This week the team talk cars: What we own, how ‘connected’ (or not) they are and our frustrations with getting the software upgraded. We discuss Tesla’s pioneering use of ‘crowd data’, ‘in-app purchases’ for vehicles and speculate (very briefly) about the Apple Car. There’s also an update on this season’s Smartest Home competition as Rafe takes a clear lead.
Ben: Hello, welcome to 361 a weekly podcast about mobile tech and everything around it. My name is Ben Smith.
Ewan: I'm Ewan MacLeod.
Rafe: I'm Rafe Blandford.
Ben: This is season 11, episode 4. This week we're talking about cars.
Ewan: What we own and how smart and connected they are.
Rafe: We look at the way Tesla is pioneering crowd data and in-app purchase for automobiles.
Ben: Welcome back chaps. How are you Rafe Blandford?
Rafe: I'm fine. Thank you, Ben.
Ben: You are a big liar because you look terrible.
Ewan: You're looking very pale, Blandford.
Ben: Very pale.
Rafe: I assure you, being British, I'm quite fine.
Ben: You're quite the fine [crosstalk 00:01:00]
Ewan: As he's shivering in the corner.
Ben: Yeah, you don't look well, Rafe Blandford, at all.
Rafe: It's all the stress.
Ewan: Too much work?
Rafe: Yeah, well, I'm really concerned about having the smartest home, you see. There's something else hanging over me, or there might be by the time this goes out live, which I'm worrying probably even more about than having the smartest home.
Ben: Oh, I see yes.
Ewan: Something [inaudible 00:01:19]?
Ben: We are recording this, slightly in advance of broadcast, so we don't yet know how generous our patrons are being ...
Ewan: I'm really hoping that people will be listening going, "We want Blandford to, give him a massage, live during a recording. Even with the how we'll do, because he'll still be speaking when he's lying on the massage table. It's got a little hole where you put your head, right? We can just put the microphone, which I'll just prod here. That can just go under where he is. He will still, he'll be speaking like, "Oh this will be great." You'll still be able to speak, right?
Rafe: Except it'll be like "Ah!"
Ewan: While the lady is doing ... Well, you can choose. Would you like a lady or a man?
Ben: Just for charities. We said the listeners can give Rafe a massage if you do meet Rafe in a social situation.
Rafe: Please don't.
Ben: Please don't touch him without his consent. He normally gives consent fairly regularly but, do at least seek consent before touching him.
Rafe: I actually haven't given consent to any of this so far.
Ben: Right, but the idea is implied consent business, because if we do get to that sponsorship tie ... Which what was it?
Ben: $100 ...
Ewan: Just $100. I'm almost tempted to [crosstalk 00:02:24].
Rafe: Yeah, this is what's really worrying [crosstalk 00:02:27]. Is there someone out there who's ... ?
Ewan: I know. I'm ...
Rafe: Evil basically.
Ewan: I'm quite happy to chuck in the follow up myself just to listen. We'll all get to watch it let alone just the 15,000 listeners. 1% of those giving $1 an episode.
Ben: What, and that would get us to ... That is a lot of Rafe Blandford robbing.
Ewan: No, what we're thinking here, listeners, this will either go nowhere, in which case don't worry, okay, or it will actually go somewhere, in which case every episode, or at least every season [inaudible 00:02:52] something really uncomfortable and slightly inappropriate for Blandford to have to do. This is a new thing.
Rafe: Why me?
Ewan: You think now ...
Rafe: Just because it's fun, right?
Ewan: [inaudible 00:03:02].
Ben: He with the estate, he with the Oxbridge heritage, so you have more clout. How are you? We are having great fun.
Rafe: Yeah, I'm fine. [crosstalk 00:03:10]
Ben: I really am hoping there is a bit of uproar and support for this new Blandford does feature. Full details in episode three, of course.
Ewan: Absolutely. Episode ... Well, check three's [inaudible 00:03:21] podcast for details. Certainly, I am very much looking forward to that.
Ben: Will you be allowing the [photography 00:03:24], Blandford?
Ben: Just on your [inaudible 00:03:27]?
Ewan: Okay, we can do audio only, can't we? We could maybe ... What about a taste for Instagram shot because if you don't know [inaudible 00:03:33], I always do an obligatory [inaudible 00:03:36]. There's a small [inaudible 00:03:37] of listeners that we like seeing the latest photos of Blandford. Every episode I do a photo while we're recording it.
Ben: Okay. Any news of you, your account?
Ewan: Well, we're talking about the challenge.
Ben: Well, let ... We'll come back to that.
Ewan: We'll come back to that.
Ben: We'll come back to that. Got news. I'm getting somewhere.
Rafe: You've got some. Okay. Great. Well, let's crack on though because actually this week is a topic I'm really interested in. It's a personal, personally passion of mine. Tell me all about what we're going to talk about.
Ben: We are going to vehicular.
Ben: Vehicular. Isn't that how they say it in America?
Rafe: I think they just call them [glass 00:04:07].
Ben: Vehicular. Automobiles.
Ben: Are we talking cars ... We're looking at the current craze and, I think, requirement for connected cars because it's been really annoying me. The current craze for connected cars.
Ben: It's easy for you to say.
Ewan: Wait, exactly. I went and bought one, which was a real disappointment I have to say.
Ben: You weren't crazy about it?
Ewan: No, the car is fine. It's just the entertainment system is rubbish. Let's get our cards on the table then.
Ben: What do you have ... ? [crosstalk 00:04:32] How connected is it?
Ewan: I used to have a Range Rover, and it was an older Range Rover. It had a radio.
Ben: A radio. (Laughs)
Ewan: It had a radio. I don't think ... Did it have a CD player? It might have had a CD player. I can't remember. Basically, all I did was I had to ... No, no, no. It had a tape deck.
Ben: 1985. [crosstalk 00:04:48]
Ewan: It had a tape deck. I had to put that tape converter thing in and then connect the iPhone.
Ewan: And just audio. It just played audio. That was fine. [crosstalk 00:04:56]
Ewan: I like it to be binary, even if it works that's amazing or if it doesn't work then you can supplement it with Tom Tom or whatever. That was great. Now, I've got the XC 60 because my wife wants a smaller Volvo. Not the big ones. One of the small ones. You can park it. The issue with that is it's got an entertainment system, which is [Otter Pants 00:05:13]. Otter, Otter Pants. I was on I think season 10 [crosstalk 00:05:17] talking about this.
Ben: If you don't come from the East, Midland of the UK ...
Ewan: East, Middle.
Ben: I feel that's where the pants is a popular euphemism.
Ewan: Well, whenever I use other words, you then go off of me, we have to bleep the thing out ...
Ben: That's true.
Ewan: Mark has data of me saying, "Flipping" or "Franking" or whatever.
Ben: Not very good, is what you're saying.
Ewan: It's a pure quality.
Ben: A pure quality.
Ewan: Because I bought this Volvo principally because [inaudible 00:05:39] for XC 19, which I think is a mistake [inaudible 00:05:41]. I've got a 60, and it's got Spotify on it [crosstalk 00:05:45], which you think, come on. That's cool. The issue ...
Ben: That's actually not on your phone. That's an app on the actual car.
Ewan: [inaudible 00:05:51]
Ben: On the car, right?
Ewan: You think, that is amazing until you'll recognize this is a paranormal episode from last week because basically what they've done with the Volvo is put a smart TV level rubbish system in it. The entertainment system is equivalent to that rubbishy smart TV thing, right? It's really [inaudible 00:06:07]. It's a lot [inaudible 00:06:09] version.
Ben: Wow, harsh words.
Ewan: It's a rubbish little version of ... It took me five minutes to connect to [inaudible 00:06:15], really [inaudible 00:06:16], and then it does have Spotify, but it's really, really, really, rubbish. You switch the car engine on, boom, and then the entertainment system has to boot up, right? That's maybe five seconds or so, and then it has to connect if you want you have to go app, app, app, app. Then you connect it. I mean, you really have to be seriously committed to this rubbish.
Ewan: I've used it twice. (Laughs)
Ben: It made you that angry.
Ewan: Yeah, and I shouldn't have done it. Well, because that was a significant amount of money.
Ben: Rafe Blandford, talk to us about cars. I can see you in a muscle car actually.
Ewan: Do you drive anything or you just driven right from over [inaudible 00:06:54] kind of?
Ben: No, he's been in the front seat on the ... You do tractors and stuff like that [crosstalk 00:06:59]
Rafe: Should I answer this question or just let you discuss it [crosstalk 00:07:02]?
Ewan: Let's discuss it then.
Ben: I'm having more fun hypothesizing.
Ewan: That's another thing. That's the second thing, right, for our future Rafe Blandford does.
Ewan: Rafe drives a digger ...
Rafe: Anyway, I [inaudible 00:07:12], so I don't own a car.
Ben: When you're on the Blandford Estate.
Ben: How do you [inaudible 00:07:16] around the perimeter of your property?
Rafe: I use my legs and walk.
Ben: Do you ever go and do the sheep [inaudible 00:07:21]?
Rafe: Personal question. (Laughs)
Ben: No, I'm talking about feeding the sheep. Feeding the sheep. [crosstalk 00:07:26]
Ben: This is a serious question, Blandford. Okay, wait a minute. We're ... [crosstalk 00:07:41] Can you make sure you keep us [in then 00:07:45]? You know what, delete this because people will believe he's ... It's a sensible question about helping a farmer out, the people in the land.
Rafe: There aren't any sheep on the Blandford Estate.
Ben: They don't take much tractoring, do they?
Rafe: No, they don't, but I do occasionally drive a car, zip car in London, and that system works really well for me.
Ben: That's one that you actually unlock with an app when you get to the car.
Rafe: [crosstalk 00:08:13] It's kind of like on-demand rental essentially. If you're [inaudible 00:08:18] that along with open [black 00:08:20] taxis pretty much cover all your transport needs when puppet transport isn't appropriate.
Ben: You can get a fan if you go into Ikea.
Rafe: Get a fan if you're moving or [inaudible 00:08:29] do your big purchase.
Ewan: Do the zip cars have any kind of uprated audio or entertainment systems inside? What do they provide in the [inaudible 00:08:37]?
Rafe: I have never used them for that. The more recent models have it as almost standard, but it tends to be CD-systems and that kind of entertainment rather than the full on connected car. I typically just use my smart phone for doing the navigation.
Ewan: The zip car don't add anything by way of a service, so their electronics in the car is just purely about unlocking the doors.
Rafe: Absolutely, yeah. They kind of got ... It's equivalent to NFC Access and that sort. It's not actually working that way [inaudible 00:09:05] misunderstand it. There's a connection going up and down. It's smart. It just works, but it's very different from owning your own car, where you do make decisions on what you're going to be doing with it because it's something you do regularly all the time. For me, it's just a convenience thing.
Ben: Pay by the hour rental, isn't it with the zip car? Granted ...
Ewan: Well, you're [inaudible 00:09:24].
Rafe: You're in mourning.
Ben: I am. [crosstalk 00:09:26] I currently drive a Porsche Boxster, and I love it. It took a long time to persuade Mrs. Smith for financial approval on that particular purchase. For the car [itself 00:09:37], I've got a new [inaudible 00:09:38] model, Porsche Boxster S, which I love deeply.
Ewan: It's a fast one.
Ben: It's fast enough.
Ewan: I've been in it. I've been in ...
Ben: It goes a bit fast.
Rafe: How much space does it have for things? I mean, I was thinking luggage, but there are some other things in your life recently that I'm guessing aren't entirely compatible?
Ewan: [inaudible 00:09:55] smart TV?
Ben: Well, certainly you wouldn't be driving home from the shops with a brand new smart TV. Also, I think Rafe is probably alluding to Master Smith, Smith Jr., Smith [crosstalk 00:10:04], the Wee Man. I've checked. He will fit in, both the front and the back boots because it's a mid-engine car. There's a trunk in either end somewhere.
Ewan: I think that's frowned on [crosstalk 00:10:11].
Rafe: I mean, I can't believe Mrs. Smith is really going to approve that particular stowing ...
Ben: No. [crosstalk 00:10:17] That particular plan did get a thumbs down.
Ewan: What are you going to do, now? Are you going to sell it?
Ben: Well, so the car is going to have to go. Actually, more it's going to have to go because it's also a vehicle where you can't turn off the front airbags, unfortunately ...
Ewan: That's a no-no.
Ben: You can't put the child's car seat in, so even if mommy stays home, daddy and baby can't go out in the car. It's for the [chap 00:10:36], but I haven't decided what to replace it ... Yes, actually it's a really good time to have this episode because of course I'm looking at loads of different cars. Obviously, they're going to have slightly more seats, but I'm looking at ... Thinking very much about how smart [inaudible 00:10:48], and all the various other options. [crosstalk 00:10:49]
Ewan: What would you normally just do?
Ben: Naturally, just do a Porsche, big one. Well, we thought about it [crosstalk 00:10:54]. Well, we thought about it, but actually ...
Ewan: What was the other one?
Ben: It was a Cayenne and the Macan.
Ewan: Macan, that's it.
Ben: But I love the car, which is not ...
Ewan: He's sitting, smiling over there. I'm not sure why.
Ben: It is a miraculous vehicle, and I love it.
Ewan: Why are you smiling?
Rafe: Because I'm enjoying the fact that Ben's having to suffer for a little bit.
Ben: [inaudible 00:11:09] not suffering, isn't it? One of the only disappointments about the vehicle is how poorly the entertainment system is, so what you were saying about ... Okay ...
Ewan: That was the radio.
Ben: I didn't buy mine brand new, but it was a considerable purchase. It has a big touch screen center console, [Satin F 00:11:24] system. When that arrived, that didn't even properly look up addresses by postcodes, which is the primary way that you would enter addresses, certainly in the UK. We had to get an upgrade for that. It very, very limited indeed and slow and not particularly responsive, and scrolling around the map is, if it's something you don't do, affects [inaudible 00:11:44] because it's so slow and poor. The only thing I use it for is to hook it up with a Bluetooth to my smart phone, and I can stream audio off my smart phone podcast or sometimes I stream radio through an app if I've got poor reception where I'm driving on FM. It has a USB port in the glove compartment for charging things up, but it is really poor.
Ewan: Isn't that ridiculous? Doesn't that not make you question the mark and the quality?
Ben: It does, and it irritates me hugely, but what's irritating me even more is I was thinking, well, maybe they just think this is a car for driving, entertainment is a secondary thing, but we will just put in [crosstalk 00:12:17] USB. It was deliberate.
Ewan: I don't think that is. I mean, I think the speed around consumer tech and mobile in particular has given people a false set of expectations. Because if you go back let's say five, ten years, you'll find smart phones [inaudible 00:12:34], it was just quite frankly very poor compared to what we have today. Cars are on a ten year life cycle typically when the model first gets announced, and when they stop selling it. It just operates as a different speed to the typical consumer industry.
Ben: I don't think that's a valid perspective anymore, right, because I think the consumers are changing that, wanting to change that.
Rafe: I think that's right, and there has been a response that from the car manufacturers, but they still are based around this ten year model, and they can't get away from it. There's the aftermarket solution. You installed something third-party or off, you bought it. Or they hand over control to someone else, and this is what the things like CarPlay, Android Auto, and [inaudible 00:13:17] have been about. Manufacturers have been very reluctant to do that because quite understandably, that is a critical part of your interaction with the consumer. That's as just as big a problem as health and safety [inaudible 00:13:29]. There's all kinds of regulation and compliance around that. We sit there and say it's [inaudible 00:13:35], but actually that experience for the consumer in the car is hugely more complicated, I would argue, than something that's sitting on a smart home [crosstalk 00:13:42] glancing or it can give you ...
Ewan: I don't agree with you, Blandford, right.
Ewan: I think you're just giving them too much leeway. This is really simple, right. These are billion, billion, billion dollar companies that can't seem to ... I mean, look at the nonsense in the Porsche.
Rafe: You're expecting ...
Ewan: Yes, I am.
Rafe: These companies ... [crosstalk 00:13:59] something like Apple ...
Ewan: Well, no, no. If you can't do it, buy it.
Rafe: Significantly bigger than that.
Ewan: Buy it. Buy it. Simply just give it to them. If you can't do it, which they can't, just give it to Apple.
Rafe: I think the thing that disappointed me was not the fact that it didn't suddenly, magically get CarPlay. That was a disappointment. Actually, VW and Porsche, owned by VW Group, have just announced in the latest 9/11 that they're going to support CarPlay. That's on the 2016 model vehicle.
Ewan: When do you actually get that [crosstalk 00:14:26]?
Rafe: Those vehicles are starting to shift just about now, but it literally as we record this ...
Ewan: No different to the iPhone. The iPhone 4 can't have iOS 9. That's a bit disappointing. That's only three years old.
Rafe: It can't, but there've been a lot of vehicle releases between when CarPlay was adopted by VW, and now when they're starting to put it in some of their higher ...
Ewan: Lots of releases. I mean, CarPlay itself is what? Three years old.
Rafe: Yes, but these models are being refreshed on an annual basis. My point was that when you own a vehicle, particularly a relatively new vehicle, many, many people still use their manufacturer to service and maintain it. My Satin F solution is upgraded every time it goes back to the dealer. It's had software bugs fixed, it's had maps upgraded, and these sorts of things. It's quite routine now, not just for the entertainment system but for the software generally in the car to be upgraded. What's been disappointing I think has been actually the standard that they seem to feel [crosstalk 00:15:22] Yes. That is the issue.
Ben: Yeah, and that's where I'm definitely with you. It seemed almost inexplicable, but more hasn't been done from an investment point of view to get the stuff they're doing right. I do think that installing new stuff and getting it upstate is harder than we imagine. I think we've been given almost a full set of expectations by smart phones. I mean, we only need to go back to the pre-iPhone eras, and all the phones there [inaudible 00:15:47] upgrade was something that was very difficult for most people to get. You have to go into a service center. Most consumer electronics still roll around that. You don't expect to update the software in your washing machine or your fridge. Absolutely, I would like it to be better, but I think we also have to be realistic about the level of challenges around this. It's very telling that I think just for an industry that operates on those kind of timescales to then change its operational heartbeat to operate more on the consumer [inaudible 00:16:15] scale, has been difficult.
Ewan: Welcome to the new world. Let's look at Tesla. That's live, that's operational, they can do it. [crosstalk 00:16:20]
Ben: That's a brand new company. It's a typical thing we talk about with disruptions [crosstalk 00:16:26] We'll come back to Tesla in a minute, but the thing that I think was surprising and disappointing as well was the lack of ambition that's in Android Auto or CarPlay or something like that. A fascinating demo where they were running CarPlay inside a Ferrari ...
Ben: Not a vehicle that any of us would likely to own anytime soon.
Rafe: Too small for me.
Ben: Yeah [inaudible 00:16:47].
Ewan: Seriously [crosstalk 00:16:49]
Ben: The demo was you went into CarPlay mode, and then CarPlay took over the whole entertainment system. When you're finished doing CarPlay stuff, it was always like CarPlay was an app, and then you flipped back into your classic, nasty onboard computer, and some of the things you could do both ways. I mean, this reminds me of the things that wind me up about Samsung phones sometimes. You get Samsung store and the Google store, Samsung maps, and then ...
Ewan: Samsung storage, Dropbox, Google Drive ...
Ben: What it ends up doing is although they're offering more choice to the consumer actually that's confusing and awkward. That's what was happening there particularly with GPS. You could use the Maps through CarPlay or you could use the built-in GPS Satin F system in the car. They were just accessed through different ways. I think I was surprised at how poor and how slow they've been to adopt it. I sent that eyesore recently, Rafe, was some commentary by the US motor industry saying that now when people go into a dealership to [inaudible 00:17:46] buy a car, they're more interested in their smart phone integration, and that is driving more purchasing decisions than the performance of the vehicle itself.
Rafe: It doesn't surprise me in the slightest. It'd be interesting to know whether that's more around the streaming of content which I think is quite personal or whether it comes into their calling and everything else because there's a lot of talk of connected car apps. Actually making one specific for each manufacturer would be very difficult. Is [inaudible 00:18:13] Google expected to do that?
Ben: No, [inaudible 00:18:15] Blackberry.
Ben: Blackberry, come on. [crosstalk 00:18:17]
Ewan: Research emotion. (Laughs)
Ben: I went to a Blackberry World, one of the last Blackberry Worlds, I attended somewhere in I think it was the seventh circle of hell. It was Orlando. (Laughs) [crosstalk 00:18:33]
Ewan: That's the sixth circle of heaven. You have to take one of the interstates.
Ben: It was really nice. It was the World Center Hotel, very nice. They have a car there. I think I sat in it, and I think I did record a video of this. Their plan was [inaudible 00:18:47] looks version, they were putting in the car. What they were saying is look, all we'll do is take a video app and an audio app from the device, and then everything else is going to be RealVNC. RealVNC, your handset, because we don't know in five years what operating system or anything will be running on it. It's much better to just take over the screen of the car, and then audio and potentially video, then that's it. That sounded to me like a smart methodology.
Rafe: That's the way that MiraLink works, but that's come from the car industry, and that's why it's quite-wide adopted despite the fact that most consumers actually prefer CarPlay and Android Auto because it's what they're familiar with from the smart phone world, and [inaudible 00:19:32] important point here that these are systems that will be expected to last ten years, and so what does that compatibility look like in ten years. Making it [inaudible 00:19:41] might not be impossible, but you also have to bear in mind that we don't actually know what smart phones and the devices will look like in ten years time. This applies both to this direct connection, but also of course the other side of connected cars is the apps [inaudible 00:19:55] handsets when you're outside the car. How do you maintain those for ten years? We're talking quite [inaudible 00:20:01] about how it's easy to fix, but I actually think the challenges are amongst the most difficult to solve in mobile. I think the interface one I absolutely accept that should've been done better to getting that integration right and working out who owns what bit and who should control it. How you get that customized in each car is a much more difficult thing. Honestly, I think before it gets sorted out will be outpaced by cars changing in a more fundamental way.
Ben: Yes, on the BMW amongst others now are making companion apps for their cars which allow you to heat them up in cold climates or unlock them, locate them, check batteries charge for electric vehicles, and that includes Apple Watch versions as well. I have to say ...
Rafe: That sounds great but maintenance nightmare because in ten years time, there'll be the new devices, but there'll also be the old ones. What level of support and how do you get that maintenance and for anyone who's run an app project, ten year timescale is almost impossible to do.
Ewan: How much of a problem is that because as long as it's positioned to the customer as this is a current offering because what if you don't have an Apple Watch? You can't use that option. [crosstalk 00:21:06]
Rafe: If it just stopped working. I think the expectation is if it's there from day one, you expect it to be later on.
Ewan: I think they need to provide the API, but I don't see why they need to worry about whether or not you've got an Apple Watch or a phone. I think it's an option. As long as they provide access to it for the lifetime of the car, I think that's fine, but they don't have to worry about ...
Rafe: I don't think consumers care about [crosstalk 00:21:26] concern themselves with a client and they would blame BMW if they can no longer suddenly unlock their car [crosstalk 00:21:32]
Ben: It's an opportune time to talk about Tesla, a Californian car company ...
Ewan: Yes, please.
Ben: Obviously, Tesla's drawn a lot of attention really for making some of the best known electric vehicles and some of the most exciting from my perspective although there are plenty of other firms catching up. They nearly killed the UK company Lotus on the way to doing it by rubbing so much of their talent to find the British quickly forgiving.
Rafe: Yeah, thanks Tesla.
Ben: Yeah, thanks.
Rafe: Your 100,000 cars.
Ewan: Well, where was Lotus going?
Ben: Lotus also makes niche sports cars, but they actually make most of their money from consulting. They help other auto manufacturers design and build cars, and a lot of their experts were stolen away by Tesla by the time of around the first Tesla car.
Ewan: Interesting. [inaudible 00:22:20] Just like Apple.
Ben: Would you like to work in a very wet place in the UK in a tin shed or would you like to come to California?
Ewan: Let me think about that. Yes, please.
Ben: [crosstalk 00:22:27] Tesla cars are interesting, but the reason we wanted to talk about them is twofold really. Rafe, one is they do very regular software updates. Software is a massive part of the vehicle, both the entertainment control surface and that's right dominant in the middle of the vehicle, right down the center console. It's a huge [crosstalk 00:22:44]. It's about a 17 inch [inaudible 00:22:47] screen.
Rafe: Everything's a screen.
Ben: Everything is a screen, and that's a trend that other manufacturers are beginning to copy because it makes for quite a immersive experience whether or not it's [crosstalk 00:22:57], exactly whether or not it's safe. Several people have commented actually that it can be distracting from driving. The other thing, and probably less commented on is that Tesla gathers a huge amount of information from its fleet and uses that to inform its software updates. That as far as I'm aware is in private vehicle ownership away from the commercial fleets of vehicles is pretty rare.
Rafe: It is. I mean, we could call this collection of crowd [inaudible 00:23:19] to then improve things. The only other place we really see this is in map collection. Actually all the manufacturers do this to some extent, but don't really take advantage of it. Where it is used is in here. Maps, for example, they have thousands, actually it's millions, of what they refer to as probes which are [inaudible 00:23:37], but they're using it to construct more accurate maps. What Tesla's doing is to understand driving behavior, how people use the features, and then essentially prioritize development accordingly. They made the headlines recently for releasing their self-drive update news, autonomous driving. Actually, it was more around staying in the lane and doing some clever tricks to not drive into the back of cars. You did see all the YouTube videos of people taking their hands off the wheel and doing everything they would not supposed to. Tesla then collected data about how that was using and subsequently issued an update cutting off some of the features, so it actually became less capable. You also see that for all their other systems around the entertainment and stuff you get into the car. I think that's really interesting, but also use ...
Ewan: Can you get 361 on your Tesla?
Rafe: Yeah [crosstalk 00:24:26] web browser. Yep. You could go to the website and stream all that ...
Ewan: Any Tesla listeners.
Rafe: If you've got a Tesla, I want to see the 361 site on it.
Ewan: Can you show us 361 on the console?
Rafe: The thing I think is interesting about the software in the Tesla, and you were talking about this, Ben, is effectively software is hardware, and you're seeing this in a lot of electric vehicles where the traditional car bits have been replaced by software. That's allowed Tesla to tune performance and the way things work actually after the car has left the factory.
Ben: The reason this came up [inaudible 00:24:58] was I was looking for a car to buy and I thought, "Oh, wouldn't it be amazing to buy a Tesla?" It would be, but having ... You [inaudible 00:25:05] model X, which is their SUV.
Ewan: That's what you need.
Ben: Yes. It's not quite available in the UK yet.
Ewan: 3.2 seconds, 0 to 60. [crosstalk 00:25:11]
Ben: They're rather expensive in the UK, but yes. It's a fancy looking vehicles. When you go through ... First of all, you buy it almost completely online, which is [crosstalk 00:25:20]. There's this amazing feature where it says "would you like," I'm trying to think. "Would you like insane mode performance," which is one of the things ...
Ewan: [inaudible 00:25:30] yes, please.
Ben: It tells you a price, and then it says "or a slightly higher price to switch on later." You can license these features [crosstalk 00:25:39] and enable them in the vehicle because so much of the vehicle is software. Rafe, you're right. In an electric car, the clutch and various other things that are mechanical components in most other cars and obviously the Tesla doesn't have a traditional clutch, but the performance and the characteristics of the car, for example in my car, are determined by the performance characteristics of the mechanical components. They're all just controlled in software.
Rafe: I find it fascinating that there's almost artificial constraints. They're just like subscription levels, and the fact that's where they can be switched on and off, it's almost like the extension of that is for the [weekend 00:26:17]. Do you buy the sports mode option just for a few days? By then, [inaudible 00:26:21], but it does change your relationship that you have with a car and more importantly with the manufacturer. It's a great way to actually ... Suddenly, the manufacturer becomes much more relevant in your life, and there is obviously a cost mitigated for that. I'm willing to bet it does great things to Tesla's business model in terms of margins.
Ben: For a long time, you've been able to [inaudible 00:26:41] change the programming of the computer in your car, and it's not been a supported thing to do, but [inaudible 00:26:48] companies have produced performance enhancing chips and things like that. Of course, vehicles have long used the same powertrains and components and have electronically or by changing the performance the way that they're installed have artificially separated products. For example, there's a whole bunch of BMWs across a range that have the same engine and just different performance characteristics enabled on the car. Now, Tesla has turned that from a way to artificially separate lots of different models, which they don't have, into a feature that they can sell you. Just a little bit of context and a little quiz, pop quiz. Okay? How much is a 70D, that's the entry level?
Ewan: As much as a ... About $65,000.
Rafe: I will say $68,000.
Ben: $55,000 plus. 380 pounds.
Ewan: Oh, okay.
Ben: It's $55k. What is that financed?
Ewan: Over 6 years.
Ben: What do you think?
Rafe: About 500 pounds a month.
Ewan: 636 pounds a month.
Rafe: Okay, yeah.
Ben: Over four years, [inaudible 00:27:48] 505 pounds a month. This is an expensive vehicle, especially in the UK, but prices are a bit disproportionate. [crosstalk 00:27:53] Let's get back to that crowd data piece because a minute ago, Rafe, we were saying that we have to be careful about the electronics inside of a vehicle linking into smart phones and those sorts of things because it needs to have a ten year span. On my Tesla, from day one your expectation's being set that you might be offered new features to purchase in the future when it's going to be constantly refined and updated. With Tesla, I've almost got this service or this subscription arrangement with the software in the vehicle, and the software is so much more than the software in traditional vehicles. It could change the whole performance characteristics of the car.
Rafe: I think that is the way of the future although I would point of with the Tesla, with the autonomous driving, that only apply to models produced after a certain date, so even there, there was this if you were driving an older version, and in that sense it's even more frustrating because to all outward appearances, it appears to be exactly the same car. Actually, the version is much more controlled by the software than in a traditional car. Don't get me wrong. It's the right approach, and I love the fact that they reset expectations. I think they were able to do that partly because they were a new entrant, and therefore, starting from a blank slate. How much of a problem is that for the other manufacturers? I think legacy and that traditional [inaudible 00:29:13] that you've had is always going to be a problem, but it's better alluded to early. It's also about recruiting people with the right mindset. I think Tesla's had the visionary leadership not just from the [inaudible 00:29:23] but from others in the industry. It's been the place to go if you want to develop an electric car. There are a couple of others who are working on electric cars, and you think they're going to attract the best talent. That gives them an inherent advantage.
Ewan: There's also the selling of the car and then the support of the car. Particularly when it comes to electric cars, the supercharges or the [crosstalk 00:29:44] charging infrastructure.
Rafe: It's like an Apple-like model base, skimmed off the top of the market. Actually, Tesla has been moving downward albeit still very high end.
Ewan: Yeah, but every car they produce gets them lower.
Rafe: I find it fascinating that one of the most interesting things that Tesla's done is actually innovative, [inaudible 00:30:01] factory technology with its [gigafactory 00:30:03], which is now going to be selling factories and that technology to others and indeed it's putting them into the home. It's [inaudible 00:30:10] effect relief [crosstalk 00:30:12] for the home. People will concentrate on the aesthetics and the coolness of Tesla, but there is also a lot of technology innovation in that and it's breaking new ground.
Ben: I'd love to see that learning tech transfer across the industry much more quickly because you can buy a Rolls Royce these days, which adjusts its gearing ratios based on your GPS location and its knowledge about whether or not you're about to go up or down a hill. That is clearly a very premium feature and a very big, heavy car. It gives you benefit for it. Actually, that car is collecting information about what gear it needed to be in and what the gradient was like and those sorts of things. Every vehicle is collecting huge amounts of data, and that in turn could be collated and shared in some beneficial way. It seems to me that either the cars aren't tooled up to [inaudible 00:31:01] at the moment, but there's no connectivity. This comes back to the point where actually it's not just a consumer beneficial thing to plug in a smart phone and get a nice entertainment appearance. If manufacturers can persuade us to plug in our phones, they've got a pipe of data that they could sell and improve their vehicles with.
Rafe: I think we're actually on the cusp of that. I don't actually think it takes people plugging their smart phone because a lot of markets we're seeing the [inaudible 00:31:24] equivalent elsewhere, mainly it's going to be mandated to have a [inaudible 00:31:28] car door connection in your car. The reason the German car manufacturers bought here, which is the mapping asset from Nokia, is precisely because they realize they are going to need a central place to have that data and to have much more accurate maps as we move towards autonomous vehicles. Here, already talk about how they will collect driving data from going around a particular corner or junction and understand where the braking point is so theoretically they can start warning people or use it in autonomous vehicles. I think we'll see much more of that. I think you're right that the [inaudible 00:32:03] hasn't got there yet, but it extends beyond the cars. I mean, actually this could be used by urban planners to think about where they put signs up to say this is where you start braking, or this is a traffic light sign, or where you put it for directions and things like that. It goes beyond that in terms of pollution levels and thinking about how you deal and manage with those ...
Ben: Basically, what you do is you put some software in your car so it passes all the pollution and emissions tests when it's in the lab. [crosstalk 00:32:29]
Rafe: Improve technique, but I think it was really interesting [crosstalk 00:32:34] VW's actually could do the over the air update, but a lot of them had to be taken back. [crosstalk 00:32:39] fix that particular problem. I think that's an example of the sophistication of cars that that can go on for so long even now. We talk about these cars being smart and ... Don't get me wrong. They're actually incredibly sophisticated now. Some of these cars ... Most modern cars coming off the production line will have 20 to 30 computers in them, which ... Amazing when you think about it. The fact they do so little as we perceive it is perhaps a little unfair and disingenuous of us.
Ben: Okay. We should move on, but before we come up to our final topic, and we're desperately short for time again, quick synopsis time update? Rafe Blandford?
Rafe: I installed the SmartThings app and some of the sensors, and I've now got lights switching on and off automatically when I walk into rooms.
Ben: How are they coming on and off?
Rafe: They've got motion sensors and open and close door sensors. I've set up triggers essentially to say do that. Another thing I liked about SmartThings was you can install what they refer to as Smart apps, which basically have either preset routines or various things you can put together. I have a gentle wake-up, which will slowly [crosstalk 00:33:54]
Ewan: Excuse me, sir. Sir.
Rafe: Slowly increases the illumination from a [inaudible 00:33:59] hue light bulb.
Rafe: Also, turns on the sonar speaker, tunes it to radio 4.
Ben: Of course.
Rafe: Of course.
Rafe: [crosstalk 00:34:11] as I walk out the bedroom, it will then play a weather forecast for that particular day. [crosstalk 00:34:18]
Ben: I started off being not impressed, and now I am impressed. How is that weather forecast being triggered?
Rafe: Yeah, so I walk [crosstalk 00:34:25] past the motion sensor that's in the hallway, and it knows that I've gotten out of bed and therefore am [inaudible 00:34:29]. The first time I do that ...
Ewan: Where does it play it, though?
Rafe: On the sonar speaker.
Ewan: What is it ... Like, "there is a ... "
Rafe: It's a [inaudible 00:34:38] voice. It's a bit clunky, and it's in Fahrenheit, but I start to see the possibilities of why people get [crosstalk 00:34:44] so excited about Smart Home. I also mentioned, I chose SmartThings because it relatively opens [inaudible 00:34:51], I had quite a bit of fun in [inaudible 00:34:54] getting it to work with my weather station, which is [inaudible 00:34:57], which isn't officially supported in the UK very well yet, so I actually had to copy the code for a smart app from the US into the UK, change the configurations so it would look at the right server because there was an EU server and a US server. [crosstalk 00:35:13] no one else would want to play with. Now as a result, if I look at my SmartThings, I can see the temperature in various rooms where there are sensors I can see, motion. That's also set up for a security point of view. I'll get an alert if it detects movement when I'm not there and that kind of thing.
Ben: We're short for time, and we'll talk more about this in next season.
Rafe: I'm feeling smug about having the smartest home.
Ben: In one word, has your fancy detection system turned the lights off because you haven't moved watching TV in a room yet?
Rafe: [crosstalk 00:35:44] because I've actually set it so it's only turning lights on at the moment. I'm still manually turning things off [crosstalk 00:35:50]
Ben: Smartest home if you have your own lights off.
Rafe: I've actually got to work quite hard on setting up the rooms and things like that. The other problem is I've only got a couple of light bulbs are smart, so there are still a lot that are relying on physical switches. One of the things I discovered is you can put something in the switch to make all the dumb bulbs become smart, but that requires you have a neutral wire in your wiring system, which most UK houses don't have. You have the option to jiggle the bulbs. I'm working on it, and I will be reporting in a future episode how I'm getting on with some of these fancier integrations.
Ben: Reports coming in from Rafe's very well-illuminated house where bulbs only ever switch on. Ewan McCloud?
Ewan: Right, so I haven't committed as yet.
Rafe: Oh, come on.
Ewan: No, [crosstalk 00:36:36]
Ben: You know what's going to happen though? He's going to wait until episode 8, and then go "I've spent a million pounds."
Ewan: I'm actually quite close to that type of ... I was looking just last night at 1:00 in the morning, I was browsing thinking, "Is it Philips Hue? Do I start with Philips Hue? Do I start with WeMo, the Belkin one?" I was seeing a load of advertising for Nest. I just haven't decided yet, but when I do it, I think it's going to be big. I'm still flirting with the idea of lightweight RF for the [inaudible 00:37:06] lights, but I do like the sound of Philips Hue. That looks pretty cool and like the fact is, reasonably compatible. Well, then I do like the WeMo [inaudible 00:37:14], but then I think, "Philips Hue probably knows more about light bulbs."
Rafe: Basically, I think what you're saying is you've made no progress since he's [crosstalk 00:37:20]
Ewan: I've got the [inaudible 00:37:22]
Rafe: You already had that. Don't try and take [crosstalk 00:37:26]
Ewan: I already had that. Just don't you go [inaudible 00:37:30], Blandford, like you did last time.
Rafe: Yes, I stand by all of you. I've made marginally more progress than you. I've ordered some LightwaveRF.
Ewan: Have you? Interesting.
Rafe: I've decided ... Are you going to do the install?
Ewan: Yeah. I am.
Rafe: Well, now, but I'm going to keep it really simple.
Ewan: Put the power off first. (Laughs)
Rafe: Going to keep it really simple. First of all, see if it works before you then go and do everywhere.
Ewan: Light switches?
Rafe: No, heating.
Rafe: I told you about last time about how Nest [crosstalk 00:37:56].
Ewan: Don't make it easy, do you?
Rafe: Well, so I'm just going to do one radiator in one room, and I'm just going to see if it works. I figure that then I can try it out, see if it works, and then if it does, I can expand.
Ewan: You bought the box [inaudible 00:38:08].
Rafe: Basically, I've bought all the bits which connect into the Internet and one controls them.
Ewan: Mr. Blandford Estate over there's not looking very happy.
Rafe: I'm not impressed at all because the LightwaveRF RF is totally proprietary, so trying to expand your home in the future to make it smarter and have it ... Because I looked at it and said no because I want to be able to have these actions. I mean, I have discovered since then it is possible to do some hack work to make it work, but you're not going to be able to have these smart apps or this if this, then that style integration. It's going to solve one solution where you at. Actually, this is the big problem I've discovered with Smart Home: if you want to solve one particular problem, it's great because you can get a Nest, you can get a Hive, you can get the Doorbot, or you can get the home security systems. As soon as you start wanting them to work together, there are a couple of options out there in the Z-Wave, Zigbee, is that a bit of do it yourself plug it and go, which is the approach I'm taking. There's the work with Nest, which is great, but it requires some fairly significant investments, and they're not cross-compatible and ...
Ben: That was the problem ...
Rafe: It's fussy.
Ben: That I've been reading in these automated home websites, reading the reviews. They're full of people who want to spend their entire lives writing complicated rule sets that are very, very [inaudible 00:39:24] to their lives. I just don't think I have the time or the energy, and I want some simple things to happen. I'm wondering at the moment whether or not what I would do is make each thing individually work well, but I'm not going to try and tie them together because actually they're all going to be things that are in constant operation.
Ewan: Have you seen British Cast ... ?
Ben: I have.
Ewan: I just did a post on [inaudible 00:39:46] today.
Ben: Oh, Roland.
Ewan: Right. [crosstalk 00:39:49] Technically, they've got a whole lot of new stuff, including Hive active heating, too. That's the new thing, right. Active plugs, motion sensors, Hive window and door sensors, active lights ...
Ben: I've got a friend who just had Hive installed in their house, so I'm going to go and visit them and try it out. He's very excited about the fact he can turn his heating on and off from his phone.
Ewan: I'm thinking about ... Because British Cast will tell me to install the whole thing for you [crosstalk 00:40:16]
Ben: All right. There we go. I might. [crosstalk 00:40:19]
Ewan: Oh, you've got regret already? It hasn't even bloody arrived and Rafe Blandford's put me off.
Ben: Anyways, we should move on, but we'll be doing a dedicated the smartest home updates later on in this season where we'll go through some of the stuff in more detail. Very quickly, then, because we are massively out of time. Final topic. We haven't talked about Apple at all in this. There's many, many rumors about that they're making automated cars. We're not going to talk about them because actually the only thing that we know is a fact that they are working on automated and autonomous cars.
Ben: In one minute and probably no more than one minute, Rafe Blandford, why would they do this?
Rafe: I think that's a question people ask that a lot of what Apple does, but I think there are two reasons we can think about. One of which is the executives and the leaders at Apple care about it as a space, and there's several on record as being [inaudible 00:41:08] in one way or another. It's been a subject for designers, been a hot topic for a long time. You look at that kind of leadership team at Apple. It's a natural area for them to go to. I think the other thing is you look at the way that people spend time. In the US, I think the average time in a car is about 2.5 hours a day, and there is definitely a much stronger car culture. That is something that Apple really hasn't got into it. It's kind of dipped it's toe in the water with CarPlay, but it's one of those segments that I think makes sense for them. I think particularly when you start looking ahead, there's going to be so much disruption in the next ten years in cars, Apple is one of those companies that has the right tools, or it's equipped to be part of that [inaudible 00:41:52] a massively expensive industry in terms of the amounts of capital it requires, but the profits equally could be very significant. If you're looking to expand Apple, it seems to me it's as good as any industry to go into.
Ben: Going back to our point earlier, is it an indicator that really, nearly everything now particularly in cars is software?
Ewan: I think it's a very good indicator. I think Apple is thinking, do you know what? We can get the hardware for someone else. We can just create the entire lifestyle, the car lifestyle.
Rafe: You can think what they did to smart phones [crosstalk 00:42:29] and see something similar happening in cars. It surprised me that there are other things they could go after, but there [crosstalk 00:42:37]
Ewan: Good, distinct market [inaudible 00:42:39].
Rafe: I think that's the point. They've got the interest to do it, and it's an area where there's a lot of potential for them to stop. A lot of what Apple is about is the interface point with the consumer and that attention and the way it improves your lifestyle. If you're talking about Apple in the lifestyle brand, that's something that's become much more apparent in recent years. You look at both the advertising and the way they talk about their products, especially in the States, automobiles are very much part of people's lifestyles and how they represent themselves. Short of going into clothing or fashion, it's one of the more logical areas for them to go next.
Ben: Or smart homes. Google's got Nest and all the set of products around that. That's what surprised me is that it feels ... There's a risk. I wouldn't put it as there's a problem, but there's a risk that Apple will be driven very much by a US centric culture because the US has a unique relationship with cars. Even other countries that have a passion for vehicles, you have the UK and places like that. There's much more of a balance of public transport and other modes. Also just different expectations around the amount of time that's acceptable to travel. Even, I mean, obviously it varies where you live, so people that live in the very rural areas will think they're actually an hour or so in a car somewhere will be quite normal. Actually, when you look at the average population, the US is exceptional in that regard. In some respects, the reason the smart phone was such a success with it it was a universal need, it was so flexible. I wonder if the car or vehicles are owned the same way. For me, Google's investment in smart homes seemed much more logical because it could immediately benefit everybody because regardless of the type of place you live, you'll have requirement for heating and lighting and basic services.
Ewan: Shouldn't the Apple TV have been there [inaudible 00:44:26] on all that? I already put a box in my living room.
Ben: It could have been. [inaudible 00:44:30] I've put a box in my pocket. It doesn't ...
Ewan: There's one in my pocket obviously, and then I've put one in the living room.
Rafe: That's what I tried to do with home kit. They found it difficult and it's more [crosstalk 00:44:41]. It's tricky.
Ben: When I [inaudible 00:44:43] on working with the parties, think about the Motorola phone ...
Rafe: Or CarPlay.
Ben: Or into CarPlay, it doesn't end well because their way, as you said Rafe, managing the whole experience doesn't lend itself to being popped up as an app or being in a part of a longer user experience.
Rafe: That's maybe the explanation. Smart home is that more fragmented [crosstalk 00:45:06] most people, but the car is actually quite a singular object. It comes from a single manufacturer. Now, the fact that the components come from lots of different people, it's [inaudible 00:45:16] because just like the smart phone, but it's one of those consumer brands that does, a bit like the smart phone, potentially stand on its own. I still think it's a big leap for Apple, and honestly, I would say more than a little bit of risk, but if you're Apple, you're one of the most valuable companies in the world, where do you go next? [crosstalk 00:45:35]
Ewan: Billion dollar division.
Rafe: They can afford to experiment. If it doesn't work, well, fine.
Ben: In order to make a meaningful investment or meaningful change in the value of their company, they do need to completely dominate or completely own a whole segment. Simply launching a different type of phone or a different home electronics device or even for years people were talking about TVs, and maybe in the past that made sense, but these days launching a TV doesn't even make a blip on their profit line.
Ewan: Yeah, exactly.
Rafe: The car is one of those few consumer products that you can imagine having as big an impact as smart phones. Partly that's because it's a much more expensive purchase, and partly because of the role it plays in people's lives. Obviously, I would be somewhat astounded if it goes big. [crosstalk 00:46:19] Can you imagine Apple as the high end [inaudible 00:46:22]?
Ben: Actually, I can. I'm just worried I'm going to have to replace my car in over a year now and cue up on Apple stock to do it. It's going to be expensive.
Rafe: At least you'll have in-app purchases for the sports mode.
Ben: This is true. Right, we should wrap it up. This is the first time that we've taken mobile quite literally, talk about cars. No doubt there will be people who know far more about cars than we do and are far bigger automobile nuts [crosstalk 00:46:44], so please correct us in the comments. Please let us know your opinions. Please let us know about all of the things we didn't have time to or didn't think about talking about. As ever, a few thank yous. Thank you to Mark from Audio Wrangler who edits this podcast. Thank you to Emma Crous for her editorial assistance. Thank you very much for listening. You can comment on 361podcast.com or you can talk to us on Twitter at @361podcast or we're also on Facebook but don't encourage them. We'll be back next week. Thank you very much for listening. Buh-bye.