What’s Wrong with this Picture?

There seems to be a huge discrepancy between what the law [seems to] say and what auto makers are introducing…

A short while ago, I wrote a huge article that outlined my vision for iOS in the Car. There had been much speculation that the effort had stalled or had died at Apple, as there had been no real news, development or even concept art that had been introduced or released since Apple originally announced the effort. So, I stepped up and offered up what I thought, at a bare minimum, should be covered in the technology.

I saw an article on Apple Insider early on Monday morning (2014-03-03) where Apple had not only announced what iOS in the Car – now called CarPlay – will do, but which manufacturing partners will introduce the first versions of it. There are even some photos. Whether they are concept or production photos remains to be seen. I just hope that Apple sells the infotainment system so that aftermarket installers can retrofit vehicles with it. It looks like a great setup.

Volvo-Apple-Carplay

However, I have heard of some developments here in the States that gave me what I like to call a V-8 (smack myself in the forehead due to previously missing the point) moment. There seems to be a huge discrepancy between the law and what automakers and technology companies are providing. That’s something that needs to clear up ASAP.

You may be familiar with the Cecelia Abadie case in California involving Abadie’s use of Google Glass while driving. There’s a California law that states that drivers can’t have any kind of video screen playing in front of them while they drive. This is the law that the citing officer used when issuing the ticket Ms. Abadie received. Interestingly enough, another California court also indicated that using a navigation app on a smartphone or other device in a vehicle doesn’t violate that same law.

There’s a discrepancy here that needs to be resolved.

The problem is that distracted driving was already against the law well BEFORE smartphones were invented and became popular. So from a legal perspective, the EXTRA legislation is redundant, and somewhat contradictory. The other problems evolve around the mixed message from the legislature, and the car manufacturers.

Some pretty high end car manufacturers – Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo to start – will join Ford, GM, Honda, Jaguar, Kia, Nissan and Toyota, among others, and will provide CarPlay infotainment systems from Apple in coming model years. Formerly called iOS in the Car, the system sounds a little like what I speced. The system’s main interface is Siri and is accessed from a hardware button mounted on the steering wheel. Vehicles that come with a touch screen will also allow drivers to operate the system via touch. Manufacturers are left to their own devices for creating designs for consoles equipped with CarPlay systems.

The issues here are many :

→ Current legislation prevents users from using video screens in vehicles, yet many popular and high end models, Tesla’s Model S for example, which includes a portrait mounted 17″ screen mounted in the center console, as well as any CarPlay enabled vehicle, include video screens that the driver can not only see, but interact with.

→ Current legislation doesn’t seem to include navigation apps, contradicting laws currently on the books, or at the very least, making the application of those laws more confusing (at least in California, where the above ruling has jurisdiction).

→ According to the current press on CarPlay that I have seen, playing video while the vehicle is moving, on these screens is not prevented. At least, I couldn’t find any information indicating that it was…

→ The car manufacturers I’ve noted, as well as others interested in providing the systems, all do so, apparently inviting users to violate distracted driving laws.

The system will allow drivers to place and receive phone calls, listen to voice mail messages, access contacts and have text messages read to them by Siri. Navigation is an inherent part of the system and includes turn-by-turn directions, likely provided by Apple Maps, and will display on the video screen that is part of the system (and not on your docked iPhone). Video is displayed on CarPlay systems via an adaptation of AirPlay technology. Drivers will also be able to access all iPod content as well as streaming services like Spotify, iTunes Radio and Beats Music, among others. The system will appear in 2014 model year vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo and will come to all current iOS iPhones running iOS 7. It will work with Lightning-enabled iPhones, including the iPhone 5s/5c/5.

The issue here is the contradiction between (most of) the distracted driving laws that specifically deal with smartphone use while users operate a motor vehicle and what will be provided by manufacturers supplying CarPlay compatible vehicles. The equipped car by its very nature, violates the law. Its enticing the driver to drive distracted because many smartphone-specific distracted driving laws prevent users from making calls without hands free equipment, but prevent them from using video screens in the car unless that video screen is displaying a navigation app. Unfortunately, the display changes when calls come in to display caller ID information. Notification bars appear on the top of the screen when email, text messages and other events occur. The very nature of the systems functionality seems to violate the law as it attempts to alert the driver to the incoming events, taking their attention away from the screen.

Again, the problem is the SPECIFIC legislation regarding smartphone use in the vehicle. Obviously the solution would be to let the PREVIOUS legislation that prohibited distracted driving take precedence and to remove the contradicting, smartphone specific legislation from the books. However, I don’t think this is going to happen. It’s too logical and straight forward for our legislators to adopt.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like what Apple is going to do with CarPlay. The next big vehicle I buy is going to have the system built in. If I can purchase CarPlay as an aftermarket add-in for my 2003 Toyota Camry, I will; but likely AFTER it won’t send me to traffic court…or jail.

What do you think? There are going to be a great many articles about what CarPlay is and what it can do in your vehicle. I’ll probably write a few more as additional details come out about the system in the coming days and weeks. However, I wanted to post this question to everyone first.

You can see a full demo of Volvo’s implementation below.

Is CarPlay a good idea? Will it cause a legal quandary? Will distracted driving laws get clarified or will they become a bigger mess due to the Abadie case and the ruling by a CA judge that navigation apps don’t violate the distracted driving laws? Can users of these systems successfully challenge smartphone-centric distracted driving laws and have them struck down? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join me in the discussion below and let me know what you think.

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Tesla Would have made a Cool iCar

Though it’s not going to happen, here’s why I think a Tesla-Apple marriage would have been cool.

The first thing I thought when I saw this story was… iCar.  This is the place where you go when you want to take your iPhone and dock it with your car, and have your car turn into a wheeled version of your iDevice.  This, I thought, would be the one place that my vision for iOS in the Car would find expression.  This could put Tesla on the map!

Then, I woke up.

iCar3

Yes, Apple has a boat load of cash.  Yes, it would be really cool if they could do something cool like, acquire an electric car company where they could integrate all or most of their iVision and bring back the “one more thing” and a little 21st century “ohh” and “ahh” to both the technology and auto industries.  Besides, it would be totally cool to plug your iPhone into the car and have it ask, where you want to go, and then automatically navigate you there.  Along the way, it could (and should) point out necessary charging station layovers, and build charging time into the destination’s ETA.  Ooh-hoo-hooooooo!  It gives me shivers just thinking about the pairing!

See, something like that is where Apple and Tesla are [mostly] DNA compatible. Tesla’s product(s) are gusty, cutting edge and cool. Having Apple branding in a vehicle like that is certain to be a success, and if there is truly an opportunity for some sort of partnership between the two organizations, this is definitely it.  If you can’t showcase what iOS in the Car really should be in a Tesla, then I’m not certain where it can find the expression of its ideal vision.

Elon Musk, is like, the Steve Jobs of automobiles. I mean, by all accounts, anyone who can dream up a mode of transportation that can take you from New York to LA via magnetic vacuum tube has got one HELL of an imagination. This is the kind of product-centric CEO that Apple needs. They need someone with a vision on the future. Someone who can look at the technology of the day, figure out what you can do, and then create a vision of where you should go based on how far the current technology can be stretched before it breaks.

This is the kind of guy that Apple needs, and it may be one of the reasons why Apple and Tesla recently spoke. While neither Apple nor Tesla will comment any further than to say, “yeah… we talked. What of it..??”; the world is excited and intrigued by the possibility that Elon Musk and his vision may meet Apple’s cash and technology and design machines and create something truly magical. This is what made Apple special. This is what Steve Jobs did, and did very well.

Tim Cook is a great guy, but he’s really just a logistics guy. He can figure out how to make the supply chain work. He can figure out how to insure that the current products in production get built, and get built on time; but he’s not the kinda guy to move the company forward…as much as it pains me to say that. He just isn’t…

Since Time took over, that’s all Apple has really been able to do. They’ve kept the supply lines to the current components flowing and have been getting buy with minimal visionary input. Tim is a business guy. He’s not a product visionary like Jobs was and like Musk IS. Again, as much as it really kills me to say it, I don’t know if or how Tim can keep Apple on the ragged, hairy bleeding edge of greatness without a serious infusion of vision. Wall Street is only going to put up with incremental improvements on current designs and product groups for so long before it declares the magic that was Jobs’ Apple gone.

On the flip side of this whole deal is how Apple and Tesla are not compatible.  First, Elon Musk wants to be in charge. Period. I don’t know if Time would give up the big chair without some serious prodding.

And as much as Apple and Tesla may be good for each other, they could also turn out to be a huge train wreck.  Apple has high end products that provide a solution for 90% of the market they cater to and accomplish 90% of what that demographic wants to accomplish.  They’re elegant, well-built products that hold their value and provide life to a number of other industries including accessory companies and a huge resale movement that is pushing older Apple devices, in good shape, to emerging markets.

Unfortunately, you can’t say the same thing about Tesla, well… not completely.  Tesla DOES have high quality products, but they speak to a much smaller market.  Tesla’s products are really what the top 10% (or less) of the market can afford to do, 10% of the time. While on the surface, they do seem like they would fit together very well, you aren’t going to get a lot of market intersection between Tesla customers and Apple customers.  For example, short of hitting a huge Powerball jackpot, most of the people that have iPads or iPhones aren’t also going to be able to afford a Tesla vehicle.

So, kids… you need to give me your thoughts on this. What do you think? Would Tesla and Apple make a good marriage? Does Elon Musk have what it takes to make a good exec or CEO at Apple?  Can the two exist together or am I full of hot air and hype? Why not give me your thoughts in the discussion area below and tell me what you think?

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QLogic TrueScale InfiniBand integrates with Nvidia Tesla GPUs to drive new levels of power efficiency in high performance computing

QLogic has announced that a cluster using NVIDIA Tesla graphics processing units (GPUs), QLogic InfiniBand switches and adapters and operated by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) achieved a number three ranking for MFlops/watt on the Green500 list of the world’s top supercomputers.

Launched in 2006, the Green500 ranks the most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world using performance-per-watt to encourage HPC vendors and users to deploy more cost-effective computing systems. The NCSA’s hybrid cluster incorporated Intel Core i3 2.93Ghz dual core processors with NVIDIA Tesla C2050 GPUs and QLogic TrueScale InfiniBand solutions, producing a score of 933.06 MFlops/watt – nearly four times more efficient than average supercomputers.

“We wanted to expand the frontiers of computational science, and the combination of NVIDIA Tesla GPUs with QLogic TrueScale InfiniBand fabrics is enabling this exploration,” said Professor Wen-mei Hwu of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “In collaboration with NCSA’s Innovative Systems Laboratory, the scaling and power efficiency from this combination of technologies has helped to place us near the top of the Green500 list.”

“The high performance per watt of Tesla GPUs has made them the architecture of choice for modern supercomputing, as evidenced by the presence of several GPU supercomputers in the Top 10 of the Green500,” said Sumit Gupta, product line manager, Tesla business at NVIDIA. “QLogic’s TrueScale InfiniBand architecture, coupled with Tesla GPUs, is key to helping increase overall system performance and efficiency of the NCSA cluster.”

QLogic’s newest TrueScale InfiniBand software release does not require Linux kernel patches or special InfiniBand drivers to integrate with NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, making it very easy to install and maintain GPUs for HPC applications.

“Our interoperability with NVIDIA Tesla GPUs is another demonstration of how easily QLogic TrueScale InfiniBand fabrics support the most advanced cluster performance technologies,” said Joe Yaworski, director of global alliances and solution marketing for QLogic. “These results show how our development teams are continually pushing the envelope to create the easiest, most efficient, and most scalable integration of technologies to make real-world differences in cluster scaling and efficiency.”

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