Volkswagen CEO expects software to be 90 percent of innovation in new cars


REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

❝ Volkswagen will ramp up its hiring of software experts to ensure that the car and truck maker stays at the forefront of innovation in an industry geared toward refining mechanical, rather than software components…

Demand for software functions has risen exponentially as customers increasingly expect advanced driver assistance systems, smartphone connectivity and self-driving functions.

❝ “Today our 20,000 developers are 90 percent hardware-oriented. That will change radically by 2030. Software will account for half of our development costs,” Herbert Diess said.

Compared to a smartphone, a car has ten times as many lines of software code, and a self-driving car will have a thousand times that amount, Diess explained.

The carmaker needs more software engineers to program the various sensors and actuators within a vehicle, so that a self-driving car can develop the right reflexes to navigate traffic situations and avoid accidents.

When you can offer several completely different-purposed vehicles from the same essential skateboard platform, making software and top-of-the-skateboard functions do the work…you can roll out new products a lot faster and more cheaply than existing tech. Once you get up to economies of scale. Simplified platforms made possible by electrification need a few hundred parts to roll out – instead of the thousands needed in internal combustion vehicles. Simple works.

The Republican Party platform now rejects our Constitution as the law of the land

The Constitution, by its own terms, is the “supreme law of the land.” All judges are bound by the words of the Constitution, and all laws made by legislatures within the United States must yield to the Constitution’s provisions. This is the central insight of the American republic — the idea that the structure and limits of government are laid out in a written document, and that document is binding on all government actors subject to its terms.

The Republican Party’s 2016 Platform rejects this concept outright…

The GOP Platform’s section on constitutional law begins with a declaration of principles: “That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual, thus producing human equality; that government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights; that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail.”…

The GOP Platform claims that “the right of individuals to keep and bear arms” is “a natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution” — a statement that many modern democracies would find absolutely flabbergasting. Many libertarian natural rights theorists believe that there is a natural “right to contract” which trumps minimum wage laws and laws protecting the right to unionize, on the theory that a worker should be free to bind themselves to a contract which pays them very little money to work in deplorable conditions. Most human rights advocates believe that we all have a right to be free from torture. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump disagrees.

The GOP Platform makes several highly controversial claims about the nature of natural rights…Beyond the right to bear arms, the platform names the “right to devote resources to whatever cause or candidate one supports” (i.e. the right to spend money to influence elections), the right of private organizations to “set their own membership standards” free from anti-discrimination laws, and the “freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs” often when those beliefs call for defiance of the law, as examples of rights that are “not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess.”

Then comes the Platform’s single most radical line. In addition to claiming that the First Amendment protects natural rights to spend unlimited sums of money on elections and to engage in religiously motivated discrimination, the Platform includes this remarkable statement: “The government cannot use subsequent amendments to limit First Amendment rights.”…Nothing less than a repudiation of the idea that judges and lawmakers are bound by the Constitution’s written text.

…If Congress were to propose, and the states were to ratify, a constitutional amendment overruling the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Republican Party’s position is that this amendment would be null and void. The text of the Constitution itself must yield to the natural rights theory laid out in the Republican Party’s 2016 Platform…

America has a written constitution in no small part because such a document is the only way to adjudicate disputes about the nature of our rights without simply leaving the decision up to whoever happens to hold power at any given moment.

And the Republican Party Platform would scrap this means of resolving such disputes, on the theory that it knows better than the Constitution.

Craptastic ideology written to satisfy the longings of know-nothings who still think 14th Century religious beliefs outweigh a secular constitution which keeps itself free from the religion du jour. In other words, the Republican Party has no problem with sharia – as long as it is written by segregationist Christians.

Obama gets four more years – of dealing with Republican losers!

Heading off to bed, right now. In the morning, I’ll review what has been achieved.

The very old Party-formerly-known-as-Republican sounds like nothing will change. Karl Rove won’t let Mitt Romney concede the election – proving the neocons are still in charge of the money, the tea party in charge of religious ideology.

But, President Obama has sufficient electoral votes right now – and will have more than enough by tomorrow morning – and even more when all the crap and legitimate problems [as well] are sorted in a couple of weeks. The same holds true for the popular vote.

CNN’s John King did a fine analysis that I hope they don’t hide – on young people, minorities, women, people with better than a high school education all voting for Obama. As an earlier post characterized it, Republicans and Romney relied on angry old white men – and got 72% of that demographic. Not enough anymore. A demographic that continues to diminish in political power and deserves to.

Something I figured out fifty-three years ago when I left the Republican Party. I was an angry young white guy then. Now, I’m an angry old white guy; but, what makes me angry is the same: bigotry, racism, sexism, superstitious people afraid to learn, to study, to change, people who turn their back on history, science, knowledge accumulated over centuries. The Democrats don’t have any enormous edge on all of that; but, they’ll listen to people like me once in a while. The Republicans would rather stop me from voting, from talking.

See you in the morning. Still another couple of scheduled posts coming before then.

Republican platform is more important than you think, Mitt

A poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press included an unexpected result: Americans say they are more interested in the party platforms released during the conventions than the speeches…

That must be a letdown for the two campaigns…But it shows real wisdom on the part of the American people…

…The quadrennial party platform is a useful document, reflecting the compromises hammered out among relevant players: activists, interest groups and the presidential campaign. After spending weeks haggling over language, they emerge with a political vision that all can live, and govern, with.

That produces some oddities. The 2012 Republican platform warns against “our dependence on foreign imports of fertilizer,” for example, while demanding that “any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax.” It recommends the formation of a commission to study whether we should return to the gold standard, the last vestige of which was abandoned under President Richard Nixon.

Too often, discussion of party platforms begins and ends with such wacky bits. It shouldn’t. The Republican platform takes up a consequential 62 pages. The section on economic recovery, for example, is quite detailed about the party’s reigning philosophy of economic growth and how to achieve it. The main problem it cites is too much government; the solution is to cut spending, cut regulations and unleash the private sector to perform its wonders.

Let’s repeat the same foolishness that got us the Great Recession. GWB – THE SEQUEL.

The platform states: “Our vision of an opportunity society stands in stark contrast to the current Administration’s policies that expand entitlements and guarantees, create new public programs, and provide expensive government bailouts. That road has created a culture of dependency, bloated government, and massive debt.”

What’s notable about this is how unrelated it is to our current predicament…In fact, long-run projections for the size of government are not very different today than they were before Obama became president, and the economy began tanking well before the Republicans were out of power.

Republican economists differ somewhat on solutions. Most understand that the failure in ethics and oversight that confounded Greenspan made the housing bubble-and-crash possible. Republican politicians ascribe the guilt to programs started decades before – following current Republican ideology which premises no responsibility for anything. It’s what American conservatism has become.

Read the platform.

Toyota Prius+ – a hybrid for soccer moms

As the second size extension of the Toyota Prius family tree, the 2012 Prius+ adds a healthy dose of roominess to the well-known fuel-sipping hybrid equation, and it’s making its world debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. There’s seating for seven occupants inside, but the multi-purpose vehicle shares a clear design language with Toyota’s standard-bearing Prius. What’s more, it manages a low 0.29 drag coefficient thanks to its extended roofline and carefully designed front fascia.

Equally as notable is the battery. This is the first lithium-ion battery pack to be incorporated within a non-plug-in Toyota full hybrid. Toyota has found enough room underneath the center console between the driver and the front passenger to fit the battery, which helps maximize interior space for occupants and their cargo.

As you would expect from a Prius, there are three drive modes: A zero-emission EV mode that relies on electric motor power alone, an ECO mode that maximizes efficiency and fuel economy and finally a somewhat ambitiously named POWER mode that is said to boost overall performance.

Toyota is saying that the Prius+ will be on sale in Europe in the first half of 2012, but it’s coming to the U.S. around the same time in the form of the Prius V, which we previously saw at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

The 2nd model of an extended platform Prius from Toyota. We’re getting past DINKs who are early adopters. Families – with family activities – are being pressed by knowledge, acceptance and economics to move to intelligent transportation choices.

I hate to sound overly optimistic; but – like personal savings – as often as American gullibility trends economic and political habits back into same-old habits, it appears that a bit more knowledge seems to promote at least a small measure of intelligent self-interest that sticks.

Was Marden Henge the builder’s yard for Stonehenge?

The last revellers seem to have cleared up scrupulously after the final party at Marden Henge some 4,500 years ago.

They scoured the rectangular building and the smart white chalk platform on top of the earth bank, with its spectacular view towards the river Avon in one direction, and the hills from which the giant sarsen stones were brought to Stonehenge in the other.

All traces of the feast – the pig bones, the ashes and the burnt stones from the barbecue that cooked them, the broken pots and bowls – were swept neatly into a dump to one side. A few precious offerings, including an exquisitely worked flint arrowhead, were carefully laid on the clean chalk. Then they covered the whole surface with a thin layer of clay, stamped it flat, and left. Forever.

In the past fortnight, English Heritage archaeologists have peeled back the thin layer of turf covering the site, which has somehow escaped being ploughed for more than 4,000 years. They were astounded to find the undisturbed original surface just as the prehistoric Britons left it.

“We’re gobsmacked really,” said site director Jim Leary.

Giles Woodhouse, a volunteer digger who must return next week to his day job as a lieutenant colonel in the army bound for Germany and then Afghanistan, has been crouched over the rubbish dump day after day, his black labrador Padma sighing at his side. He has been teasing the soil away from bone, stone and pottery so perfectly preserved it could have been buried last year.

It gives one a bit of a shiver down the backbone to realise the last man to touch these died 4,500 years ago,” he said. His finds, still emerging from the soil, will rewrite the history of the site…

So why did the site’s temporary occupants leave? Maybe with Stonehenge complete, the sarsens shaped into the giant trilithons that still fill the hordes of modern visitors with awe, their job was done. They tidied up nicely, turned out the lights, and left.

RTFA. Delightful. A word picture of discoveries taking us back 4500 years.

An enjoyable read. Makes you want to get your butt across the pond for some volunteer labor.

Om says…Amazon turns Kindle into a platform

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Amazon, displaying a sense of urgency, perhaps driven by the pending launch of Apple’s tablet-style computer is turning its Kindle device into a platform. The Seattle-based company…announced that it will allow software developers to “build and upload active content” and distribute it through the “Kindle Store later this year.” Amazon will be giving out a Kindle Development Kit that will give “developers access to programming interfaces, tools and documentation to build active content for Kindle.” The company will launch a limited beta effort next month.

I would also like to see what developers come up with. An Electronics Arts’ executive in Amazon’s press release says that the company is looking to develop games for the Kindle platform. I wonder how much can you do with the limited hardware that is a Kindle. Screen refresh rates are low, the inbuilt processor is puny and of course no color. Unless Amazon is planning to launch a beefier and color version of the device, game developers are unlikely to be able to create great experiences on Kindle…

As I wrote back in March 2009…people are looking for a cheap, connected Internet device that is “not a laptop.” I was recently watching an interview with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos on “Charlie Rose” in which he talked about the Kindle being flexible enough to encourage new kinds of media consumption, including multimedia books and newspapers with immersive content and interactivity. I think he is spot on — and just from that perspective, Apple has to be thinking really hard about this looming opportunity.

There’s only one reason to make the announcement early. Trying to cop attention for the project before Apple’s launch party on the 27th.

I wish we could get KB into the official launch for a hands-on review.

App army promises new software revolution


In line to enter the World Wide Developers Conference 2009
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A decade ago, San Francisco’s trendy South of Market district was the birthplace of hundreds of web design firms that have since gone under or been swallowed by rivals.

Now it is the turn of the “app army“, the scores of companies devoted to churning out small programs known as applications that run on Apple’s iPhone and rival devices, as well as on regular computers for users of Facebook and similar websites…

Indeed, veteran industry executives, investors and analysts are calling the shift to internet-capable devices and the apps that run on them a once-a-decade leap in technology, on a par with the great personal computing boom of the 1980s and the debut of the World Wide Web in the 1990s.

“The ramp [growth rate] of the iPhone and iPod touch in the first eight or nine quarters is more than five times the ramp for the internet,” says Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley tech analyst. These devices, and faster wireless networks, are both now reaching about a fifth of the global population, she estimates, which will drive much more rapid development : “Globally,” she says, “2010 is the tipping point.”

No company is more central to the shift towards the mobile internet than Apple, which enjoys a wide lead in distributing applications. More than 100,000 apps are available on its App Store and more than 2 billion have been downloaded in less than a year and a half.

To keep that gusher flowing, Apple has sought to inspire more outsider developers with the rare rags-to-riches stories — like that of Steve Demeter, a bank programmer who earned $250,000 in two months of 2008 after launching a simple game called Trism…

The advantages the bigger companies have over the smaller developers — scale, expertise and marketing know-how — mean there may not be any “app millionaires” in the years ahead, says Matt Murphy of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who runs a fund devoted to backing iPhone developers.

But small groups that have multiple successes will be pursued by bigger companies. “There will be teams of people who get a hit franchise acquired for north of $1 million,” Mr Murphy says.

Useful article. Beaucoup information.

As visionary as their leadership may be, this is a phenomenon that, after all, even surprised Apple.

OnLive promises Cloud Gaming – UPDATED

A new online video game distribution network hopes to free players from buying game discs or the console systems and high-priced computers needed to play them.

The OnLive Game Service, expected to launch later this year — was officially announced today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco — lets subscribers choose from a on-demand catalog of new video games that can be played on Windows and Apple Macintosh computers or television sets.

Bypassing current console systems such as the Microsoft Xbox that play only games made for that specific platform, OnLive lets computers play games stored on its network of super-powerful data servers. These servers bounce game data back and forth from the player’s computer using proprietary compression technology to make the games run as if they are loaded on the computer.

To play over big-screen HDTVs, a small microconsole unit (the size of a deck of cards) that connects to home broadband networks is used. Game controllers and headsets can connect to the microconsole using USB or wireless connections…

The price of the microconsole needed for TV-based connectivity and monthly subscriptions will be announced later.

“Were providing you with the latest high-end titles, the exact same ones you would see at Target or Best Buy, in the same release windows. But what is really cool is you don’t need any high-end hardware to play them,” says OnLive founder and chief operating officer Steve Perlman. “There’s no physical media. It’s an all-digital platform. You never need to upgrade your equipment at home.”

I went looking for the most trustworthy person I can think of writing about gaming – Garnett Lee. At least at time of posting, he’s probably too busy crawling the booths at the GDC to get something in print about this. So, I’m adding a link from MTV Multiplayer – who interviewed Pearlman at the conference.

UPDATE: Wagner James Au has a good article over at GigaOm.

Saab aims to survive by escaping from GM


Saab has become an Opel/Vauxhall/Subaru with a Saab skin
Daylife/Reuters Picture

The board of the Swedish carmaker Saab, which is owned by General Motors, has filed for reorganisation, seeking to create a fully independent business. The announcement follows Thursday’s extraordinary board meeting in which bosses considered the company’s future.

GM took a 50% stake in Saab in 1989 and gained full ownership ten years later. Within 2 years, Saab ceased being profitable.

Despite turning down GM’s request for support, a senior Swedish government official has said the government has not ruled out providing loan guarantees to Saab following its restructuring…

Stephen Pope, chief global strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald, believes GM “oversaw the destruction of the Swedish car company’s soul. Just look at the current ’93’ [model] as an example,” he said. “The ’93’ is just a Saab body skin placed on top of the Vectra from Opel/Vauxhall.”

An illustration of how poorly GM understands the cross-platform concept. Along with everything else they do wrong.