Weekly News Review | 3 April 2017 | Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain

Talking Point

April Fool's pranks - truth is stranger than fiction...

April Fools' Day, also known as All Fools' Day, is celebrated every year on April 1 by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. One of the most famous such hoaxes was the spaghetti-tree story, a three-minute hoax report broadcast on April Fools' Day 1957 by the British Broadcasting Corporation current-affairs programme Panorama, purportedly showing a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the family 'spaghetti tree'. In the automotive world, OEMs have traditionally sent out news releases of a fantastic nature but close enough to developing technology and product as to be possible.

This year saw an interesting crop of stories but due to the pace and breadth of emerging technology, it has become more difficult to separate fact from fiction. As an example, smart announced the launch of the forsea, an amphibious version of its smart fortwo that purports to use a water jet propellor to drive the car on water, steering being controlled by raising the road wheels and angling them at 35 degrees. All fantasy fun until you look at the market, where there has been just such a vehicle available since 2003. The Gibbs Aquada was a limited production amphibious car in which Richard Branson set a new record for crossing the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle, in 2004.

Hyundai’s attempt at humour was similarly close to reality; the carmaker spoke of launching the world’s first car delivery service by drone, giving customers the option to have their brand new Hyundai delivered by the OEM’s in-house developed drones. While this might seem the stuff of fantasy, automotive (and other supply chain) logistics is rapidly moving towards autonomous carrier technology. From self-driving trucks to Mercedes-Benz’s Vision Van concept, which seeks to solve the “last-mile” delivery problem using roof-mounted autonomous drones and robotic package-sorting devices to ferry packages from the van to the customer, the concept of automating delivery tasks is increasingly closer to reality than to science fiction.

Honda announced the launch of a new in-car dating app that helps drivers find love at the wheel, using a digital windscreen and interactive directional windscreen wipers that the driver uses to swipe left or right, accepting or rejecting potential suitors. An interesting way of avoiding the distraction of the mobile phone but really rather ‘behind the curve’ of the interaction offered by voice-activated text commands already available in the infotainment systems of today’s vehicles.

Simon Duval Smith
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