One of the best things the automotive industry accomplishes is showing us what might be in our future.  They all have the finances, creative talent and vision to provide a glimpse into their “wish list” for upcoming vehicles.  Mercedes Benz has done just that with their futuristic F 015 Luxury in Motion.

In order to provide a foundation for the new autonomous F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle, an interdisciplinary team of experts from Mercedes-Benz has devised a scenario that incorporates different aspects of day-to-day mobility. Above and beyond its mobility function, this scenario perceives the motor car as a private retreat that additionally offers an important added value for society at large. (I like the word retreat.) If you take a look at how much time the “average” individual spends in his or her automobile or truck, we see the following:

  • On average, Americans drive 29.2 miles per day, making two trips with an average total duration of forty-six (46) minutes. This and other revealing data are the result of a ground-breaking study currently underway by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Urban Institute.
  • Motorists age sixteen (16) years and older drive, on average, 29.2 miles per day or 10,658 miles per year.
  • Women take more driving trips, but men spend twenty-five (25) percent more time behind the wheel and drive thirty-five (35) percent more miles than women.
  • Both teenagers and seniors over the age of seventy-five (75) drive less than any other age group; motorists 30-49 years old drive an average 13,140 miles annually, more than any other age group.
  • The average distance and time spent driving increase in relation to higher levels of education. A driver with a grade school or some high school education drove an average of 19.9 miles and 32 minutes daily, while a college graduate drove an average of 37.2 miles and 58 minutes.
  • Drivers who reported living “in the country” or “a small town” drive greater distances (12,264 miles annually) and spend a greater amount of time driving than people who described living in a “medium sized town” or city (9,709 miles annually).
  • Motorists in the South drive the most (11,826 miles annually), while those in the Northeast drive the least (8,468 miles annually).

With this being the case, why not enjoy it?

The F 015 made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas more than two years ago. It’s packed with advanced (or what was considered advanced in 2015) autonomous technology, and can, in theory, run for almost 900 kilometers on a mixture of pure electric power and a hydrogen fuel cell.

But while countless other vehicles are still trying to prove that cars can, literally, drive themselves, the Mercedes-Benz offering takes this for granted. Instead, this vehicle wants us to consider what we’ll actually do while the car is driving us around.

The steering wheel slides into the dashboard to create more of a “lounge” space. The seating configuration allows four people to face each other if they want to talk. And when the onboard conversation dries up, a bewildering collection of screens — one on the rear wall, and one on each of the doors — offers plenty of opportunity to interact with various media.

The F 015 could have done all of this as a flash-in-the-pan show car — seen at a couple of major events before vanishing without trace. But in fact, it has been touring almost constantly since that Vegas debut.

“Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society,” emphasizes Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space.”

The visionary research vehicle was born, a vehicle which raises comfort and luxury to a new level by offering a maximum of space and a lounge character on the inside. Every facet of the F 015 Luxury in Motion is the utmost reflection of the Mercedes way of interpreting the terms “modern luxury”, emotion and intelligence.

This innovative four-seater is a forerunner of a mobility revolution, and this is immediately apparent from its futuristic appearance. Sensuousness and clarity, the core elements of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy, combine to create a unique, progressive aesthetic appeal.

OK, with this being the case, let us now take a pictorial look at what the “Benz” has to offer.

One look and you can see the car is definitely aerodynamic in styling.  I am very sure that much time has been spent with this “ride” in wind tunnels with slip streams being monitored carefully.  That is where drag coefficients are determined initially.

The two JPEGs above indicate the front and rear swept glass windshields that definitely reduce induced drag.

The interiors are the most striking feature of this automobile.

Please note, this version is a four-seater but with plenty of leg-room.

Each occupant has a touch screen, presumably for accessing wireless or the Internet.  One thing, as yet there is no published list price for the car.  I’m sure that is being considered at this time but no USD numbers to date.  Also, as mentioned the car is self-driving so that brings on added complexities.  By design, this vehicle is a moving computer.  It has to be.  I am always very interested in maintenance and training necessary to diagnose and repair a vehicle such as this.  Infrastructure MUST be in place to facilitate quick turnaround when trouble arises–both mechanical and electrical.

As always, I welcome your comments.


If you work or have worked in manufacturing you know robotic systems have definitely had a distinct impact on assembly, inventory acquisition from storage areas and finished-part warehousing.   There is considerable concern that the “rise of the machines” will eventually replace individuals performing a verity of tasks.  I personally do not feel this will be the case although there is no doubt robotic systems have found their way onto the manufacturing floor.

From the “Executive Summary World Robotics 2016 Industrial Robots”, we see the following:

2015:  By far the highest volume ever recorded in 2015, robot sales increased by 15% to 253,748 units, again by far the highest level ever recorded for one year. The main driver of the growth in 2015 was the general industry with an increase of 33% compared to 2014, in particular the electronics industry (+41%), metal industry (+39%), the chemical, plastics and rubber industry (+16%). The robot sales in the automotive industry only moderately increased in 2015 after a five-year period of continued considerable increase. China has significantly expanded its leading position as the biggest market with a share of 27% of the total supply in 2015.

In looking at the chart below, we can see the sales picture with perspective and show how system sales have increased from 2003.

It is very important to note that seventy-five percent (75%) of global robot sales comes from five (5) countries.

There were five major markets representing seventy-five percent (75%) of the total sales volume in 2015:  China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United States, and Germany.

As you can see from the bar chart above, sales volume increased from seventy percent (70%) in 2014. Since 2013 China is the biggest robot market in the world with a continued dynamic growth. With sales of about 68,600 industrial robots in 2015 – an increase of twenty percent (20%) compared to 2014 – China alone surpassed Europe’s total sales volume (50,100 units). Chinese robot suppliers installed about 20,400 units according to the information from the China Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA). Their sales volume was about twenty-nine percent (29%) higher than in 2014. Foreign robot suppliers increased their sales by seventeen percent (17%) to 48,100 units (including robots produced by international robot suppliers in China). The market share of Chinese robot suppliers grew from twenty-five percent (25%) in 2013 to twenty-nine percent (29%) in 2015. Between 2010 and 2015, total supply of industrial robots increased by about thirty-six percent (36%) per year on average.

About 38,300 units were sold to the Republic of Korea, fifty-five percent (55%) more than in 2014. The increase is partly due to a number of companies which started to report their data only in 2015. The actual growth rate in 2015 is estimated at about thirty percent (30%) to thirty-five percent (35%.)

In 2015, robot sales in Japan increased by twenty percent (20%) to about 35,000 units reaching the highest level since 2007 (36,100 units). Robot sales in Japan followed a decreasing trend between 2005 (reaching the peak at 44,000 units) and 2009 (when sales dropped to only 12,767 units). Between 2010 and 2015, robot sales increased by ten percent (10%) on average per year (CAGR).

Increase in robot installations in the United States continued in 2015, by five percent (5%) to the peak of 27,504 units. Driver of this continued growth since 2010 was the ongoing trend to automate production in order to strengthen American industries on the global market and to keep manufacturing at home, and in some cases, to bring back manufacturing that had previously been sent overseas.

Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world. In 2015, the number of robots sold increased slightly to a new record high at 20,105 units compared to 2014 (20,051 units). In spite of the high robot density of 301 units per 10,000 employees, annual sales are still very high in Germany. Between 2010 and 2015, annual sales of industrial robots increased by an average of seven percent (7%) in Germany (CAGR).

From the graphic below, you can see which industries employ robotic systems the most.

Growth rates will not lessen with projections through 2019 being as follows:

A fascinating development involves the assistance of human endeavor by robotic systems.  This fairly new technology is called collaborative robots of COBOTS.  Let’s get a definition.

COBOTS:

A cobot or “collaborative robot” is a robot designed to assist human beings as a guide or assistor in a specific task. A regular robot is designed to be programmed to work more or less autonomously. In one approach to cobot design, the cobot allows a human to perform certain operations successfully if they fit within the scope of the task and to steer the human on a correct path when the human begins to stray from or exceed the scope of the task.

“The term ‘collaborative’ is used to distinguish robots that collaborate with humans from robots that work behind fences without any direct interaction with humans.  “In contrast, articulated, cartesian, delta and SCARA robots distinguish different robot kinematics.

Traditional industrial robots excel at applications that require extremely high speeds, heavy payloads and extreme precision.  They are reliable and very useful for many types of high volume, low mix applications.  But they pose several inherent challenges for higher mix environments, particularly in smaller companies.  First and foremost, they are very expensive, particularly when considering programming and integration costs.  They require specialized engineers working over several weeks or even months to program and integrate them to do a single task.  And they don’t multi-task easily between jobs since that setup effort is so substantial.  Plus, they can’t be readily integrated into a production line with people because they are too dangerous to operate in close proximity to humans.

For small manufacturers with limited budgets, space and staff, a collaborative robot such as Baxter (shown below) is an ideal fit because it overcomes many of these challenges.  It’s extremely intuitive, integrates seamlessly with other automation technologies, is very flexible and is quite affordable with a base price of only $25,000.  As a result, Baxter is well suited for many applications, such as those requiring manual labor and a high degree of flexibility, that are currently unmet by traditional technologies.

Baxter is one example of collaborative robotics and some say is by far the safest, easiest, most flexible and least costly robot of its kind today.  It features a sophisticated multi-tier safety design that includes a smooth, polymer exterior with fewer pinch points; back-drivable joints that can be rotated by hand; and series elastic actuators which help it to minimize the likelihood of injury during inadvertent contact.

It’s also incredibly simple to use.  Line workers and other non-engineers can quickly learn to train the robot themselves, by hand.  With Baxter, the robot itself is the interface, with no teaching pendant or external control system required.  And with its ease of use and diverse skill set, Baxter is extremely flexible, capable of being utilized across multiple lines and tasks in a fraction of the time and cost it would take to re-program other robots.  Plus, Baxter is made in the U.S.A., which is a particularly appealing aspect for many of our customers looking to re-shore their own production operations.

The digital picture above shows a lady work alongside a collaborative robotic system, both performing a specific task. The lady feels right at home with her mechanical friend only because usage demands a great element of safety.

Certifiable safety is the most important precondition for a collaborative robot system to be applied to an industrial setting.  Available solutions that fulfill the requirements imposed by safety standardization often show limited performance or productivity gains, as most of today’s implemented scenarios are often limited to very static processes. This means a strict stop and go of the robot process, when the human enters or leaves the work space.

Collaborative systems are still a work in progress but the technology has greatly expanded the use and this is primarily due to satisfying safety requirements.  Upcoming years will only produce greater acceptance and do not be surprised if you see robots and humans working side by side on every manufacturing floor over the next decade.

As always, I welcome your comments.


I want us to consider a “what-if” scenario.  You are thirty-two years old, out of school, and have finally landed a job you really enjoy AND you are actually making money at that job. You have your expenses covered with “traveling money” left over for a little fun.  You recently discovered the possibility that Social Security (SS), when you are ready to retire, will be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated. You MUST start saving for retirement and consider SS to be the icing on the cake if available at all.  QUESTION: Where do you start?  As you investigate the stock markets you find stocks seem to be the best possibility for future income.  Stocks, bonds, “T” bills, etc. all are possibilities but stocks are at the top of the list.

People pay plenty of money for consulting giants to help them figure out which technology trends are fads and which will stick. You could go that route, or get the same thing from the McKinsey Global Institute’s in-house think-tank for the cost of a new book. No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, was written by McKinsey directors Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel, and offers insight into which developments will have the greatest impact on the business world in coming decades. If you chose stocks, you definitely want to look at technology sectors AND consider companies contributing products to those sectors.  The following list from that book may help.  Let’s take a look.

Below, we’re recapping their list of the “Disruptive Dozen”—the technologies the group believes have the greatest potential to remake today’s business landscape.

Batteries

energy-storage

The book’s authors predict that the price of lithium-ion battery packs could fall by a third in the next 10 years, which will have a big impact on not only electric cars, but renewable energy storage. There will be major repercussions for the transportation, power generation, and the oil and gas industries as batteries grow cheaper and more efficient.  Battery technology will remain with us and will contribute to ever-increasing product offerings as time goes by.  Companies supplying this market sector will only increase in importance.

Genomics

genomics

As super computers make the enormously complicated process of genetic analysis much simpler, the authors foresee a world in which “genomic-based diagnoses and treatments will extend patients’ lives by between six months and two years in 2025.” Sequencing systems could eventually become so commonplace that doctors will have them on their desktops.  This is a rapidly growing field and one that has and will save lives.

Material Science

advanced-materials

The ability to manipulate existing materials on a molecular level has already enabled advances in products like sunglasses, bike frames, and medical equipment. Scientists have greater control than ever over nanomaterials in a variety of substances, and their understanding is growing. Health concerns recently prompted Dunkin’ Donuts to remove nanomaterials from their food. But certain advanced nanomaterials show promise for improving health, and even treating cancer. Coming soon: materials that are self-healing, self-cleaning, and that remember their original shape even if they’re bent.

Self-Driving or Autonomous Automobiles

self-driving-vehicles

Autonomous cars are coming, and fast. By 2025, the “driverless revolution” could already be “well underway,” the authors write. All the more so if laws and regulations in the U.S. can adapt to keep up. Case in point: Some BMW cars already park themselves. You will not catch me in a self-driving automobile unless the FED and the auto maker can assure me they are safe.  Continuous effort is being expended to do just that.  These driverless automobiles are coming and we all may just as well get used to it.

Alternate Energy Solutions

reneuable-energy

Wind and solar have never really been competitive with fossil fuels, but McKinsey predicts that status quo will change thanks to technology that enables wider use and better energy storage. In the last decade, the cost of solar energy has already fallen by a factor of 10, and the International Energy Agency predicts that the sun could surpass fossil fuels to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.  I might include with wind and solar, methane recovery from landfills, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and other environmentally friendly alternatives.

Robotic Systems

advanced-robotics

The robots are coming! “Sales of industrial robots grew by 170% in just two years between 2009 and 2011,” the authors write, adding that the industry’s annual revenues are expected to exceed $40 billion by 2020. As robots get cheaper, more dexterous, and safer to use, they’ll continue to grow as an appealing substitute for human labor in fields like manufacturing, maintenance, cleaning, and surgery.

3-D Printing

3-d-printing

Much-hyped additive manufacturing has yet to replace traditional manufacturing technologies, but that could change as systems get cheaper and smarter. “In the future, 3D printing could redefine the sale and distribution of physical goods,” the authors say. Think buying an electric blueprint of a shoe, then going home and printing it out. The book notes that “the manufacturing process will ‘democratize’ as consumers and entrepreneurs start to print their own products.”

Mobile Devices

mobile-internet

The explosion of mobile apps has dramatically changed our personal experiences (goodbye hookup bars, hello Tinder), as well as our professional lives. More than two thirds of people on earth have access to a mobile phone, and another two or three billion people are likely to gain access over the coming decade. The result: internet-related expenditures outpace even agriculture and energy, and will only continue to grow.

Artificial Intelligence

automation-of-knowledge

It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be largely replaced by robots and 3D printers. Dobbs, Manyika, and Woetzel report that by 2025, computers could do the work of 140 million knowledge workers. If Watson can win at “Jeopardy!” there’s nothing stopping computers from excelling at other knowledge work, ranging from legal discovery to sports coverage.

 

The Internet of Things (IoT)

iot

Right now, 99% of physical objects are unconnected to the “internet of things.” It won’t last. Going forward, more products and tools will be controlled via the internet, the McKinsey directors say, and all kinds of data will be generated as a result. Expect sensors to collect information on the health of machinery, the structural integrity of bridges, and even the temperatures in ovens.

Cloud Technology

cloud-technology

The growth of cloud technology will change just how much small businesses and startups can accomplish. Small companies will get “IT capabilities and back-office services that were previously available only to larger firms—and cheaply, too,” the authors write. “Indeed, large companies in almost every field are vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive, and able to reach customers and users everywhere.”

Oil Production

advanced-oil-technology

The International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of oil by 2020, thanks to advances in fracking and other technologies, which improved to the point where removing oil from hard-to-reach spots finally made economic sense. McKinsey directors expect increasing ease of fuel extraction to further shift global markets.  This was a real surprise to me but our country has abundant oil supplies and we are already fairly self-sufficient.

Big Data

big-data

There is an ever-increasing accumulation of data from all sources.  At no time in our global history has there been a greater thirst for information.  We count and measure everything now days with the recent election being one example of that very fact.  Those who can control and manage big data are definitely ahead of the game.

CONCLUSION:  It’s a brave new world and a world that accommodates educated individuals.  STAY IN SCHOOL.  Get ready for what’s coming.  The world as we know it will continue to change with greater opportunities as time advances.  Be there.  Also, I would recommend investing in those technology sectors that feed the changes.  I personally don’t think a young investor will go wrong.

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

November 12, 2016


We hear a great deal these days about wearable technology.  Let’s see if we can get “calibrated” relative to the definition and what devices are available.  First, the definition:

DEFINITION NUMBER 1:

Electronics that can be worn on the body, either as an accessory or as part of material used in clothing. One of the major features of wearable technology is its ability to connect to the Internet, enabling data to be exchanged between a network and the device.

DEFINITION NUMBER 2:

A wearable device is a technology that is worn on the human body. This type of device has become a more common part of the tech world as companies have started to evolve more types of devices that are small enough to wear and that include powerful sensor technologies that can collect and deliver information about their surroundings.

Wearable devices are also known as wearable gadgets, wearable technology or simply wearables.

DEFINITION NUMBER 3:

Wearable technology (also called wearable gadgets) is a category of technology devices that can be worn by a consumer and often include tracking information related to health and fitness. Other wearable tech gadgets include devices that have small motion sensors to take photos and sync with your mobile devices.

I’ve given you three definitions although I really don’t like or completely agree with either.  As we delve further into what is available in today’s modern world you will understand where I’m coming from.

Now we tackle trends in wearable technology by looking at the devices available.  This post is a marathon and not a sprint but I think you will be surprised, as was I, when you see the number of possibilities are what consumers are buying. I can’t indicate all hardware available so I have provided a representative sample of what’s out there.

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY:

nuzzle

I’ve started off with man’s best friend because my son’s dog, an Alaskan Husky, frequently decides he wants to explore the “hood”.  He is one of the most elusive “critters” on the planet and loves to avoid capture at all costs.

Part pet tracker and part insurance company; Nuzzle is a GPS collar that goes the extra mile when it comes to looking after your furry friends. This device provides activity monitoring and GPS mapping features alongside data on favorite walks and wellness stats in the companion app.  That app can be downloaded onto your cell phone, laptop or PC.

tom-tom

GPS is integral to proper sports tracking, and TomTom is set to transform itself into a sports brand in 2016.  I enjoy play golf but am certainly not ready for Augusta.  As a matter of fact, I’m not too sure I’ve ever owned a used ball.  They simply don’t last that long.  This device allows you to track your shank or slice so recoverability is possible.

x-metrics

Xmetrics is the hottest swimming wearable and is designed for pros and enthusiasts.  It sits on the back of your head to minimize drag and measures a broader set of bio-mechanics than any other swimming wearable. Between kick-turn times, breath counts, stroke efficiency, all fed back to you in real time audio; it’s a far more detailed and complete platform than anyone’s made before. It should sell big.

the-void

If gaming were any more real, then it would no longer be a game. The Void is a real-life virtual reality (VR) theme park built in Salt Lake City. In beta phase at the moment but opening soon, it’s virtual gaming experiences are superimposed onto a blank maze-like space. The upshot is that all your other senses buy into the vision of your adventure as well as just your eyes. I have no real use for VR or other video experiences but must include this one due to the rising popularity of VR systems.  (A complete waste of time in my opinion.)

life-saving

This one I love.  Wearables’ unique position on the body make them more personal than ever before, and offer the chance for them to become real life savers. Crowdfunded Athena smashed its goal thanks to its promise to protect women via an alarm and GPS alerts. Cheaper sensors also help tech companies build for the developing world. From storing medical records or even warning people about floods and earthquakes, wearables are set to make a difference in 2016.   Our youngest son has a medical condition and early-warning can be big.

fitbit

The big frustration with fitness platforms is that those programs they assign to us are far too general and wearables in 2015 have begun to clue up to this. Moov has already tackled the problem and Fitbit has promised a bigger emphasis on coaching, too.  I have a Fitbit and love it.  It tracks the number of steps per day, the number of stairs climbed and calorie count.

veriley

Once again, a device I love because it gives early warning of impending medical problems. The newly rebranded Google Life Sciences already has ambitious projects, including its glucose-detecting contact lens. Google’s also set to use tech to target cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health problems too.  I have low blood sugar and a device such as this could keep me from issues that would definitely ruin my day.

smary-watch

As smartwatches mature, the need for a constant digital umbilical cord to a smartphone starts to feel a little antiquated. The great separation is already underway with Android Wear and the Samsung Gear S2 both supporting e-SIMs, which tap into your pre-existing cell network at no extra cost. While the first untethered Android Wear device, the LG Watch Urbane Second Edition has been cancelled, we’d bet that every smartwatch brand with have an LTE version by the end of 2016.

hearables

Ears are perfect for biometric measurements and a natural home for all those virtual assistants from the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple. Wearable broke the news that Microsoft is working on a hearable called Clip, Jabra’s CEO is in on the game, we’re expecting a second crack at the Moto Hint and Bragi Dash is just about to ship.

medical-grade-consumer-tech

Digital health is an enormous opportunity for both the private and public sectors. More accurate, more constant and better respected measures of individual’s biometrics mean both money- and life-saving. If you’re the NHS, you can axe millions from your costs by ensuring that people are compliant with drugs. If you’re an insurance company, you can price your premiums accordingly. If you’re a tech giant, you can capitalize with your health platform and data sales. Whomever you are, it’s a winning situation. The only haunting figure is the specter of possible identity theft; no small deal but perhaps no big problem.

invisibles

Discussed for years but the rest of the world needs to catch up on invisibles. Sensory tech is far easier to design when you don’t have to worry about it looking great, so there are tech tattoos in development from Chaotic Moon, New Deal Design and more which might only need power from your movement or the current across your skin. And what they could learn from your sweat, we’re sure to find out.

apple-watch

It would not be a post without the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch was number one on the Wearable 50 for 2015 and that was before it was even announced. All the same, we were right to champion it as the hot wearable of the year. Perhaps, once again, the smart money is on the Apple  to be another huge deal as the calendar ticks over. The first iPhone had no 3G or Bluetooth. What style gaps and feature flaws will the Apple Watch 2 set out to fill? We look forward to finding out.

wearable-payment

The infrastructure is here but people aren’t paying from their wrists – yet. But wearable payments are set to become the norm in 2016. A few million Apple Watches in the wild, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, bPay, plus MasterCard backing the likes of Ringly and Nymi mean that there are going to be more ways to pay, and more securely than ever. With so many of the big players behind it, it’s sure to be the year for wearable payments.

CONCLUSIONS:

OK, this will do it for now.  You get the picture thought—we will be seeing more and more wearable technology as time go by.  If I were a betting man, I would say you will own some form of wearable during the next five (5) years.

As always, I welcome your comments.

BMW I NEXT

November 3, 2016


I think we are all aware that automotive trends point towards autonomous vehicles; i.e. “self-driving” cars.  Personally, I’m not too thrilled about the prospects and feel the reality of one in my driveway is down the road, if ever.   With that being the case, BMW, INTEL, and Mobileye have teamed up to bring autonomous vehicles to the BMW product line.  I must admit, this appears to be one “mean ride”.  Let’s take a very quick at the styling to date.

i-next

i-next2

As you can see, the styling is truly beautiful. Each company represents leadership in automotive technology, computer vision, and machine learning and share the opinion that automated driving technologies will make travel safer and easier.  No doubt, easier is a given but I have yet to be convinced safer is right around the corner.  There are significant challenges to overcome before road-worthy vehicles such as the i NEXT receives certification and goes into production for the buying public.

The goal of collaborative effort is to develop future-proofed solutions that will enable drivers to reach the so called “eyes-off”, or level 3, and ultimately the “mind-off” or level 4 by 2021. This would transform “getting there” to leisure and/or work time. BMW said the new i NEXT model will be the basis for future fleets of fully autonomous vehicles that will drive on both highways and in urban environments, which are far more challenging. A BMW spokesman said it expects a steering wheel and pedals to remain in the fully self-driving vehicle, in case the driver wants to be in control. I personally feel even these will be removed if the concept proves itself with greatly improved safety. By doing so, cost savings may be accomplished and reduction in system complexity.

While BMW lends its automotive expertise to the collaboration, INTEL is providing computing power ranging from its INTEL Atom to INTEL Xenon processors, which deliver up to one hundred (100) teraflops of power-efficient performance without having to rewrite code. Mobileye is developing software algorithms, system-on-chips, and customer applications based upon processing visual information for driver assistance systems.

BMW is actively revamping company concepts to assure direct competition with the likes of new OEM Tesla, along with the usual suspects, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In March, the company showed its future ideas regarding vehicle autonomy via its Vision Next 100 concept cars. This was likely an overly obvious foreshadowing of the iNext platform.

Harald Krueger, BMW CEO told annual shareholders in Munich that the upcoming vehicle with “cutting-edge” electric drive-train and all new interior will be able to drive itself. The new release, along with BMW’s current “i” line are all efforts to compete in the luxury car electric vehicle market. This will be an addition to the line which already includes the i8 PHEV and the i3 BEV/REx. Krueger said:

i Next is set to be “our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”

In addition to this, as companies are realizing that car ownership is continually diminishing in “big city” environments, BMW has announced its jump onto the bandwagon of car-sharing and ride-sharing ventures. Its first delve into the scene is a car-sharing situation in Seattle, with the possibility of more such services to come.

The numbers are showing that Tesla is dominating the European market and lighting a fire under established automakers. Mercedes has been luckier than BMW with being ahead of the game, launching new product lineups and a multiplex of new models. BMW’s sales in the first quarter of 2016 only gained marginal success compared to that of Mercedes.

In an attempt to try to regain momentum and push ahead, BMW has cut prices by approximately six percent (5.9%) across the board. This is partly since the company’s available models are all “older” models, in direct comparison to the competitors. Nevertheless, BMW is reportedly still on par with 2016 projections.

Krueger, in his stockholder’s address, assured that for the seventh consecutive year, his company is on target. While, unfortunately, above target needs to be the goal when factoring in the accelerated growth of the dominant competition.

Krueger concluded:

“After our first quarter, we are on track for the full year. We have always stressed that our centenary is a springboard to the future.”

CONCLUSION:   I marvel at the technology.  There is absolutely no way any company or companies could have developed a vehicle such as this as far back as five (5) years ago.  The technology was just not there.  Hopefully, BMW is successful, but as I mentioned earlier, there are tremendous hurdles and challenges before the rubber hits the road.  I certainly wish them success.


The following post is taken from information supplied by the publication “Machine Design”.  Each year Machine Design asks information from its readers’ questions relative to the engineering profession.  Given below are results from this survey.

PROFILE OF A TYPICAL ENGINEER

I really don’t think anyone is “typical”.  We each are unique individuals with a story to tell, but Machine Design uses this word to give us a snapshot of engineering as it exists today.

According to the Machine Design 2016 Survey, the majority of our readers are white males with seventy-four percent (74%) of our readers are age fifty (50) and older.  This to me is really troublesome because it indicates that seventy-four percent have approximately ten to twelve years before retirement.  Not much time to backfill with younger engineers.   A little more than half, fifty-eight percent (58%) work as design and development engineers.  This percentage is down from last year (61.7% in 2015). Engineering and operational management comprise 19.3% of current principal job functions. These engineers have the job title of chief, senior, executive, or lead engineer. At least fifty-five percent (55%) of our readers work forty (40) to fifty (50) hours a week.

THE FUTURE OF ENGINEERING

The future of engineering is still bright in the eyes of many current engineers. Over the last five years this view point has not changed and ninety-one percent (91%) would recommend engineering as a profession. When asked how they feel the engineering field is changing, one engineer spoke to our correspondent stating that the fields of engineering are merging. “The lines are currently blurring between mechanical and electrical engineer. Increasingly we are specifying electrical components required to accomplish motion. It is becoming important to have a basic understanding of the limitations of control systems and their impact on the mechanical systems being designed.”  The field of Mecatronics exemplifies this fact.   As the world of Internet of Things or IoT continues to expand, we will see more of how the engineering worlds combine.

Let us now take a quick look at where the engineering profession stands in general.  The graphics give a very interesting picture.

typical-engineer

I find it very interesting that seventy-seven percent (77%) have twenty plus yeas of experience with those over sixty years in age steadily increasing.  As metntioned earlier, time to begin replacing those considering retirement within the next ten to fifteen years with younger engineers.  Regardless of how bright the younger engineering community is, experience and training play a great role in success.  The “old guys” can aid these efforts in a great manner.

work-location

You see from the graphic above the larger percentages of engineering involvement across our country.  There is a predominance, ten percent (10%) involvement in California alone.  I suspect Silicone Valley contributes greatly to this larger enclave of engineering talent.

compensation

We are all interested in how we “stack up” relative to salary levels and bonuses levels.  The numbers above give a fairly good picture of averages across the profession.  I was very surprised to see over eleven percent (11%) increase in salary from 2014.  This, as mentioned, indicates the market is improving OR engineering talent is harder to come by.  Engineers can now pick and choose where they wish to spend time. $99,933 as an average salary is huge in my opinion but justified.

salary-by-experience

As you might expect, as you gain experience your salary level should and does increase.  Those with forty plus years’ experience can expect $100K plus in salary.

job-satisfaction

By and large, the engineering community is satisfied with their job with less than two percent (2%) being not satisfied at all.  I suspect this is company related and with opportunities available job changes are in order.

employment-outlook

I was looking for a job when I found this one.  Fifty-nine plus percent (55.9%) indicate they would be open to changing jobs is that opportunity became available.  In looking at results from the last two years, this is not out of line at all.  As with the last five years, challenges, research and benefits to society rank very highly as desirable features of any one given job.  Engineers have a higher calling than money itself.  That has always been apparent.

outsourcing1

In our lives today, the fear of engineering positions being outsourced is a very real concern.  Manufacturing jobs in particular seem to be targeted.  Some of this is definitely due to the onerous tax code our country is forcing manufacturers to live under.  Also, regulations remain a significant burden to manufacturers.

outsourcing2

concerns

The concerns within the engineering community are shared by other professions.  We are definitely not alone in that regard.  Time, people and money to accomplish any one given mission is uppermost in the minds of working engineers.  This is very much in line with the last five years of reporting.

education-and-training

This chart speaks for itself.  The oldest question in the world: “Which is more desirable in the engineering profession, “book learning” or practice?  ANSWER: There is nothing more practical that education.  You’ve heard this year after year.  Engineering education is changing though and for the better.  We are seeing more and more schools adopt a hands-on approach to engineering training.  This does not replace classroom work but does supplement the in-class experience.

whats-keeping-engineers-up-at-night

Trust me on this one, engineers are worriers.  That makes us no different than individuals in most professions.  The graphic above fully illustrates those areas of concern.

iot

IoT is looming. IoT will, if not already, become a huge factor for every design engineer.  I might add, IoT AND “big data” are infusing themselves into the daily lives of the engineering community.  It’s happening and engineers need to realize that reality.

changes

The chart above might be considered to be a continuation of concerns the engineering community has, particularly increasing regulation.

CONCLUSION:  I think this annual survey is extremely valuable and provides a gage for practicing engineers.  Comparisons are always interesting.

 


A web site called “The Best Schools” recently published a list of the top twenty (20) professions they feel are the most viable and stable for the next decade.   They have identified twenty (20) jobs representing a variety of industries that are not only thriving now, but are expected to grow throughout the next ten (10) years. Numbers were taken from projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2010 to 2020.  I would like to list those jobs for you now as the BLS sees them.  Please note, these are in alphabetical order.

  • Accountant/Auditor
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Brick mason, Block mason, and Stone mason
  • Civil Engineer
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Financial Examiner
  • Health Educator
  • Home Health Aide
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Interpreter/Translator
  • Management Analyst
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Meeting/Event Planner
  • Mental Health Counselor and Family Therapist
  • Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist
  • Physician and Surgeon
  • Registered Nurse
  • Software Developer
  • Veterinarian

I would like now to present what the BLS indicates will be job growth for the engineering disciplines.  Job prospects for engineers over the next ten (10) years are very positive and according to them, most engineering disciplines will experience growth over the coming decade.

Professions such as biomedical engineering will see stellar growth of twenty-three percent (23%) over the next ten (10) years, while nuclear engineering will actually see a four percent (4%) decline in jobs over the coming decade.

The engineering profession is expected to follow the range of average job growth — about five percent (5%) — through 2024. Engineers, however, are expected to earn more, beginning right after graduation.  Two smart moves that will help engineering job prospects, according to the latest stats, include post-graduate education and the willingness to move into management. This is no different than it has always been.  I would also recommend taking a look at an MBA, after you receive your MS degree in your specific field of endeavor.

Mechanical Engineer

Petroleum

Materials Engineer

Aeorspace

Civil

Biomedical

Neuclear


Chemical

Computer Hardware

Industrial

Electrical

Mining

Computer Programmers

Environmental

Health and Safety

CONCLUSIONS:

I think it can be said that any profession in the fields of engineering and health services will be somewhat insulated from fluxations in the economy over the next ten years.  We are getting older and apparently fatter.   Both “conditions” require healthcare specialists.  Older medical and engineering practitioners are retiring at a very fast rate and many of the positions available are due those retirements.  At the present time, companies in the United States cannot find enough engineers and engineering technicians to fill available jobs.  There is a huge skills gap in our country left unfilled due to lack of training and lack of motivation on the part of well-bodied individuals.  It’s a great problem that must be solved as we progress into the twenty-first century.  My recommendation—BE AN ENGINEER. The jobs for the next twenty years are out there.  Just a thought.

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