I wonder how new uses for vehicles in the collaborative economy will shape how we judge them. Most of the current analysis of a vehicle’s worth is through the lens of ownership and I believe that be too narrow. For example, today Consumer Reports and the major car magazines put a heavy value on 12-month tests which are often indicators of durability, reliability and what I would describe as ‘livability,’ pointing out the little ways that the vehicle fits or doesn’t fit into our average, daily lives over a long time phase.
But new systems are available today that are shifting the unit of time we need to interact with a vehicle and of course the ownership and usage model at large. This means our view of a vehicle’s worth is likely to change.
Take, for example, the Daimler-owned Car2Go car sharing network that is available in 11 U.S. cities (esp popular in the Northwest). When it was announced that the service would only use the Smart Fortwo, I was among many who doubted it because I viewed that to be a grossly underwhelming car to buy. But then a funny thing happened: the Fortwo has proven to be perfectly adequate for this particular type of car sharing network. It’s small (easy to park), easy on fuel (cheaper for Car2Go and its users) and easy to spot in a parking lot (a problem when you’re using something for a short trip and find yourself in a crowded parking lot).
The architecture of the network plays into the Smart’s strengths, too. The Car2Go Smart cars can’t be booked far in advance (such as with Zipcar), which means people tend to use these for spontaneous trips for commute rerouting or quick errands. Contrast this with pre-planned big cargo trips (to Costco for example) which would expose the Smart’s tiny cargo capacity. Since you can’t do that with Car2Go, it somewhat brilliantly hides the car’s flaws and highlights its benefits.
As more types of car sharing are brought to market, we will see more currently unloved vehicles exposed as, actually, good cars. I know of one manufacturer that is actively studying car sharing usage as a product development tool — in time imagine a vehicle that is designed to target a specific part of the sharing stack. This might be a completely new form factor or one that is highly modified in the service of its end use.
Thanks to author Edward Niedermeyer who visited us car people at Stanford some weeks back and helped me germinate on this idea a bit.
We’ve made it another year and thus another couch kit. This is my home base for all the various streaming and twitter lists I follow to keep up with the race. What’s new for this year’s LM? Almost everything: a ton of new rules (see the videos below), new cars (Porsche is back in LMP!), new drivers. It should be either the most boring race of all time or the best yet.
On a personal note, my absolute favorite moment working for the factory Corvette team happened 10 years ago this month when we won GTS at Le Mans. Never before had I been a part of a team like that, under the coaching of The Doctor, and the fight with Prodrive was unbelievably well matched. I’m going to wear my LM24 ring all month to remember it.
(Note: this page updates frequently as links head back to the garage for repair. If you have a new link or comment, leave it in comments.)
Start time: 3PM CEST (9AM Eastern), Saturday June 14
US TV Coverage: Coverage on Fox Sports (formerly Speed) is not complete, and it does jump around a bit between Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. The full schedule:
(all times Eastern)
Timing / Scoring:
Other Useful Info:
New poster is below. Not sure how I feel about the new Le Mans logo.
Just awesome: 1977 qualie onboard with a Porsche 936
People ask me what driving will look like in 10 years and I always tell them I have no idea. What interests me more than what driving looks like is our framework for thinking about driving. What does that feel like in 10 years? Right now we take a lot of the driving experience for granted in the U.S., including the following assumptions:
All of the above will remain true in 10 years, but each and every one will start to evolve dramatically during that time period. All of the things I’ve listed are currently in the sights of entrepreneurs who are chasing down a radical future where our assumptions are upended.
Truthfully, many of them will fail.
But our entire way of thinking about these things will change, not in a solitary event but gradually like a tide. The reason for this has as much to do with the mobility entrepreneurs and their startups as it does the surge of technology literacy in the U.S: We will continue to expect technology to provide drastic improvements to all areas of life.
Recently Damon Lavrinc wrote a manifesto about this change, which I think will likely be one of the landmark turning points for this discussion. It has an eye toward the literal ‘experience’ for those who care deeply about driving being a personal (and highly manual) exercise of tires and engines and speed and things like they always were.
Putting it on Jalopnik was an act of civil disobedience itself, but the comments indicate it’s a conversation even the most ardent enthusiasts are comfortable having at this moment — mostly because we have suddenly arrived at a time where these futuristic-looking concept vehicles are both on sale and fantastic (see also BMW i8, Tesla Model S).
A few weeks back at Stanford we hosted the biennial conference for the Society for Automotive Historians and they capped their two-day session with a keynote by our friend and recently retired Nissan designer Masato Inoue. Masato-san started designing traditional things like the original Maxima but later in his career he spent a lot of time and effort thinking about mobility systems, EVs and a new way forward. His last big project before retirement was as chief designer of the Leaf EV.
In talking about EVs and systems, he said something quite beautiful: new systems bring new challenges, but they also bring new joys. One specific example he pointed out that hit home with me was the inherent stillness of an EV — with no vibration and very little sound, it can act as a rather effective tool to experience things near the vehicle. His cottage in Japan has a very quiet forest road nearby and he can drive his Leaf under 5mph, turn the windows down and hear everything around him. Thinking about EVs as a replacement for today’s vehicle is therefore permanently flawed; it’s just something else entirely and there will likely be things about it we don’t like but many new things we do.
Our idea of driving is evolving. It’s just happening a lot faster now than it ever has.
A few nights ago I was up at 3AM and wanted to dig in a bit deeper to some elements of the recent GM recall involving their ignition switch problem. I found information on the recall very hard to parse on GM’s site (they’re even advertising a link on Google which doesn’t actually work; sadly even after I told them about this they still haven’t fixed it and are still advertising it). What I found most frustrating was the lack of contact information. How should an end user contact the company?
Now it was 3:30AM and I clearly wasn’t getting back to bed, so I made an attempt to see if I could find recall and contact information at all the other OEMs. It proved to be a clump of spaghetti just like the GM experience. With that bit in my teeth, I built a spreadsheet over a few hours and published it as a table with some help from R Christie’s table guide. The goal of this page is to make two things easier:
I hope you find it useful.
I was completely floored by this look inside Casey Neistat’s studio. In fact it’s not so much a studio as a shop. As my friend James said: A great pairing of OCD and I-don’t-give-a-fuck.
I love workspaces with a heavy fingerprint. After watching this I believe his shop is a good matched pair for his film work: everything, down to the cord keeper and sharpie pen, is done exactly in his own image.