It comes as a surprise the first time you are driving along in a new car and the dashboard lights come on by themselves, or the windscreen wipers start up, or the car helps you turn that tricky corner. But the greater level of intelligence of our cars shown in these autonomous systems is just the outward manifestation of the latest model of innovation.
When the Model T ruled, the average car was a marvel of the era of mechanical engineering. Japanese cars first got traction when they offered the goodies of the electronics era in the form of the push button radio and two speed wipers.
Today we take for granted the engineering and the electronics and are deep into the era where software is the key to the customer experience and value adding.
Software accounts for a greater and greater proportion of value in today’s products. In a car it works with us when we apply the brakes, helps us maintain the right line and stay level when driving through a corner, and controls myriad systems from air conditioning to valve timing.
The days when you could rig up a block and tackle in the garage and remove the engine and perform some useful function in repairing it are long gone. The new vehicle diagnoses its own problems and communicates it back to a service centre without you even lifting a finger.
Communications is of course the twin of information technology in the modern innovation system.
It is thus surprising to find that 12 per cent of Australian businesses don’t use a computer, and 19 per cent do not use the Internet according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Fully 70 per cent do not have their own web presence.
Australia has its leading edge users, but it defies belief that there are businesses out there less connected and less computer savvy than the average 10 year old.
Rather than worrying about 12 students, maybe the government should provide the troglodyte 12 per cent with a laptop of their own. Or maybe, they should just wait for them to go out of business.
Peter Roberts comment also appears at www.brw.com.au