Automobile manufacturers face a difficult equation: in a globalised market where they can produce, buy and sell virtually anywhere, how can they make the right choice concerning localisation? In other words, how can they get closer to customers while remaining connected to resources, specifically to intellectual resources? The answer might well be found in a new industrial grammar that consists in globalised sourcing, disintegration of value chains and maximisation of comparative advantages. The rise of mega-platforms is at the heart of this redeployment and conveys a redefinition of the competitiveness equation.
It's understood, the twenty-first century will be the century of robots. And there is a lot of talk concerning a subfamily of these machines: drones. While these remotely piloted aircrafts were first developed in a military context, there seems to be no end to their civilian uses. This development goes hand in hand with a radical change in business models, marked in particular by a sharp drop in prices and an increasing variety of uses. So what are the current prospects?
Asia and key emerging countries have embarked in an impressive movement of infrastructure urbanization and modernization. And while these major projects mobilize international expertise, they are however quite different from those conducted in Europe or the United States. The decision-making processes are not the same, and today's architects and planners are putting an emphasis on the very experience of space, which varies considerably from one culture to another.
In emerging economies, the question is now being raised: will a parallel development of middle class and car driving paralyze the megacities? Advanced countries are already experimenting new solutions. How can we banish the spectre of urban immobility?
The advent of intelligent transportation systems creates opportunities for many players, from the Internet giants to the pioneers of the sharing economy... including smart public authorities. But who will invest? How to share costs and profits? And who will own the data?
There is a future in electric cars, but which one? Several technologies are competing and the major manufacturers have opted for very different strategies. Renault distinguishes itself from others by going all-electric. Beatrice Foucher, Director of their Electric Vehicle program, explains that choice and shares the insights of a carmaker on a changing landscape.
In the field of rail transport, climate change raises very concrete challenges. The infrastructure is already under heavy stress and suffers from waves of heat that distort the rails and from floods that can disrupt traffic. Passenger comfort raises additional problems. How can we adapt to these changes? How can we anticipate them? Major rail companies have been thinking about these problems for several years and are beginning to design new strategies of action on the short, medium and long term.
When examining the car industry in the US, Japan as well as Europe, one tends to focus on the crisis that has been shaking some of its biggest players for several years. But this century old industry is also a field for experimentation and technological innovation – a field where the very culture of innovation is undergoing a dramatic, exciting change.
In 2011, Rodney Brossart, a farmer from Lakota (North Dakota) was arrested by the county police. Brossart, who was armed, was in a dispute with the authorities over the ownership of six cows and refused to turn over the animals that had meandered onto his ranch property. After his arrest, Brossart charged the police with violation of privacy. Indeed, the police team had arrested him helped with a “Predator” unmanned drone, provided by the Homeland Security Department. This observation vehicle had played a crucial role to locate the suspect inside his own house and assist the policemen during the assault. However, no trial court is ever likely to hear this case. The police officers involved had a warrant and could easily prove that they used the drone for surveillance purpose only, and not, as claimed by the suspect, to create a ground for prosecution after the facts. This was the very first encounter, and certainly not the last, between an “unmanned aerial vehicle” (UAV) and the US justice.
Facing rising kerosene costs and an ever increasing pressure on CO2 emissions, the aviation industry is betting on electrification. But what will truly be electric in tomorrow's aircrafts? Though the changes may mainly affect the secondary energy sources on board, this is a technological revolution, driving a major overhaul in the management of aircraft manufacturers.
With such a range of possibilities, wherein lies the best approach to the goal of reducing global CO2 emissions? Might shifting perspectives on both lifestyle and technology come to be seen less as a constraint and more as the key to ever greater progress? The response to the current challenge depends as much on the emergence of disruptive innovation as on fresh perspectives toward current modes of energy production and consumption.
The automobile industry is over 100 years old and yet, it still isn't fully mature. While undergoing deep transformations from a technological and commercial point of view, it isn't clear who the winners and losers will be.
The first automated metro lines opened over thirty years ago. Today, new projects are being launched and older lines are being upgraded to automatic systems. These choices are driven by technical as well as economic reasons. But do the edges of the automated metro live up to the investments? Recent projects in and around Paris provide some valuable feedback.
The sky truly is the limit for the aviation sector but future growth will hinge on constant innovation in the quest to find solutions regarding increasing fuel prices and environmental concerns. What is the current business climate? If emerging economies represent the bulk of today's demand, we should seriously consider the possibility that they could one day become fierce competitors.
The prospects for electric cars have not looked so good since 1899, when Belgian Camille Jenatzy's car, le Jamais Contente, became the first automobile to break 100 kilometers per hour. But one last hurdle remains: the charging infrastructure.
Traffic regulations have become more constraining as technology grows ever more sophisticated. In finance the opposite is true and progress has been measured by the suppression of previous regulatory safeguards and the complete absence of a new framework with which to replace them. To extend the analogy of the automobile it is as if whoever has the desire, can drive any vehicle while creating their own rules and according to any route. Is this the path we want to be taking?
The less heralded consequence of globalization is the emergence of crises of expanding magnitude which test our ability to coordinate and swiftly execute a response. Truly global institutions such as the World Health Organization govern only specific domains and in most areas of human activity such bodies exist little, if at all. We are stuck with the question of how to respond to the new reality and it was with these stakes in mind that HEC Paris convened a workshop last November to discuss the way forward following the paralysis of European airspace in April 2010 as a result of volcanic activity in Iceland.
Despite progress in the development of green technologies, electric vehicle batteries are still awaiting a major technological breakthrough. High in cost, they severely limit vehicle range and make refueling a challenge. A new, more sustainable design is in order. And it’s up to governments to lead the way. Innovative batteries will be the key to making or “braking” consumer adoption.