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October 2017


African car design leapfrog

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In car design the western world has become accustomed to looking to the east for new markets with demanding customers who hunger for the latest and most advanced designs. But how long might China remain the most interesting market? Might not other BRIC territories rightly demanded our attention as they grow in commercial significance and as their people assert new requirements of the car?  And could Africa, with South Africa now the “S” in BRICS, be at the forefront of this new focus — a region that in other product sectors, such as telecommunications and energy, has already ‘leap-frogged’ incumbent ways of doing things as it develops so fast and with so little inertia? We think that Africa is one of the most overlooked and most interesting car markets, and the one with the most scope to change fast and even leapfrog today’s leaders in developed countries.

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Why the driverless-car is being hobbled by science fiction

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The idea of the driverless-car, the autonomous car, is omnipresent today in the automotive industry. Conferences live by it.  Suppliers toil to make the cleverness in it.  Government bodies fund research into it.  And car companies excite us with it.  At last month’s Frankfurt Auto Show there were many concept cars, such as the svelte Audi Aicon, presented as being autonomous.  Normally these autonomous concept cars are mono-space forms with large wheels pushed to the corners and are shown zooming on highways with earnest thirty-somethings facing one another, tablet in hand, and this vision has now perhaps become the established automotive cliche of the twenty-teens.  

In reality the autonomous car is decades away from being realised in anything approaching such forms or application.  Cliche or otherwise, these typically appealing but superficial designs, and the way they are presented, are misleading in how they define our wider understanding of what the driverless car will be — and thus are hobbling the collective advancement of the autonomous car.  And in a small way we have science fiction to thank for this.

 

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