Thursday, July 28, 2016

Locker room hissy fit

Few industries are as brilliant at marketing as professional sports. Walk around any American city – especially if that city is Boston or Chicago – and half the folks you see are wearing some sports team gear. One would think that the appetite for team gear would be finite. I mean, once you have a tee-shirt, a fleece, four or five caps, and a set of coasters, what more does a fan girl need?

Well, we all know that sometimes marketing is about manufacturing a “need” that’s really more of an “I want it” than and “I need it.” And sometimes marketing is about encouraging people to get the whole set.

Major League Baseball is pretty effective at both creating bogus needs, and doing so in part by creating collectibles. One of the areas they focus their marketing genius on is getting people to fork over their hard earned cash for throwback uniform jerseys. One of the ways they get people to fork over their hard earned cash for throwback uniform jerseys is to get the current team to wear them for a game or two.

That’s what the Chicago White Sox were trying to do when they had some 1976 jerseys lined up for the team to wear last weekend.

Now anyone who knows anything about the Chicago White Sox knows that, when it comes to uniforms, they’ve come up with some doozies, including at least one that I remember where the players wore knee-length shorts.My sister Trish and I were at a Red Sox – White Sox game at Fenway decades ago when they were wearing a particularly awful edition: black clam diggers and some sort of baggy over-shirt blouse. Just hideous. As inevitably happens when we’re at Fenway, Trish and I were sitting near a loudmouth. At this game, the loudmouth was screeching to the White Sox players, “Put on your John Wayne trick-or-treat suits.” Whatever that meant. But the guy was on to something, in his own weird way. Those unis were weird. (At another game, this one against the Cleveland Indians, we sat near a guy who was screaming at one of the Indians, ‘'Go back to the Windy City.” Someone eventually informed him that Chicago is the Windy City, not Cleveland. As I said, wherever our seats are, we tend to find ourselves in shouting distance of a real loudmouth. Maybe Fenway is just riddled with them, and there’s no escape.)

Anyway, the reason why teams bring out re-runs of their past uniforms is to get fans to pay big bucks for them, thus enabling the team to – at least theoretically – field a better team. Or at least one that can help the team afford to pay their players such astronomical salaries.

Now, by the standards of MLB, White Sox pitcher Chris Sale’s salary is not truly astronomical, especially for one having a very good year. Sale’s salary is a mere $9.15. But that paltry $9.15 tab is picked up in part by the White Sox ability to sell merchandise.

Anyway, last Saturday, when he was scheduled to pitch, Chris Sale didn’t want to wear any hideous old throwback. But it wasn’t the hideous he objected to. His gripe was that they were getting in the way of his ability to win. white sox retro

The 1976-style jerseys were navy and sported unusual collars on a hot and humid night. Sale called the uniforms "uncomfortable and unorthodox."

"When I saw that there was something in the way of that 100 percent winning mentality, I had an issue," Sale said in the interview with "I tried to bring it up and say, 'Hey listen, these are my thoughts and concerns,' and they got pushed away because of the business deal that was set in place. I'll never understand why we need to do something on the business side on the field that might impede us winning a game." (Source: ABC News Chicago)

It’s hard for me to understand how someone with the focus and discipline to become a $9.15 million a year pitcher for a professional baseball team is going to be bothered by having to wear a different shirt, even one with an unorthodox collar. It’s not as if he were being asked to play while wearing a fur coat or Kevlar vest or something.

But Sale was clearly bothered.

If the players don't feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix - it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that's when I lost it."

And when the White Sox powers that be ignored his concerns, he became a man of action. Or, in his own words, he “lost it.”

So he did the one thing that would keep the players from having to take the field in the objectionable jerseys: he took a scissors to them and cut them up.

That cost him a 5-game suspension, but since he’s a pitcher that doesn’t translate into many/any missed games. He did lose a quarter of a million dollars in lost salary (chump change), and had to reimburse the White Sox for the cost of the jerseys he destroyed.

I know that athletes can be high strung, and find things hinky that the rest of us wouldn’t. But I really do think that Sale was acting like a big baby here. While we do tend to sometimes ignore the fact, the teams we root for are businesses. Big businesses. Selling hideous retro game jerseys helps those big businesses pay big salaries. This is not the little guy getting screwed by excess executive pay. It’s a high paid athlete asked to don some apparel he disapproves of to help the big business pay him big bucks.

All this said, I would have minded being a fly on the wall when Chris Sale had his hissy fit, and started rampaging around the locker room with a pair of scissors in hand.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Not to be outdone…the COWAROBOT R1.

Well, yesterday I wrote about the Modobag, which vehicular-izes the carryon bag.It left me wondering just what other ideas there might be floating out there on Indiegogo, looking for crowd funding. I got no further than another luggage start up.

Its product isn’t aimed at those who want to do drive-bys while perched on their suitcases, but rather for those too burdened by having to pull their roller bag behind them. I give you the COWAROBOT R1.

And I give them something, too. Props for an excellent tagline: Make Travel Less of a Drag.

Other than that.

There are a lot of things about traveling that really are a drag. The TSA lines. The cramped seats. And, soon enough, having to dodge lazy-arse travelers careening around on Modobags. But seriously, folks, just how much of a drag is it to have to drag your bag behind you. Non-wheelie bags, now there was a traveling drag. Wheeled bags? Not so much.

But I guess now that all the manufacturing jobs are about to be roboticized out of existence – and ditto for household tasks – the industry has to start on those areas that may not seem quite so pressing.

So there you have it:

COWAROBOT R1 is a fully autonomous smart suitcase, that follows its users while avoiding any obstacles in its path. We have merged upcoming technology with the suitcase in hopes that our new invention can allow people to travel more conveniently. We also hope it can solve common travel problems such as not having hands free, losing their luggage, devices running low on battery, and laptops being hard to take out during security​ checkpoints. (Source: Indiegogo)

Hands free? Admittedly, that can be a problem when you’re trying to get your passport and boarding pass out, but generally by the time you have to get your passport and boarding pass out, you’re standing stock still in a security line or at the gate desk.

Losing your luggage? Obviously, the old fashioned luggage tag doesn’t help you find your lost bag. It just lets someone who finds it figure out that its yours. (On the plus side, if you get fluorescent luggage tags, and throw a couple on your bag, it’s a lot easier to distinguish your black bag from everyone else’s.) But I don’t think you need to have an autonomous driving bag to have a GPS chip embedded in your bag.

Devices running low on battery? This seems to be an emerging need. (Like the location technology, it’s also part of Mondobag.) And I get it. I’ve been at the airport jockeying for an outlet. That can be an authentic drag. But there are charging devices coming on the market that don’t necessarily have to be part of an overall robotic trick-out. In fact, a few weeks ago, I had to get a dressy clutch to clutch at a dressy wedding. I found one for cheap at TJ Maxx, and it came with a skinny little battery pack that could be used to charge an iPhone. (Supposedly, it could also charge an Android, but I couldn’t figure out how.)

Laptops being hard to take out? Annoying, indeed. But jeez louise. Being able to more convenient access your laptop: one small feature, but not exactly a great leap forward.

There’s also an override if you want to go old school and drag the suitcase behind you the old fashioned way.

I really don’t get the point, and am certainly not looking forward to someone riding on a Modobag crashes into an autonomous bag, trailing some guy who needs hand free so he can play Pokemon Go and sip on a latte.

Anyway, the COWAROBOT starts shipping in October, and if you want to get 40% off the MSRP -  yep, just like their second cousins once removed, the car, autonomous luggage also has an MSRP – you can sign up on Indiegogo and one can be yours for the low, low price of $429. They come in black, silver, pink, and blue. Have at it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Modobag? Motorized luggage? Please, God, no…

It used to be that the biggest hazard you faced in the airport was being mowed down by one of those golf-cart like vehicles that zip around the terminals to get the elderly, the disabled, and, sometimes, as far as I can tell, the just plain lazy to their gates. I do get the need for them. What I don’t get is why they have to go so darned fast, blasting their horns so that us sluggard pedestrians can get the hell out of the way – and drag our bags-on-wheels with us.

Wheeled luggage. Now there was an invention. No more knees buckling under the weight of a way too heavy bag. No more having to fight for a luggage cart. No more having to bring along your own personal luggage carrier (and worrying about whether it was safely stowed in the overhead compartment: those suckers could do some damage if they crashed on to someone’s noggin.)

But now, apparently, what people really need is to get through the airport avec vitesse, as the French would say – three times faster than those of us on our own two feet. Forget OJ Simpson tearing through a terminal at running back speed. Come January 2017, we’ll have to be on the lookout for speed demons riding Modobags.

What’s a Modobag?

It’s a motorized suitcase, and the brain child of one Kevin O’Donnell, a Chicago entrepreneur whose other brain children include a break dance troupe, a pub, and a snow plowing business.

O’Donnell went looking for $50K on Indiegogo to help get Modobag off the ground, but he’s already raised over $150K from those who want one. (And if you head on over to Indiegogo, you can see just how much fun cowboying up with your Modobag looks like.)

The suitcase is described as “the world’s only motorized, smart, and connected carry-on.” Riders control the suitcase with a throttle and a hand brake. It can take you a distance of about 6 miles on a single charge. It can also charge your phone as you whiz by those poor souls who are stuck pulling their suitcases. Pulling a suitcase is so 2015. As long as you weigh less than 260 pounds, you can ride a Modobag. (Source: Boston Globe)

As far as I can see, the only good point is that at least we won’t get plowed over by someone who weighs more than 260 pounds.

Other than that, what I can foresee is that, if these devices take off, there will be a new form of airport terrorism: getting whacked by louts on Modobags.

These buggies zip at 8 mph. That’s pretty darned fast.

Will drivers need to be licensed? Will they need to be insured? Will they have special lanes, or will Modobaggers be able to buzz through wherever they want? Will there be traffic cops making sure Modobaggers observe the rules of the road?

If the bags only went as fast as the average walker – 3 mph – I’d be fine with it. But, at 8 mph, they’re going a lot faster. And fast enough to do plenty of damage if they run into you or over your foot (even if the ‘bagger doesn’t weigh 260 pounds).

Supporters on Indiegogo clearly differ from my view here.

But I think that, if these ever go into real use, we’re just one old lady with a broken hip, one toddler with a fractured skull, from major product liability.

Seriously, if you need to get to your gate three times faster than you can by walking, just get to the damned airport a few minutes earlier.

On their Indiegogo page, Modobag boasts that “Travel Will Never Be the Same!”

Yeah. Especially for those of us who will have to be on the alert so that we won’t fall victim to a Modobag.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Don’t forget the Motor City. (Zak Pashak doesn’t.)

It’s pretty obvious to anyone who took Econ 101, and/or American Post-War History, that the mass-employment manufacturing jobs that flourished in the US in the 1950’s and 1960’s aren’t coming back again. Ever. Despite what He Whose Name We Dare Not Speak keeps saying, and despite the attempts of the daughter of He Whose Name We Dare Not Speak to bring back some of the manufacture of her eponymous clothing line from China and Vietnam.

There’s globalization. There’s automation. There’s a lot of things.

And they’re getting in the way of the three-shifts-a-day, millions of decently paying semi-skilled jobs that were available for the asking for those with little education and few career ambitions beyond holding onto a job that would help them support their family.

Our job as a society, of course, is to figure out just what all those displaced workers and their kids and grandkids are going to do. But that’s a discussion for another day, and one that involves a more rational approach than the one we’re hearing from He Whose Name We Dare Not Speak.

While those lunch pail, factory whistle jobs – and I grew up in  a place where we could actually hear factory whistles blow off at noon – aren’t going to be “reshored” in any great number, I am always heartened to hear about manufacturing success, on however small a scale, occurring in old Rust Belt cities. Like Detroit.

In this spirit, I give you the Detroit Bikes factory, which is producing wheeled vehicles of the two-wheel variety, where the pistons doing the pumping are your legs.

When founder Zak Pashak got into the bike biz, he envisioned that his outfit would one day have tractor trailers backing up to pick up and deliver the goods.

“This was my dream when we got the factory—watching semis drive away at the end of the day,” Pashak says. (Source: Bloomberg)

The bikes he was watching being driven off were heading to Brooklyn, where they’ll become part of the city’s Citi Bike fleet. Citi Bike is one of the many urban bike-sharing systems springing up. In Boston, it’s Hubway, and, if I were so inclined, I could pick one up across the street from my house.

When his factory opened in 2013, bicycle manufacturing in the U.S. had all but disappeared. The long, downward spiral began in the 1980s, when industry-giant Schwinn shifted work to Asia, a cost-saving move that other manufacturers such as Huffy soon copied. In 2015 only 2.5 percent of the estimated 12.6 million bikes sold in the U.S. (not including those for children) were made here, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. “A lot of people thought it was really goofy when I first started this,” says the bearded Pashak, who describes Detroit as “a good spot for urban revitalization to take hold” and is prone to similarly grandiose talk about changing the world. If his technology weren’t 200 years old, he could pass for a startup founder.

Well, actually he is a startup founder. Except his startup doesn’t appear to be looking for a ton of VC $, or to become one of the vaunted, billionaires-based-on-nothing unicorns. Pashak is actually producing something tangible. Easily understandable. Definitely useful. Climate friendly. And a lot of other good things. Of course, it helps if you’re gong to start up a manufacturing startup to come from a well-to-do background.

Pashak, whose former stepfather was an oilman and co-owner of the Calgary Flames, had millions to spend on risky endeavors when he relocated to Detroit from Calgary five years ago.

Hey, at least Pashak is doing something with it, rather than posing on Rich Kids of Instagram.

Pashak’s is not the only bike company setting up shop in Detroit. Shinola also does bikes (among other goods). But Detroit Bikes is a serious bike-manufacturing endeavor, and is looking to produce 10,000 bikes this year, based largely on his deal with Motivate, “the company that runs bike-sharing programs in 12 metro areas.” One of the programs Motivate runs is Hubway. So I’m probably seeing some of Detroit Bikes’ wares just outside of my front door. (Not just across the street. Sometimes Hubway users are tootling along on the sidewalks at the foot of my steps. When they should be tooling along on the street. It’s only a few of them. But still… In any case, it’s better than having a Segway tootling along on my sidewalk.)

Why Detroit? For one thing, he was drawn to the city because some of his action heroes – Magnum PI, RoboCop, Beverly Hills Cop – had ties to the Motor City. Plus,

“It’s got a history of manufacturing; there are a lot of people who’ve got skills who haven’t been able to use them in a long, long time,” he says.

Well, there’s that. And a mighty good “that” it is at that. He’s got 50 workers. Not exactly River Rouge, but that’s okay.

After walking through the factory, Pashak looks for a quiet moment away from the banging of metal and lingering smell of welded steel. Outside, the street is calm and empty. “Having a factory that impacts the community directly is very cool,” he says. Some of his workers even walk to work: “As an urbanist, idealist kind of guy, that’s the coolest thing.”

Gotta love this guy.Wheel on, Detroit Bikes, wheel on!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Please leave a message. On second thought, don’t.

I’m old enough to remember when there was no voice mail at work. If you weren’t at your desk, the receptionist or an admin might come find you, or page you. If you were out to lunch, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable, you would have let the receptionist or admin know you were gone. And they’d take a message on a little “While You Were Out” pink slip. message padWhen you got back from wherever you were, you’d find those pink slips in your message box, or on your desk.

Apparently there are some places where, quite quaintly, messages are still taken this way. I know this because Staples – the source of this image – still sells them.

One of my favorite pink slip messages was one that I inherited when I became the manager for the delivery of a “custom-off-the-shelf” financial reporting system for Pitney Bowes. This project, which turned out to be completely and utterly ghastly (to the tune where, at one meeting, the fellow we were working with at Pitney Bowes ripped the yellow pad on which someone on my team was taking notes out of her hand, tore off the top sheet, crumpled it up, and threw it at her), was a truly hellish situation. And this truly hellish situation was the culmination of what had been the world’s longest sell cycle. When I came into this dud of a client, the file folder included a message slip, dated 6 years earlier, that registered the initial call we’d had with Pitney Bowes. And they had called us. It took us 6 years to close the deal and, for me, a number of miserable trips down to Connecticut to meet with them.

But I digress…

At some point, voice mail came in and “While You Were Out” pads became obsolete, at least at the places I worked and/or at least for folks at my level.

Now, when you came back to your office, you spotted a message because the message light was lit on your phone.

It was pretty much considered an obligation and/or common courtesy to return pretty much every phone message, but this, inevitably, led to long games of phone tag. If you really didn’t want to talk to someone, you gamed the system. Someone on the West Coast? Return their call at 8 a.m. the next day. Sorry you’re not in at 5 a.m. your time.

If you spotted someone you didn’t want to talk to outside of their office – and they didn’t spot you – it was a great time to speed off to your phone and call them back. Sorry I missed you. Guess we’re playing phone tag. Tee-hee. (Fake-rueful chuckle, followed by scratching “call X” off of your to-do list.)

Fast forward a couple of decades and:

Businesspeople are using texts, e-mail, Twitter messages, the communications app Skype, and collaborative software like Slack to get people’s attention, fast. (Source: Boston Globe)

I have clients where employees don’t have desk phones. They use a mobile – their own or company issued (more likely their own, BYOD, i.e., Bring Your Own Device, being all the rage). And at one client, employees don’t automatically give out their phone numbers. If you really need to txt them, they’ll let you have it; if not, everything can be pretty much handled by email. Works for me.

And, in truth, I’d just as soon get a text (or an email) as a voice mail.

At home, I hang onto my landline, but 99% of the calls I get on it are people asking for donations or scams (“This is your final notification regarding repairing your credit under The Stimulus.”). So I seldom pick it up, and I rarely listen to voice messages, even though I do occasionally get one from an actual human being whom I know and like and actually want to speak with.

My mobile is different. Even though I’m now getting some solicitations and scams on it, it’s where most of my conversations take place. And I do check my voice mails. Except that they’re coming in at a lesser frequency, as most of my client communications are, in fact, via email, and a lot of communication with friends and family is text based. It’s quick and easy, and if the exchanges start getting long, one of us will just pick up the phone and dial. (Metaphorically dial, of course, since there’s nothing to dial anymore.)

“I refuse to listen to voice mails or answer them,” Zoe Barry told me in early June. “Please, just text me.” Barry, 31, is chief executive of ZappRx, a Boston-based startup focused on making the medical prescription process more digital.

She said she didn’t think the aversion to voice mail was a generational phenomenon. “I think it’s something you see among tech-enabled workaholics, who are very mobile,” she said. “They’re giving it up, regardless of age. The people on my board are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. I don’t see any of them using voice mail.”

Well, I’m glad to see that, at least in this one respect, the Boomers are managing to stay current.

Anyway, one more yesteryear way of doing business that once used what was then cutting-edge technology has bitten the dust.

Wonder how many of those “While You Were Out” message pads Staples is selling these days. And who the heck is buying them?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fogo Island Inn. Now this sounds bucket list worthy.

I don’t actually have a bucket list. Not really. I figure that, once I spot the grim reaper out of the corner of my eye, swinging his scythe in my direction, I’ll want to spend my time with family and friends, and won’t actually give a hoot about whether or not I’ve seen Machu Pichu. (Which, by the way, if I did have a bucket list, wouldn’t be on it.)

But if I did have a bucket list of places to visit, and the willingness to cough up a ton of dough to get to someplace on the list, I might be tempted to put the Fogo Island Inn on it. fogo

Oh, Canada!

I’ll say…

I’d never heard of Fogo Island, let alone the Inn, until I came across an article on it on Bloomberg.

Fogo Island is off Newfoundland, in itself a pretty remote outpost.

To get to Fogo Island, you need to fly into Gander International Airport, which got its start as a refueling stop for early transatlantic flights. (You may recall that a number of international flights were diverted there on 9/11, and the folks on the planes were stranded in the town of Gander for a few days. Fortunately, Canadians being Canadians, the travelers were well taken care of. You may not recall a more local story. When Kevin White was mayor, he was once on a flight that was weather-stopped at Gander. One of his aides, on hearing the location “Gander” – rendered, of course, in Boston-ese as Gahndah – asked what hizzoner was doing in Uganda.)

From Gander, there’s “an hour-long drive to the ferry, and a 45-minute commute across icy water to reach the island.” And once you get there, if you don’t mind crappy weather on the outside, life is good, as writer Sarah Hapola found:

When I get to my room, one of 29 suites tastefully decorated with locally built furniture, I’m immediately drawn to a floor-to-ceiling window that looks out onto the Atlantic. The ocean crashes on the rocks as I kick up my feet on a leather ottoman and dig into the welcome basket left for me: warm, handmade bread served with butter and molasses. I’ve never heard of the combination before, but as the slow, sweet syrup drips down my fingers, all I can wonder is what took me so long to try it. (Source: Bloomberg)

The Fogo Island Inn is the baby of ZIta Cobb, who grew up on Fogo, went to the mainland to make her fortune (and succeeded), and returned to set up an enterprise (the Inn is owned by Cobb’s foundation, which plows profits back into the community). It’s both a dream for her, and a source of employment for her home town (which was mostly a poor, fished-out fishing village, lacking paved roads and electricity). When Cobb was a child:

she used to help dig a grave before winter came. “You knew someone was going to die,” she says, and if the ground was frozen, the body would have no place to go. “As a kid, you would think: That could be anybody. That could be me.”

Kids deployed as gravediggers? I know that a lot of Irish immigrants came ashore in the Maritimes. This sounds right up the Irish alley, that’s for sure. The nuns I had in grammar school would have adored this practice. “Line up now, children. Today, we will be spending the morning digging graves at St. John’s Cemetery. Ashes to ashes, children. Dust to dust.”

Anyway, as for the Inn itself, the furniture is based on local designs, and uses local materials. The Inn’s menu is locavore.

In addition to running the Inn, Cobb’s foundation funds an artist-in-residence program, where “painters, filmmakers, writers, and others” (bloggers?) can apply for grants for stays of up to six months. (I’m in. Now I’ll just have to figure out how to position myself as an artist.)

If you don’t get a grant, you can pay your way. And the Fogo Island Inn don’t come cheap. It’s over $1,000 a night (meals included).

But, oh, Canada!

It does sound lovely. And beautiful. And wild.

Not to mention the food sounds pretty darned good, too.

Even a review on Trip Advisor that mentioned rubbing elbows with fellow-guest Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t put me off longing for a trip to Fogo.

“I intend to die broke,” she [Cobb, not Paltrow, who, I suspect, has no intention of dying] says. “I started with zero. I’ll go back to zero. What am I going to need it for?”

Hmmm. Cobb’s got a point. What am I waiting for? Time to start a bucket list with one item on it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Map maker, map maker, make me a map

I have absolutely no sense of direction. If there’s a 50-50 chance that the right turn is the right one, I’ll take the left turn, thank you, 100% of the time. When, at age 16, I got my license, I was smart enough to take a weekend dry run to my high school before I cadged the car on a school day. This was at the end of junior year, so I’d been to Notre Dame Academy every day for three school years. Nonetheless, I got bollixed up somewhere near the residence of the bishop of Worcester. (I guess I could have turned around in his drive way…) I once got lost walking around Charlestown with my niece Caroline. We were heading to a restaurant where I’d been easily a dozen time. Just couldn’t find the darned thing.

I’m always amazed when other people demonstrate an unerring sense of direction. My niece Molly is one of these people. It’s really pretty incredible. She’s just got the direction mojo totally absent in her aunt. Another directionally-gifted person is my friend Kathleen. She didn’t have any problem finding our high school in her car. Sure, she lived closer to school than I did. Still…

What I can do, however, is read a map. Which sometimes doesn’t work around here, given that there are so many streets that lack signage.

Anyway, once we get into the realm of autonomous (self-driving) cars, those cars are going to need a really good sense of direction. And they’re going to need really good maps.

Civil Maps, a California start-up, just announced that Ford is one of five investors pumping $6.6 into its fuel tank so that they can develop 3-D maps for all those autonomous cars that will be zooming our way any decade now.

The startup uses artificial-intelligence software to aggregate raw 3-D data from sensors on self-driving cars to create highly detailed maps used to direct autonomous vehicles. Civil Maps said its format uses less data, reducing the cost of transmission over cellular networks. That lets the technology provide more real-time road data gathered through crowd-sourcing traffic information from other cars. (Source: Bloomberg)

I am, of course, trying to wrap my head around how a self-driving car is going to know where it’s going to begin with, before it can start generating the “highly detailed maps” that will tell it where to go.

And Civil Maps description of what they do wasn’t a big directional help, either:

Civil Maps provides self-learning cognitive perception systems that replicate human context to enable machines to perceive, orient and respond to the physical world. By combining localization technology and artificial intelligence, we are creating a new generation of maps that enable fully autonomous vehicles to traverse any road safely and comfortably without any human intervention. Civil Maps is working with leading automotive customers and partners across the world to rapidly bring fully autonomous vehicles to market at continental scale. (Source: Civil Maps)

Need to know basis only, I guess.

I do like that “continental scale” bit in there, however. Is this replacing plain old vanilla “scale”, a jazzier version with no meaning? Something that just sounds classier and more hype-y than “large”? Like when we used to write about “state of the art”, “world-class,” and “tier one.” Continental scale. Gotta love marketing.

Or maybe, in a nod to car world, they mean Lincoln Continental scale. I’ll have to ask Matthew McConaughey next time I see him. (Alright, alright, alright.)

Anyway, what I think is going on is that there’ll be a baseline map out there – kind of like a Google map – but that it will be static. It won’t necessarily know that one lane is closed for construction. So data will be crowd-sourced in real-time from all the autonomous cars on the road. Maybe human-operated cars will contribute to the knowledge base as well. (Humans like crowd-sourcing, too. Everyone likes to feel wanted. Everyone wants to be asked.)

Me? I’m not especially looking forward to self-driving cars. I don’t drive that often, but when I do, I actually like to drive drive.

Still, it will be a relief to get in a car and not worry about how I’m going to get to where I want to go. Even though I do have reasonably high confidence that I could, in fact, find my way to high school.