Friday, May 24, 2013

Driverless tractors in 5 years in Cendrecourt

This is a response to a previous post Driverless trucks before driverless cars . A few weeks ago I was discussing with a french farmer from Cendrecourt, a village located in the east of France. He just returned from the “Salon de l’agriculture” in Paris which the big annual convention for agriculture in France. In this convention every french region is here to advertize its specialties. It’s a must for french president to come in order to “caresser le cul des vaches” which translated into upper-french means “make sure you are appreciated by farmers and that they will vote for you in the next election”.

It’s also a place for companies such as John Deere to present their latest innovations. When he came back from the “Salon de l’agriculture” I asked my friend about automatization. I was already aware of machines that are completely automatizing cow milking. He thinks that in 5 years i.e. 2018, in Cendrecourt, there will be some fully automatized tractor for plowing and other tasks. In terms of using shared service, leasing and renting, most french farmers are already accustomed to this way of managing their equipment. For instance there are SLAs for most of their equipment. Most probably they will share this new driverless tractors as plowing could be done round the clock.

Farming world will jump directly to “step 3: shared driverless cars and transforming our way of life” before regular car users are still at “step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google cars”.

Note: To have a self driving tractor to autonomous plow a field, you have to do it manually once. Sometimes, depending on the soil you have to modify plowing depth when plowing a field, and you have to teach the tractor to do the same.

Note2: Driverless tractors can only operate in the same kind of “closed environment” as driverless trucks in mines

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Today auto manufacturers offer some financing, tomorrow will they enter insurance market?

In January 2013, A representative from Oregon drafted a law to enable driverless cars on state’s roads. Several other states had already allowed driverless vehicles on their roads, but the proposal had some very interesting points. One of them was the fact that the driverless car manufacturer had to be liable for no less than 5M$.

Today, a sizable part of car manufacturer’s margins are due to car financing, but insurance was not part of their business. Now they might be required to enter this insurance business. How will they do it?

As written in an other post, there might come a time when a driver licence is not required anymore to operate a driverless car. The only thing this operator will have to tell the car, is to where she wants to go, perhaps using a smartphone. In this scenario, it makes no sense for the car operator to be insured.

The Oregon law proposal says: “it’s the car manufacturer”. Let’s wait and see how this issue will be solved by the different stakeholders.

By the way, this is also going to be a huge change for regular insurers, if cars do not need to be insured anymore, because it’s a sizeable part of what the average Joe pays every year for insuring its belongings: car, house, medical care, etc...

Note: when a driver licence is not required anymore, the driver is not driving anymore, that is why we should call it an operator.