The quest for the autonomous white van man, or woman

29th June 2016
Posted By : Joe Bush
The quest for the autonomous white van man, or woman


Steve Rogerson looks at some of the recent news that may have missed the front page. 

I must admit to raising my eyebrows at the news that Google is teaching its self-driving cars to honk politely at other drivers. Hmmm, I won’t be convinced of true autonomy until the company invents a white van that can wind down its own windows and shout abuse while making obscene gestures.

However, one of the effects of connected cars and autonomous driving is meant to be a massive increase in car sharing. This could have an even bigger knock-on effect on the population, according to Frost & Sullivan’s Sarwant Singh, speaking at the recent Automechanika exhibition in Birmingham. He said a car sharing firm he knew about had told him that, since it started, 21 couples who met through its car sharing service had got married. Add in autonomous driving to this and who knows what will go on in the backseat during the commute to work.

That said, for engineers on their way to the laboratory, the car sharing is likely to be an all-male affair as a survey by recruitment firm Mortimer Spinks found that ten percent of tech teams in London have no female members. On the plus side, that means nine out of ten do, which seems to be better than what is happening at Mentor Graphics, if the speaker representations at its recent IESF conference in Michigan are anything to go by. The programme had a double page showing pictures of all the speakers. There were 47 pictures, and only one was of a woman, and she was a guest speaker from another company. And this was not a one-off. I went to a Mentor Graphics conference last year in Munich, which again had only one female speaker, and she cancelled. Come on Mentor, you can do better than that.

Another company that could probably do better is Melexis, which has just joined the ranks of companies that have decided to tweak the colours in their branding. Rather than just doing this quietly like most do, it decided to spout some pretentious nonsense about the whole thing. For example: “The new Melexis brand materials take inspiration from nature, specifically the evolutionary abilities of species to thrive in harsh and uncompromising environments.” My brain hurts.

Finally a new phrase, and one of which I approve - customer service technology company Eckoh analysed the dreaded call centres and found that some of the push-one-for-that or two-for-this menus have more than 100 options for callers to navigate. As such, it has taken to referring to them as ‘stall centres’

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