Why Google/Ford Know You Will Ride Public Transit by 2020

2020 Transit = AV (Driverless Vehicles)

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a major revolution occurring in the energy sector.  Gas just reached its lowest record selling price in twelve years, but that’s only the start.  Fracking (whether you hate it or love it) reduced our dependence on foreign oil, and solar has broken out of the green-space and is being paired with traditional energy in corporations.  You know there is a coming revolution when energy companies begin lobbying to fight the trend they helped start.  A related topic caught my attention last week when Google and Ford continued serious talk of a new joint corporation.

If you spend any time perusing news headlines, you probably came across the following in September 2015: “Google Pairs With Ford To Build Self-Driving Cars“.  At first glance, it may just look like any other technology article, but this autonomous vehicle (AV) headline jumped off the page at me and here is why:

Ford AV Video from CES 2016 Found Below
Ford AV Video from CES 2016 Found Below
  1. Ford Motors, well known as an auto pioneer and a high tier Fortune 500, reported $6.3 billion in pre-tax profit on their 2014 annual report.  The company also spent over $2.5 billion dollars annually advertising their vehicles to Americans over the last few years.  That dollar amount in advertising is more than all other automakers with exception of GM (who took government bailout dollars when times got tough).  It’s my opinion that Ford knows their customers well and strategically invests in legitimate partnerships and research.
  2.  Google, a technology pioneer in many respects, deployed it’s fleet of 7 self-driving cars on American roads back in 2010.  After more than a dozen accidents, Google retains a clear record since the CA DMV determined humans were at fault in each incident.
  3. Ford’s recent addition of a Palo Alto, CA research center theoretically puts Ford in the back yard of innovative Silicon Valley.  In addition to some extra legal protection, this partnership fosters collaboration with M.I.T and the University of Michigan.

Money Talks

It seems unlikely that a 113 year old company like Ford would align itself with a relatively new company such as Google.  Ford, Google, and various global brands would not spend so much on research and development unless they expected high returns on long-term investments.  That’s a signal – they know something you don’t.  You may think you would never ride public transit, but Ford and Google beg to differ.

tportland
MAX Light Rail via TravelPortland.com

There is also a major shift occurring in transit right now, and you will most likely be affected.  It is well known fact that vehicles are expensive and severely depreciating assets.  The feeling of freedom associated with driving has become a costly habit pushing many Americans deep in debt.  From a safety aspect, vehicles driven by humans, as opposed to computers, are also less safe as 93% of accidents are the result of human error according to CBC News.  Even our normally slow-to-adapt government is making moves to speed up autonomous adoption by easing regulations on what they deem “safer” vehicles.  AV safety is extremely important considering real-time software updates are published immediately when problems are found such as the recent incident when Tesla was made aware of human-induced errors in driving.

 

Redefining Transit

london-hybridIn a previous article, I mentioned PRTs and the emergence of personal mobility.  So many transit changes in such a short amount of time begs the question: What will become of transit?  Will the standard remain London’s double decker bus, an electric Nova Bus, a Metro subway system, or maybe even your own personal Pod?  Personal mobility could become a driverless Uber-like service callable from your iPhone app.  If a new company emerges between Ford and Google, personal mobility could become synonymous with pre-ordering your Starbucks drink via the app.  Launch the app 15 minutes prior to your leave time, then the car shows up ready to take you to your destination.  The best part – you wouldn’t have to talk to anybody in the process since the car and it’s driving functionality would be fully automated.

What will become of transit?

What if you want your own personal car instead of the Uber-share method?  Maybe you have issues with people talking too much or sneezing in confined spaces.  I get that.  There’s an app for that as seen in the below Mercedes autonomous car video.  At least there will be an app for that.  But the laws of supply and demand ensure your own personal AV will cost more than a shared ride.  The benefit is that you’ll have the ability to save thousands of dollars if you avoid purchasing your own vehicle.  Sure, some will want to keep at least one car, but what’s the point in having a second car if it permanently sits in the garage, requires maintenance, and increases your costs of insurance.

Mercedes Goes AV (Video)

 

autonomouszone
AV Zones via Wired.com

Infrastructure Upgrade

Just like bus and HOV lanes, I expect we’ll have autonomous vehicle lanes in densely populated areas.  Dedicated lanes means your AV will get you to and from your destination much quicker although you won’t care so much about speed since your commute time can be used efficiently on a computer, listening to music, or even relaxing.  And what if your electric vehicle automatically and wirelessly charges while driving down the road?  There would be no need for gas stops which means your driverless car could keep going, and going, like the energizer bunny.

City planners in Toronto are already working to improve their AV future by making plans for narrow lanes, expansion of public spaces, and reinvention of the city layout through tighter design.

Will autonomous vehicles have the ability to completely replace public transit?  Urban planners are trying to answer that question too, but the overall assumption is that there will be a merge between technologies.  The biggest problem with AV single riding service could be itself; too many self-driving on-demand vehicles clogging more narrowly designed roadways.  That fact alone could keep light rail, subways, and long-range buses in business although they will most likely be automated as well.

You Decide

But Google and Ford are not in control since you will decide.  Even if you think you are fiercely independent of transit and will always want to own multiple vehicles in order to have “car freedom”, I bet you’ll at least try an autonomous vehicle when you first cross its path.  If you try it, you may even find you like ride-sharing.  Maybe you’ll find a dedicated group of riders or co-workers who live in the same area.  I’m sure one of these AV companies will give you the ability to pre-book your car with co-workers so you’ll avoid having to learn new people.

Want More?  Watch this Ford autonomous car video from CES 2016.

Ford Corp annual report available at this link.

 

 

Determine whether or not you will sell your product or service on the internet

kioskEveryone that wants to has the ability to sell online these days thanks to modern easy-to-use website creation software like WordPress plugins or the GoDaddy website builder.  The simplicity makes entrepreneurs ask the next question on our 2016 checklist – does ecommerce makes sense for my business?

How do you answer this question?  That depends on your audience and type of buyer.  If your product or services sells mostly to an older age group, maybe not.  Buyers older than 50 years of age looking to buy new shoes will most likely visit an in-person store where they can try shoes on instead of buying online.  The long-term habit of most 50 year old consumers would statistically make building an online shoe store targeted at this demographic a waste even though there are anomalies.

Selling music to teenagers online would be a win – assuming you choose the right location – location, location.  Yep, just like the real world, location matters.  Your own website selling music would probably lose, but add a song for sale in iTunes or the Amazon MP3 store and it will be noticed.  Another thing to think about is buyer preference.

If your buyers want to talk to you by phone before ordering, it might also be a waste of time building an online store since a phone order would be quicker from the consumer perspective.  In this case, they are already there talking to you on the phone so why would they leave the phone then go back to a website to place an order.  The simplest answer to this question is to play a case scenario in your head as if you were the buyer.  Better than that, give a few of your first beta-buyers a 25% discount to tell them how they would prefer order.  This process can save you a lot of development time in the long-run and it will leave your first few customers happy since they received a discount.

Gmail-Enable Your Private Email Address

gmailYou most likely have heard of viruses and malware, but I’ll summarize these terms as ‘digital contact’ as opposed to human contact.  In the real world, humans are exposed to sickness and viruses through contact with others; humans spreading germs through touch for example.  The computer world operates similarly which brings us to number 4 on the 2016 checklist.

The only way your digital device can be given a virus is through digital contact.  Email is one of the easiest ways electronic viruses spread, and transfer can occur by opening an unknown email or clicking an unverified link on the internet.  The simplest way to avoid viruses spreading through email is to let a service like Gmail take care of all the grunt work associated with virus protection.

Even if you have your own website name, you can sign up with Gmail for free and use their application to send and receive email.  Their 24/7 up-to-the-minute virus scanning filters will not let you receive viruses or malware which makes it well worth the free price tag.  You’ll simply be notified that an email was received but quarantined allowing you the choice of whether or not you should open it.

The only ‘gotcha’ for your free service is allowing Gmail computers to scan through your email for anonymous marketing purposes.  Assuming all the legal mumbo jumbo on their website is correct, their marketing scans do not divulge personal information to third party vendors.  I have nothing to hide in email so I say it’s well worth the free price tag.

Make a cell phone your primary business phone number

Number 3 on the 2016 checklist is creating a mobile office using a cell phone as opposed to traditional brick and mortar.

There will always be a need for traditional landline phones for those who need to meet with clients in a private or more personal setting, but VoIP is taking over that realm very quickly.  There are also still many landlines in use for home offices, but they are outdated and very expensive.  The great thing about modern technology is the ability to grab a virtual number from the cloud and forward it where needed.  The most beneficial solution I have found is Google Voice although there are many competitors.

Go Mobile

Google Voice lets you search for and obtain available telephone numbers in your area.  The only point to keep in mind is that you are searching virtual and cell phone numbers.  At this point, Google does not have a way to transfer a landline phone number to their service, but that really doesn’t matter if you’re starting your business from scratch.  And don’t worry about people finding your number if it changes in the future.  Most people Google a business name or search the number through other online forms.  Any future numbers you grab will be updated on the internet within a few days should you decide to change it.

Google Voice changes over time since it’s a free service so stay updated on their services at this link.   Save money by avoiding the overhead associated with office space by working out of your home or vehicle when possible.  When you’re ready to upgrade and able to afford VoIP, do your research or send me an email and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Create your online presence with social media

smedia
pic cred: entrepreneur.com

You probably have heard the phrase “out of sight, out of mind”.  That saying holds true for businesses using social media in 2016 which is step 2 in the 2016 checklist.  And if you are in the business of attracting new customers, you WILL need a social media presence.  The key is to ensure you’re not wasting time in the wrong places.  I’m sure you have heard of the popular social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but there are many other social media sites.  And don’t discount local social media.  Local media sites most likely don’t have the large footprint of international social media, but the customer is most likely well connected to the local community making them a loyal business sell.

know your target market

Just like marketing your product or business name on radio or TV, choosing the right social media presence is a result of knowing your target market or specific type of customer.  It can get tricky considering you, as a small business leader, only have so much time in the day so this social media presence may be another area you should outsource to the experts.  If you prefer the diy social media, be sure you don’t waste your highly valuable time in the wrong place.  As an example, don’t use github if you knock on the front door of local businesses to make sales.  Thinking of Facebook?  Facebook message posts are usually tailored to an older audience so you would want to choose Instagram if teenagers are your primary audience.

In terms of outsourcing, there are businesses that will completely drive your social media presence from A to Z so you don’t lift a finger outside of infrequent email communication with your social media expert.  There are so many details on this subject that it’s hard to cover them all in one post.  I came across this good Forbes article from last year that covers social from the sales aspect.  But it all comes back to knowing your customer and reaching them through a social media niche.  Take a look at how these companies are using social media.

 

Buy your business domain name (aka: your dot com name)

Registering your domain name is step 1 of 16 and it’s a must in our mobile driven world of commerce.  A lot of small business owners get hung up on finding a catchy domain name like the Googles and Yahoos of the world which can also be referred to as a dot-com name.  Don’t waste time here!  Name your business in the real world, find a domain name using a registrar (more details below), then come back later to find a more unique or catchy name if needed for marketing purposes.

What's in a domain name?  Your online credibility.  Pic Credit: TechTimes
What’s in a domain name? Your online credibility. Credit: TechTimes

Domain names are cheap compared to most business expenses.  Good deals can be found for just a few bucks or you can pay all the way up to 35 per year for a dot com.  There are new extensions that are costing crazy amounts of money, but stick with the dot com extension if possible since it will be the cadillac of domain names for years to come.

Make sure to keep the name simple when possible.  If your company name is named Kim’s Accounting, then buy kimsaccounting.com or kimsllc.com (LLC assuming you incorporated).  Your first point of interest is getting an initial website presence on the internet even if you’re still stuck in the planning stages of your new venture.  This web presence being online early allows search engines like Google some time to find and catalog your website.

Where should you get a domain name and what is a registrar?
Registrars lease domains to me and you so you can think of them as a wholesaler and you as the buyer.  There are many registrar choices so I say look at the most reputable first.  Keep in mind that registrar is the company that keeps ownership of your domain which means they ultimately control your web presence.  Choosing a reputable registrar is important.  Put your trust in a company that plays keep-away and they could steal your online name-brand.  I actually had this happen early on with the website registrar 1and1.com, but I let them keep the domain since I wasn’t using it anyway.  Also keep in mind that a downed-website can drive you insane if you don’t know what is keeping your website offline.  For that reason, you’ll want registrar customer service by phone or chat available 24/7 along with an organization that uses redundant servers that failover to backup servers if power outages occur. Lack of backups will result in your website going dead.

I will not promote one registrar over another since there are many good alternatives everywhere you look, but I can offer some tips based on my experience.

  1. Don’t register through a host
    A web host is a company that physically keeps your website files present on the internet.  This is technically a separate function from a registrar, but many hosts and registrars have started cross-promoting both services.  I have purchased a domain through a host before to get a free domain or whatever other promotion was enticing at the time, but I always recommend you transfer the domain to a large independent registrar as listed in step 2.  Why?  You are at risk for losing your domain if you forget to pay your hosting bills or even if your credit card expires without your knowledge.  Nobody cares what excuse you make cause they legally own your domain so make sure you don’t let that happen by using a registrar that is independent of your host.
  2. Choose a large registrar: GoDaddy, eNom, Network Solutions or Tucows
    Even registrars like NameCheap are resellers (for eNom in particular).  Whatever registrar you choose should be attached to these wholesaler names.  Not only are their names more reputable, but they can resolve issues with the large clearing houses due to their vast behind-the-scenes resources.
  3. Don’t lose your domain due to negligence
    Ever gotten your power or water cut off cause you forgot to pay your bills?  Domain names are no different.  Set calendar events to remind you to verify your domain contacts and always keep your registered owner email address valid.  If you forget to renew or pay for your annual domain renewal fee, the domain name will be lost or sold to someone else.  Make a point to stay current with your on-file credit card and email address so you don’t lose your domain name.  Domain contacts (the owners and controllers of the domain) are also required to verify a valid email address on a regular basis.  You are required to acknowledge these contact validations so ignoring them could result in loss of the domain even if you paid your bills.

I will note that there are loads of great companies out there.  When customers ask me for a one-stop-shop, I suggest GoDaddy.  It is very popular although more expensive than other registrars.  I stopped using them a while back due to their increasing costs, but I can’t speak well enough for their services and always-on customer friendly contact center.  They are probably the best choice if you want to be as hands-off as possible with your web presence.  You’ll benefit as a newbie with their cheap web hosting if you get a bundle deal (website, hosting, and registration) although remember what I said in step A above.  You’ll also benefit from their 24/7 telephone support.  They are very good at upselling other not-so-needed products so get ready to say no a lot.

Don’t see your question answered here?  Contact me for more details.

 

The Crucial RAM Effect

Is it time for a computer upgrade but you just don’t have the $1,500 to drop on a new super cool computer?  Upgrading your existing computer RAM can make a huge performance difference if your normal RAM usage is around the 75% mark.  That’s where the crucial effect comes in to play.

Not every computer allows RAM upgrades.  Even some that do allow RAM upgrades require you to replace the chips that are already in your computer while others let you add to present RAM.  Crucial.com makes the process of determining RAM needs very easy by installing their software which scans your system to determine what is installed!  Even better is the fact that Crucial lets you use their software to determine what is needed then you can go online and find the RAM somewhere else if you find a cheaper price.

taskmgrI have used Crucial many times.  Their prices are competitive and I have only bought RAM from other sites like Amazon or NewEgg when I found special deals.  No this is not an advertisement.  I actually like Crucial that much.

Not sure if you need RAM?  Assuming you are using Windows, right click the task bar then left click on “Start Task Manager”.  Left click on the Performance tab and watch your memory usage as highlighted in this screenshot.  You could benefit from more RAM if your memory stays above the 75% percent mark on a regular basis.