Thursday, 28 November 2019

Developing NxGV Ecosystem

PREVIOUS articles in this column have discussed the subject of Next-Generation Vehicles (NxGV), and as mentioned, will be an intrinsic focus of the new National Automotive Policy, which will be announced next month — on top of energy-efficient vehicles which area prominent aspect of the current policy.
The next step for our industry would be the development of technology to support the NxGV ecosystem. This is vital to the development of the NxGV value chain — the parts and components manufacturers, aftermarket players, as well as the talent pool made up of engineers, technicians and specialists in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, smart manufacturing and product designing. All successful programmes in the development of expertise, capability and talent have one key infrastructure in common — a testing or proving ground.
Just like sports teams have their own training ground to test and practice new techniques,tactics and strategies, the development of NxGVs would need similar grounds to test mobility products, particularly as the world is moving towards connected and autonomous vehicles. If you have a chance to visit the manufacturing plants of our local original equipment manufacturers, you will notice a test track, where cars are driven over different terrains and road conditions, with engineers taking notes and reading data on the performance, comfort and safety of the vehicles they have designed or manufactured. However, when it comes to Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) — which are within the definition of an NxGV — the items that have to be tested are expanded beyond the performance of the traditional car.
CAVs, in particular those above Level2Autonomy, are built to monitor, analyse and communicate with its surroundings in order to function. They respond to road conditions, weather, traffic conditions, pedestrian and cyclist presence, etc.
In the future, they will communicate with sensors and data communicated by traffic lights, weather stations, other vehicles and many other sources of environmental data to form automated judgments and self-corrections based on artificial intelligence. This wide of range of technologies work with one another to ensure the safety of future vehicle occupants and those surrounding them.
In view of fatal incidents that have occurred during past tests of autopilot modes, it then becomes pertinent for testing of NxGVs to be conducted in a safe and secure environment, where not only human lives are not subjected to risks, but where businesses can also operate in a business-friendly environment of common testing — the latter an obvious reason to ensure healthy competition among the industries in the development of NxGV technology.
Hence, comes the utility of CAV test beds —a“mock up” running ground that allows the physical proving of designs, prototypes and production models (including components) of NxGVs. Given the complexity of the tests needed to successfully implement an autonomous vehicle programme, such test beds must also allow for real-time testing of all elements that allow vehicles to communicate, using the technology mentioned above. Recently, I had the privilege of visiting ZalaZone,anew infrastructure zone designed to support experimental research and the development of future automotive and mobility technologies. Situated in Hungary, it integrates classic vehicle dynamics testing with a host of testing facilities for CAVs in its purposebuilt proving ground modules, such as a dynamic platform, handling courses, smart city zones, braking surfaces, rural roads, highway sections, high-speed ovals, bad roads, slopes, noise measurement surfaces, water basin and kick plate modules.
The visit was also attended by the International Trade and Industry Minister, with the delegation spending time to fully understand the development of such test beds, with the ministry and the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute planning to work closely with ZalaZONE to create a similar testing zone for Malaysia in Cyberjaya, with the aim of making Malaysia a centre of excellence for the
Asian region in CAV testing.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Tech Learning Curve Needed

The issue of Malaysia’s economy, in particular the escape from lower and middle income traps, has been discussed for a long time, perhaps more than a decade or so.
No doubt there are numerous issues to address at hand. While we have been successful in improving our national income streams, it has led to new issues such as social equity of wealth, urban versus rural gaps in opportunities and distribution of employment opportunities.
While immediate government economic stimulus is a low hanging fruit to implement, it is also important that we are careful of long-term consequences of seemingly obvious solutions that may have hidden ramifications, where the effects appear long after the implementation. For example, a sudden increase in wages may be a welcome and popular thing to do, but may work counter-productively in the long run if it does not result in increased productivity.
This is simply because the increase in standard of living is related to the purchasing power and not the nominal value of one’s income per se.
A healthy increase in wages is a factor of productivity and sellability. The employee increases his or her compensation through the increase of volume, value or quality over the same given amount of time of work.
At the same time, the employer (which in essence runs an organisation that provides volume, value or quality) must be given market access to sell his or her product or services in order to compensate the company, in turn compensating the employees that have contributed to the development and production.
While it is an obvious equation, the valuation of activities leading up to the above example is usually in question. When there is a sudden force of wage increase without any accountability to the productivity of work or the market value of the organisation, the increase in wages does not lead to an increase in purchasing power in the long run. Before the wage earner can enjoy his extra income, the increase in labour cost — a direct result from the wage increase — has added cost to the production, and has created a chain reaction in other wage brackets adjusting to the market forces. The result is an increase in labour cost, production cost, followed by an increase in selling price — with no new improvement to the value of services rendered. When there is a sudden realisation that nothing extra can be bought despite a wage increase, the cycle will restart once again.
The next question is clear — what do we do to increase purchasing power?
Without attempting a “one size fits all solution”, the basic principle is straightforward — we either spur opportunities to increase value or increase creation.
It is for this reason we see national level visions and policies that allow for such opportunities for personal, business and market development — so that we have the space to open new businesses, fill in jobs and meaningfully participate in technology as a creator, not a consumer. One such policy would be the revised National Automotive Policy that will be announced soon.
Three decades ago one would need very expensive technology to create new technology. Today, a laptop is no longer a prized commodity, but the knowledge and skills in creating new products are golden. Facebook, Grab, Microsoft Office, Google, the coding behind iPhone, Android and the Sophia robot were done on laptops we can afford. The reason for their success was not higher level of opportunities, but a strong will to venture into value activities that nobody dared to do, or perhaps resisted and laughed off at the time.
After all,that is the very basis of invention — to create a solution to a problem that nobody realised they had. That is true value.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Creating mass opportunities

We all know the following services—Grab, Foodpanda, Lazada and Socar — and many others of their kind which deliver our needs at the touch of a finger.
At the core, these apps possess a key similarity. They are integrated with a menu or catalogue of services and products, and users can make a choice, commence the transaction and the need is delivered.
Traditionally, we would have made a call, or walked to the roadside to flag a taxi, driven to the restaurant to buy food, or gone to a shopping mall to browse and shop for items we need. The traditional retail process was also highly dependent on location, visibility and customer traffic.
The key takeaway here is that there is a significant change in the aspect of transportation, or rather, the mobility experience – and these services have created an evolution in the movement of the consumer in the processes of commerce.
The mobility aspect changes, in The National Automotive Policy, which will soon be announced, will look at this understanding and integration of MaaS into the domestic mobility industry. The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute. which it is either eliminated to enhance the service (or transferred to the business owner), or transformed to forego the need for the user to be part of the ownership of the mode of transportation for a need to be fulfilled (the vehicle).
This connectivity, which is combined with a “change of ownership” is the very fundamental of Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS).
In a nutshell, MaaS integrates various transportation services — public and private — into a single, unified mobility service that can be accessed by anyone at any given time.
To spur businesses and jobs in MaaS, the first thing to address is the mindset towards more understanding of MaaS elements, and what it represents.
We must be mindful that MaaS is not an instant product, it is an evolving concept of mobility that introduces technology components in bits and pieces towards a larger jigsaw puzzle — slowly changing our lifestyle and behaviours, very often without us noticing its ubiquity.
For example, when the Grab app was introduced in 2012 — known as MyTeksi then — it was perceived purely as an application to hire taxis without going through the hassles we were accustomed to at the time. Little did we expect that it would change the way we commute, or for those who used it extensively, reduce the number of vehicles they owned.
Based on the same perception, the Foodpanda phenomenon changed the lunch lifestyle of many working adults by circumventing the need to leave the office and drive, find parking and argue over meal choices with colleagues.
Nowadays, many businesses have their own dedicated working pantries where employees can have more productive lunch hours with a multitude of different cuisines at their fingertips.
In both of the above cases, the technology did not reduce the sales volume of vehicles or food, but forced traditional businesses to become fluid and dynamic in their business models.
In fact, the introduction of technology during this phase of change was highly accessible to all business sizes and today it has become inherent in daily business operations.
It is this change in business models that makes up the greater philosophical component of MaaS. Therefore, the conceptual understanding by industry players and consumers is important to ensure our ecosystem is developed comprehensively as we move towards the future.
It is important that the application of connectivity, smart applications, data management, data analytics, knowledge systems, artificial intelligence and such advances to be integrated into the industry business model to ensure the relevance of our local players — at all levels — remain sustainable.
The National Automotive Policy, which will soon be announced, will look at this understanding and integration of MaaS into the domestic mobility industry.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Getting ready for next phase of mobility industry

There are many indicators to growth and they are not necessarily based on the revenue or volume figures that we are accustomed to. While the bottom line is still a priority, true growth is a journey and there are several milestones to pass through.
However, the voyage between milestones also matters — a bumpy ride can change the definition of a journey, even if the destination is reached. In the last half decade or so, the
automotive industry has shaped itself towards a stronger foundation. While sales volume may have had higher growth rates in the past, total sales to production ratios have narrowed its gap over the years, signalling a higher level of localised assembly across the board in both national and non-national operations within our borders.
Parts and components exports have more than doubled over the last half decade, and is expected to yet again achieve record levels by the end of this year. A higher degree of complete built-up exports were seen, signalling higher contribution of non-national exports, which previously was close to non-existent. Overall, the local automotive value chain has stronger linkages, and results are pointing towards a renewed strength through new measurable achievements.
However, a strong foundation is only an enabler to more success, it is not a guarantee of continued relevance. The remaining question is simple — are we ready for the next step? For me, readiness is not a solid state or position — but rather a fluid, dynamic proneness to respond as swiftly as possible. If we compare two stone pieces of equal weight, a polished round shape is much easier to push when compared to one with a jagged, uneven surface. In a world where technology and trends can be rendered obsolete overnight, industry readiness is measured based on its ability to adapt quickly, not only its current performance based on singular indicators.
The current National Automotive Policy (NAP) focused first and foremost on a change of mindset—balancing current economic needs,future business thinking and social upward mobility.
The new and enhanced NAP is going through its final phases before it will be announced in the very near future, encompassing technology direction and business strategies in next-generation vehicles, mobility as a service and Industry 4.0 compliance.
Several technology road-maps will also be developed specifically to industry adoption and penetration of technologies surrounding the connected mobility sector. If we take a look at this year’s motor shows in Geneva, Frankfurt or Tokyo, the overall sentiment from car-makers was the sudden leap of faith from conventional transportation to connected mobility,a stark contrast in temperature for electrification and autonomous technology, if compared to previous editions.
For a developing market like Malaysia, such leaps of faith are often tough to make, and it is the government’s role in pacifying anxieties and hesitation — placing the safety wheels as we embark on the next phase of the mobility industry. The industry can expect a higher degree of enhancement opportunities in developing capabilities in smarter vehicles, components and systems, as well as the utilization advanced materials,processes and data-driven decision making.
New business models in both manufacturing and services sectors will emerge, and meaningful participation of local players will be encouraged. The natural impact of the policy implementation can be expected — smarter and safer vehicles, mobility services, high value job opportunities and improved after-sales service for Malaysians.
In conclusion,the answer to the question of our readiness is also simple. With the opportunities and ecosystem we have built, we are fortunate that we can see the gap we must jump across. All we need is to do is get ready to jump.
“Luck is merely when preparation meets opportunity.”
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).