Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Volvo to test self-driving cars on Gothenburg streets in 2017

December 2, 2013

It is only a matter of time. As I get older it gets easier to drive. As it is, I already rely heavily on the car’s sensors and cameras when parking or reversing and especially at night. For parking in tight spots and getting as close to a wall as possible the proximity sensors work exceedingly well. And I miss them badly in very cold icy weather when my sensors are iced over. In 2017, 100 self-driving (autonomous) cars will be let loose on selected highways around Gothenburg with ordinary individuals as a test driver .

And it will not be long before the cars talk to each other.

Swedish Radio: (free translation)

Claes Tingvall, the Swedish Transport Administration’s Traffic Safety Director says that self-driving cars  cars are a prerequisite to achieving the “zero vision” of no fatalities due to traffic accidents. “One should be very careful with the word paradigm shift but for once, I think, it applies in the case of self-driving cars. If you look a little more into the long run, this is really like a fundamental solution to the problem of safety in a traffic system”, he says. To the question if this is what is needed to finally achieve zero fatalities he says, “Yes it is. And we are getting there”.

Self-driving cars thanks to cameras , GPS and various sensors detect the environment around the car . Therefore they can, all by themselves, can get around in traffic, so that the man behind the wheel can indulge in other things – read a book, for example. These robotic cars can virtually eliminate traffic accidents because computers are better at driving than humans and do not take unnecessary risks. “It is a fact that a machine, in most situations, is better able to deal with driving than a human”, says Claes Tingvall. “It will also be quite a careful driver. It is not going to take the risks that we as individuals are sometimes inclined to take. It will not be racing at 150 km/h at night with a drunken operator behind the wheel”.

Volvo’s autonomous car technology

Automakers around the world are right now intensively researching  self-driving cars. Among others Japanese Nissan has announced its intention of having self-driving models on the roads before 2020. Now Volvo has also joined the party.

The project, called “Drive Me” kicks off next year, and is a collaboration between Volvo, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Authority , the City of Gothenburg and Lindholmen science park . In 2017, 100 self-driving cars will be let loose on selected highways around Gothenburg with ordinary individuals as a test driver .

“That’s what this kind of self- driving car provides, where it works with and supports the driver. It has its ears and eyes open and can intervene in situations when necessary. The effects will be enormous”, says Claes Tingvall.

Wild ride for the Bitcoin as its value crashes

April 12, 2013

I wonder whether the real reasons for the Bitcoin gyrations ( see previous posts here and here) will ever be fully known. From $9 to about $240 and now back to $69!

But this kind of behaviour does not manifest itself without someone, somewhere pulling some strings. I am inclined to think that some very “hot” money was involved in the boom and that it has “moved on”  to create the bust – but has almost certainly not moved back to where it started from.

bitcoin turbulence april 2013

bitcoin turbulence april 2013 (Mt. Gox)

There is some discussion that this has been a concerted effort from within the world-wide-web to manipulate the price but I think the coincidences with the goings-on in Cyprus are connected. And that probably means the movement of Russian money.

Norwegian goat genes in 300,000 Tanzanian goats

April 12, 2013

Now this is a project which makes sense to me unlike so many of the WWF or other so-called “conservation” projects. A project which looks forward rather than looking back, which looks to manage change by adapting livestock  for new realities rather than trying to stop change.

Science Nordic reports that 80 Norwegian dairy goats which were transplanted into Tanzania 30 years ago have bred with Tanzanian goats to create a brand new goat dairy economy where none existed.


Eighty Norwegian dairy goats were flown into Tanzania thirty years ago. Now there are 300,000 goats with genes from these founder animals on dairy farms in mountainous areas. 

Tanzania’s Uluguru Mountains are a green paradise, with verdant slopes that rise over 2,600 metres. But now, not far from forests populated with yellow baboons, blue monkeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys, you’ll find goats of Norwegian ancestry in the mountain towns of this East African country.

The goats live on steep terraced hills planted with corn, bananas and coffee, at altitudes that would be barren and rocky in Scandinavia. They are a result of a long-term Norwegian-Tanzanian research partnership aimed at boosting small-scale milk production. The partnership has helped many farmers diversify and has yielded tangible benefits. ….. 


Professor Lars Olav Eik has decorated his office at UMB in Ås, Norway, with Norwegian and African cowbells. As an up-and-coming agronomist he accompanied the first goat kids to Tanzania in 2009. He still coordinates the Norwegian input to the project. Professors Martin Luther Kyomo of Tanzania and Asmund Ekern and Ola Syrstad of Norway initiated the effort. The outset was a desire to boost the East African country’s dairy production. Goats were a natural choice. “Goats are known as the poor man’s cows,” says Eik.

“We discovered that Tanzania had no dairy goats and decided to send them some Norwegian kid goats,” says Eik. The first goats were transported by air, with the young goats shipped in cargo cages designed for dogs — three kids per cage. 

The animals have since interbred with local goats. There may be as many as 300,000 goats in Tanzania with Norwegian genes. That figure is just a rough estimate because no one has actually conducted a goat census. What is certain is that the popularity of the Norwegian goats expanded way beyond the framework of the research project. …..

Dairy goats with Norwegian genes are now established in the economy of many peasant farmers in Tanzania. Simforiani L. Mahenge and his wife Jovita Joseph with their favourite goat, a ten-year-old animal named Chama. (Photo: Asle Rønning,

When it comes to radical innovation, the customer is not always right

March 22, 2013

We are all customers and and we are all essentially conservative at heart. We tend to prefer to stick to what we know and like.  So while listening to your customers is paramount when it comes to incremental improvements of products or services, the existing customer may not be the best when it comes to radical innovation and the introduction of something completely new.

Customer co-creation in service innovation: a matter of  communication? by Anders Gustafsson, Per Kristensson and Lars Witell, Journal of Service Management, 23(2012)3: 311-327. 

The paper (available as an Open Access manuscript) reports on the results of a survey among 334 managers who all had experience with innovation in the creation of new products or services. The researchers selected 284 real development projects  divided into two main groups:

  • Incremental innovation: 207 of the projects dealt with minor improvements of products or services.
  • Radical innovation: The remaining 77 projects dealt with development of radically new products or services not previously known to the market.

… The implication for the dysfunctional model is that the communication process – and therefore co-creation – is different for radical innovations than for incremental innovations. The model for radical innovations produced two significant paths (using adjusted t-tests), frequency (0.336, p< 0.05), and content (-0.246, p< 0.05). The results indicate that companies should interact frequently with their customers; this is similar to the findings in the case of incremental innovations. The path coefficient for content is negative, which indicates that customers should not be too highly involved in developing the actual content of radical innovations. …..

…. The results of the present study contribute to a deeper understanding of why new offerings developed through market research techniques based on co-creation with customers are more profitable than those developed with traditional market research techniques. ……

However, the communication process of co-creation for radical innovations seems to behave quite differently in that the four suggested dimensions are not entirely applicable in the same way for radical innovation as they are for incremental innovation. The different dimensions in the communication process behave differently in the two conditions, which suggests that companies must apply different communication strategies in co-creation depending on the degree of innovativeness of a development project. The two dimensions that are significant in radical innovation are frequency (positive) and content (negative). Direction and modality did not have a significant impact on product success. This implies that companies should learn from customers through frequent contact, which is the same as in the case of incremental innovations. However, companies should not be overly concerned with suggestions of the content of a potential new offering. Radical solutions can often be considered unthinkable in advance, which can make radical solutions hard to imagine, but customers know a good idea when they see and use it. Customers create solutions based on their previous experiences of usage of different products or services, which makes it difficult to suggest solutions that are truly radical.

Archive of posts on management behaviour

March 10, 2013

A reader has suggested I collect my posts on management behaviour on a separate site, but I am not sure I would be able to do justice to yet another blog even though it would have the advantage of being a much more focused site. However to address – at least partially – the reader’s difficulty in finding some of my past posts on the subject, they are re- linked below. (These and all other posts tagged “management” can be found here).

  1. Ethics and Business  April 19, 2010

  2. Why Forecasts need to be wrong October 7,2010

  3. “Essence of a Manager” released March 29, 2011

  4. The Art of Motivation April 21, 2011

  5. Power and empowerment April 30, 2011

  6. Strength in a Manager: The materials analogy May 8, 2011

  7. Japan Colloquium: Lessons for crises management July 24, 2011

  8. What makes a “good” manager? April 12, 2012

  9. Manager Selection: Using hypothetical scenarios in interviews June 10, 2012

  10. How to use your CV to “control” the subsequent interview November 20, 2012

  11. The need for communication leads to speech and grammar and language February 25, 2013

As with peak gas, peak oil and rampant pessimism need to be postponed

July 9, 2012

Recovery of gas and oil from shale is more than just a game changer – it is a mind-changer. The recoverability of oil and gas from shale postpones “peak oil” and “peak gas” indefinitely. For 3 decades we have suffered from the rampant pessimism of the alarmists and the coercive politics of fear. A change of mind-set from pessimistic environmentalism and backward-looking conservationism is called for. A shift of attitude from the joyless “glass half-empty and we are doomed” to the entrepreneurial “glass half-full but can be filled”  is over-due.

Resource depletion with usage is a trivial truth  – though matter at the elemental level is never destroyed by human use. However utilisation of resources does alter the composition and concentration of materials remaining available. But every alarmist and doom-sayer who has ever lived and has forecast impending catastrophe has been proven spectacularly wrong. Human ingenuity has faced every challenge and trumped the doom-sayers – every time.

The pictures say it all:

The scope of the US oil shale resource

The scope of the US oil shale resource

Related: “Peak Oil” hypothesis is following “Peak Gas” into oblivion

Moving peaks

Manager Selection: Using hypothetical scenarios in interviews

June 10, 2012

When selecting for managers a common error is to equate “successful” with “good”. But as I have posted earlier regarding  what makes a “good” manager and the attributes he has,

Success is transient. Just like profit or cash-flow – it is over once it has been recognised. The success counter is set to zero once the success is “booked”.  Goodness lasts longer – it is like a balance sheet item. This financial analogy is sound. A success once booked – like profit or cash – gets transferred to the goodness in the balance sheet. It is available as a balance sheet item for future results but does not – in itself – ensure such future results. Past successes like previous profits provide a track record and an indication of things to come but do not, in themselves, ensure future success or profit. And just as a lack of profit or a shortage of cash can impair a balance sheet, a lack of success can impair a manager’s goodness.

Success and goodness are different.

Here I address the use of hypothetical scenarios in selection interviews to find the “good” manager.


“Offshore wind power is not affordable” – KPMG

November 15, 2011
Any Old Wind That Blows

There are some simple and rather obvious matters that the “green” lobbies prefer to ignore.

  1. In spite of twenty years of subsidies wind power is still not commercially viable without subsidy. Solar thermal power plants enjoy feed in tariffs some 3 times higher than the cost of conventional fossil power generation. Wherever renewables have been used to any extent, electricity prices for the consumer have increased.
  2. Intermittent sources of power (which cease when the wind does not blow, or blows too hard or when the sun does not shine at night or when clouds appear) are – by definition – unreliable. They do not add to the reliable, base-load, generating capacity that any electricity grid requires and must be backed up.  In Scotland for example – as Professor Colin McInnes points out – wind power capacity now exceeds nuclear capacity but only produces about one-third of the energy.
  3. Electricity is energy in motion and cannot be stored as electricity. For any electrical grid, at any instant, generation must, perforce, equal demand – and pumped storage schemes are merely devices to try and ensure such balance. Since the outages of wind and solar power are unpredictable (though it is generally predictable that solar power will not be available at night), and cannot be relied on to meet load demand fluctuations, “balancing power” (usually from gas turbines) must be arranged for whenever wind or solar capacity is added.
  4. In addition to the direct subsidies, whenever wind or solar power is available at times when there is low load, the subsidised regime forces the turning-down of other capacity – to the detriment of that capacity – and adds to the total cost of the grid.
Now – finally – some of the real numbers are beginning to be acknowledged but not, of course, by the green lobbies. KPMG has produced a new report “Thinking about the Affordable” and Power Engineering International reports that:

Wind power has less potential than claimed and the role of gas is underestimated

August 14, 2011

That the intermittent nature of solar and wind power inherently limits how such capacity can be installed and despatched seems pretty obvious but has always been underestimated by the renewable energy lobby. As subsidies are reduced in the face of government cutbacks and as the still very high costs of renewable power work their way into electricity tariffs some of the “green sheen” surrounding solar and wind power is becoming decidedly tarnished.

A new  study of the UK energy system has been published by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies 

The Impact of Import Dependency and Wind Generation on UK Gas Demand and Security of Supply to 2025

By Howard Rogers

Summary: This paper by Howard Rogers challenges the assumption of UK government policy papers and projections that, as a result of substantial increases in renewable and other low carbon generation capacity, the role of gas in the will decline rapidly over the next decade and beyond. The study suggests that gas will retain a central and undiminished role in the UK power generation sector. Although its role in the power generation sector may change, gas is likely to be particularly important in respect of ensuring security of supply in the context of increasing intermittent wind generation. As a result, additional gas storage will be needed and, given current market conditions, immediate attention needs to be devoted to creating incentives to ensure this will be provided.

The Telegraph writes:

UK Windpower targets are ‘unfeasible’

Howard Rogers, senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said in a study that Britain’s power network is not built for wind power accounting for more than a third of capacity on the system.

He said that any more than 28 gigawatts of wind would mean it is likely that turbine owners would regularly have to be paid to keep capacity off the system. Earlier this year, six wind farms were paid £900,000 to stop generating for one night, because the system became overloaded.

The study challenges the ambitious estimates in a study commissioned by the Government which estimates that 58 gigawatts of wind is likely to be built in a “medium activity” scenario by 2030, out of a total system of 80 gigawatts of capacity. …. Mr Rogers said this does not fully consider the ability of the grid to cope with the intermittency of wind, which often does not blow at all or can be too strong, causing overload.

“It would appear that the more ambitious targets for wind generation in the UK have been formulated without a full appreciation of the costs and complexities caused by the intermittency of very substantial levels of wind generation,” the report says. “The analysis concludes that the maximum feasible level of wind generating capacity is 28 gigawatts.

At higher levels than this, the country faces the prospect of short notice intervention to reduce turbine output with the added complication that forecasts of wind speed beyond six hours into the future are inherently uncertain.”

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies is allied to three Oxford University colleges but also receives funding from “members” and sponsors, such as gas producers BP and BG Group and companies with huge investments in wind power, including Centrica and Dong Energy. Its gas research is also sponsored by National Grid.

Professor Jonathan Stern writes in the preface to the study: “It is no part of the remit of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies gas research programme to promote natural gas, either in the UK or more generally. We are gas researchers not advocates or lobbyists. However, our research increasingly suggests that the likely future role of gas in energy balances has and continues to be underestimated.”


Wind stops wind power….. 

Bio-gas is out, shale gas is in and there is no “peak” gas in sight!

Hold on to bricks and mortar while stock markets crash as the bears go on a rampage

August 5, 2011

In spite of the US extending its debt ceiling over last weekend with great unnecessary drama, the stock markets this week have all given in to the bears. Massive losses of stock prices have been sustained from Tokyo to Bombay to London to Wall Street.

That the bears have managed to bring so many markets down strikes me as being mainly opportunistic. Of course the underlying weakness of the markets lies in the economic profligacy primarily of the US and also in Europe in Greece, Italy and Spain. But the weakness of the Euro allows the German manufacturing sector to flourish. And the “workers of the world” in China and India and Brazil and Germany have not been strong enough to resist and counteract the alarmist views now pervading the stock markets. A double dip recession now seems inevitable.

A curious combination of the irresponsibility of having bloated public sectors (albeit in over-zealous attempts at “do-gooding”) together with the ravenous greed of the financial speculators who feed upon others but create no real wealth themselves.

I do not know how long it will last or how deep this second dip will go, but bricks and mortar and the “making of real things” that people want will eventually prevail. So I shall get rid of my shares in any companies that do not make “real things” and create real wealth.

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