Robots, open source and the future

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Futurist and technology expert Jesse Hirsh took to the stage at the CADA Summit and launched into a high-energy, non-stop roller coaster ride of change and disruption.

Hirsh, a keynote speaker, author and regular on CBC television and other media, took dealers through everything from robots, artificial intelligence, bitcoins, and Canadian attitudes towards autonomous vehicles.

He started by reminding dealers of just how rapidly change occurs today. He said 20 years ago, companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Uber didn’t exist. Even Apple was on the ropes and had to be bailed out by Microsoft. “The companies that dominate our economy today didn’t exist 20 years ago,” says Hirsh.

He quoted author William Gibson who commented: “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.”

What can we expect next?

Hirsh says being a futurist just requires people to look at what is already happening, and then extrapolate to what to expect next.

For Hirsh, that is a whirlwind and disruptive world of near chaos and social change fused with technology that is easier to use — but increasingly difficult to understand.

Therein lies the opportunity for dealers, he says.

As today’s vehicles grow increasingly complex, dealers can set themselves up, with the help of their OEMs, to become “technology teachers” in their dealerships. Not just for vehicle technology, like advanced safety and connectivity features, but other technologies as well.

“To what extent as a dealer are you educating your clients, your customers and your community?” asks Hirsh.

As cars become increasingly computers on wheels there is a real need for people to have a place to visit to learn about these new technologies. “There are very few people that educate us about the impact of technology on our world,” says Hirsh.

A primary by-product of that teaching, is trust, says Hirsh, which will be an even more important commodity going forward as new generations look for more sources of authoritative information.

“These are very exciting times,” says Hirsh. “The people who help us make sense out of an increasingly complex world are the people we trust.”

Go digital

Hirsh also encouraged dealers to shift more of their advertising to digital and social media channels and away from traditional media sources.

He used himself as an example, saying he uses multiple types of ad blocking technology online, never watches regular television and turns to social media channels for advice and recommendations on purchase decisions. So, from an advertiser’s perspective, he’s not easy to find, and nor are many of his peers who don’t consume media in traditional methods.

He says new technologies and access to data can allow dealers to connect to consumers on a one-to-one basis instead of trying to find them in a mass market.

Hirsh says all companies are chasing access to data, and he described Uber as a “data company that currently happens to be in the transportation sector” and he called Tesla a “software company that is toying with the idea of making cars.”

Our phones are also going to continue to play an important role in all of our lives. “It’s hard to compete with that little screen,” he says. “It provides us with all the world’s knowledge.”

In terms of autonomous vehicles, Hirsh says research shows that Canadians like the idea, but aren’t yet ready to hand over control of the wheel to machines and software programming. “Humans want to be in control,” says Hirsh.

Hirsh also delved into the world of open source programming, and advised the attendees that they would be wise to tap into this resource.

The CADA Summit is organized by the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association and supported by an exclusive sponsorship with TD Auto Finance.

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