Podcast Volkswagen Hyundai Apple Design Peter Schreyer Saangyup Lee Luke Donkerwolke Renault MG SAIC Simon Loasby Micromobility Mercedes-Benz

Looking Out - The Podcast: Ep. 2

That’s right, folks! It’s time for another auditory deep dive in to the most popular topics from Looking Out #27.

In this show, we explore:

  • the EV charging clustercuss,
  • why a car costs more than your house,
  • and cars in the cloud.

We also share some thoughts on the end of the age of abundance, and the emergence of AI art.

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September 14, 2022 Podcast Electrification Charging Tesla Affordability Artificial Intelligence Creativity Lynk & Co

Looking Out - The Podcast: Ep. 1

The first ever Looking Out Podcast!

Joe and Drew offer you an auditory deep dive in to the most popular topics from Looking Out #26.

In this show, we:

  • cast a critical eye on Apple’s expanded CarPlay offer,
  • explore some of the challenges facing shared micromobility in Europe,
  • delight in the importance of getting a car name just right, exploring the legacy of the man who’s created some of the most iconic names in the industry.

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July 22, 2022 Podcast Apple CarPlay Manfred Gotta Micromobility Horace Dedieu Mini Paul Smith Data Privacy Honda Branding