The future of Transport (will there be jetpacks?)
Tim: This is the distributed Futures podcast and I'm Tim Panton
Vim: and I'm Vimla Appadoo.
Tim: This episode is about transport and the future of Transport. We have a great interview later on which is kind of slightly more science fiction than normal, but that's kind of interesting and but but in kind of practical terms, I think.
Seeing transport change in terms of like getting trams coming back and things like that. If you keep seeing almost cyclical transport, I haven't seen much new recently have you seen anything new in transport?,
Vim: I haven't other than in terms of Transport something I found really interesting is how kind of aware people are of air quality at the moment and the impact of congestion in large cities and.
Yeah, that kind of thing. But in terms of right forms of trans transport, I've not really seen anything.
Tim: I mean, I think there's a lot of talk about and I have [00:01:00] always has been locked talk about new forms of transport and you know the sort of the rental bicycles and stuff like that are coming at the edge of it.
But in terms of like really new it's sort of seems quite. Quite static. I know there's talk about self-driving cars and that sort of thing but somehow it seems to be quite a almost unimaginative environment. I don't not quite sure why?
Vim: Yeah, I don't think people would like radically trying to change the way that we travel.
In my walk. What does the future of travel actually look like?
Tim: Right? I mean I suppose I suppose the big thing has been Airlines is cheaper. So you can go further. I think the think that what is true is that you can go further in a day than you used to be able to feel like
Tim: not crazy amounts of money.
But whether that's a good thing or not is sort of I suppose the oldie in me questions whether that's necessarily a good thing.
Vim: Yeah, absolutely.
Tim: So, air quality have you got a kind of. Concrete feeling for that. I mean, I know [00:02:00] there are there are there was look I think there was a project to put air quality monitors in Manchester did that actually happen
Vim: it is it did happen, but I don't think it's being used to do anything.
So we know how bad the air quality is in certain parts of the city, but. It doesn't mean anything's happening, you know,
Tim: right because I mean there was talk about using that to kind of redirect buses or to persuade people to delay their commute or something, but that's
Vim: not definitely not
Tim: that's a bit depressing really cuz it feels like that sort of thing.
You could do it without like fundamental change.
Vim: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely and. I think generally the population in the public so much more aware of pollution and generally the impact that they're having on society that I don't think it's too far a stretch for people to recognize or understand that right we're being rerouted because the air quality here is [00:03:00] dangerous or whatever.
It might be an interesting thing that I heard on a local radio station the other day the primary school that has been monitoring their own air quality in the playground have written a letter to TF GM which is travel for greater Manchester and Andy Burnham, who is the mayor, to say that the air quality at their school is at like dangerous levels.
So it's starting to happen at kind of a child. Understanding what within schools which I think always filters up. So soon as your kids start hammering you as a parent about these things. I think then people are more likely to take action.
Tim: Right right because I mean there was there was a movement to make buses in particular more.
Well make the emissions cleaner by by feeding them natural gas, but I'm not sure if that's really still happening. And I see that Manchester has the odd hybrid and I think there's even a pure [00:04:00] electric bus, but it seems like that's all stalled. Maybe I'm imagining that
Vim: I'm not sure. I don't know enough about it.
Yeah that they they've tried to implement cheaper travel on trams earlier and different times of the day to encourage more people to take them, but it doesn't really it doesn't really resolve anything.
Tim: Yeah, I mean, I'm very skeptical about the nudge stuff because the kind of the price differential has to be pretty big for people to pay any attention to it.
Tim: you've got to get into work when you've got to get into work.
Vim: Yeah, I think that there are drastic changes that need to be made so I don't really understand why I tram lines aren't also cycle Lanes or why those routes aren't used to encourage cycling as well. So that you have the kind of direct routes through a city that you can cycle along and even more I really don't understand why, why cars just haven't been banned [00:05:00] in cities in city center.
Tim: Yeah, I mean I can tell you the the small part of the first one which is why you'd like a cyclist. You really don't want to cycle along tram tracks. It's
Vim: no no,
Tim: it's like it's too scary and you can get your wheels stuck in the tram track is thing you only do once but I think the rest of it. I mean, it depends a little bit on the the architecture of the city was one of things I like about Berlin is that it is actually.
It's perfectly cyclable partly because it's flat and also because the roads are mostly pretty wide and so, you know, there's room for a cycle path without it being kind of totally totally taking the road over but still actually decent distance and because everyone Cycles everybody who's driving is conscious of cycling.
Tim: it could be that kids cycling and so they very much more not exactly consider it but much more aware of it as a possibility and I think [00:06:00] the thing that's thing that's very odd is or very noticeable not odd is the number of women cycling in Berlin is just like it's probably more women than men will cycle and that's simply not true in the UK.
Vim: No, definitely, not
Tim: Mmm Yeah, so so the conversation I have with Dan which you'll hear in a minute. It's actually like not about any of that stuff. Although we do talk about actually to be fair. We do talk about both towards the end. We talk about electric cars and and the business model around transport
Dan: hi. My name is Danny Lane. I'm start-up guy I guess is the best way to describe me from sort of decades and telecoms moving on to startup Advice security and most recently. I'm part of a team behind gravity Industries, which makes jet-powered flying suits.
Tim: So so the thing that we always thought like, you know that the future would be full of people in jet-powered flying suits is actually going to [00:07:00] happen.
Dan: Now, I think the idea of A Sky Full of individuals wearing flying suits just flying around with jet strap themselves is actually quite terrifying but that's partly down to people rather than the role of the suits themselves. I don't think it's going to be the future of Transportation, but it certainly is a very fun way to move.
Human body between two spaces
Tim: so kind of boring practical questions is like, you know, how fit do you have to be to use these things like you do? You have to be like, you know, really strong upper arm strength or something.
Dan: Yeah. So for people who haven't seen the gravity jet suits it is it a.
It's not what you traditionally call a jetpack with that's why we refer to as a jet suit because it's something you wear while the news something you strap yourself onto. So what you've actually got is a large jet engine on the back flanked by two fuel cells containing jet A1, which is sort of a form of [00:08:00] kerosene.
So say this is standard jet fuel, basically. And then on your arms, you've got two big 3D printed Titanium or aluminium gauntlets each one, which has two smaller jet turbines in them. So you're creating almost like a tripod of thrust from from your rear. And your and your two arms.
Tim: Okay, so that's how you get stability.
But the so that's that.
Dan: Yeah, so you do have to have the upper body strength to be able to hold your weight up, but that's that's just it's not a superhuman feat because if you can you can stand and lean on a railing all day long if it's just a more extreme form of that.
Tim: So it's you really are forming a kind of tripod of upthrust and two of the legs and legs, too.
To the sides of that are on your arms this kind of the physics of that. It's kind of interesting. So you're you're doing the balancing like on ever you done this yourself?
Dan: I have yeah, I wouldn't I wouldn't say what I'd done could be called [00:09:00] Flying. I need a few more goes at that. I'm pretty close.
I can kind of get off the ground and kind of wouldn't even call it hovering. But yeah, the the way the training generally goes as you start off in low power. To get a feel for how the Jets push you around and then you it's as soon as you get in and you've got that low power setting was not going to sort of send you off into the sky.
You can start to feel you can lean you can actually lean on them. So the first time one of the most impressive things about it for me is the fact that even on low power. I'm not a small. I'm not a small guy I could. Put the thrust up hold my arms out and just lean on these on these Columns of thrust coming out of my hands.
Tim: Wow, so that sounds like it's it's more like physically intuitive than you might. Expect otherwise, I mean
Dan: absolutely. Yeah, it's immensely intuitive and and that's one of the things the inventor chap called Richard Browning who basically just came up with this idea went out and invented it and through through lots and lots of trial and [00:10:00] error came up with this this this perfect apparatus.
He always says that that what you're doing is you're standing up is actually harder because you're balancing on two points.
Tim: Right? Right, right.
Dan: Your brain is just in tune with doing that. It's very much like riding a bicycle. The bicycle is not an intuitive thing, but your brain is geared to help you balance.
So once you get the mechanics of the bicycle, you know, I don't know if you remember. When when when you first learn to ride a bike you kind of start off and it's that this is impossible. I'll never be able to do this is so unintuitive. And as soon as you get something clicks and all of a sudden, it's just like what is easy and that's that's that's what your brain does when it when it needs to learn to balance in a new way.
Tim: Right? But but I suppose the distinction here is or the contrast here is with something like. Helicopter where like I what I have never flown one, but what I hear is that almost like it takes years for that to become even close to being intuitive because it's not like I suppose it's a
Dan: very abstract control mechanism.
[00:11:00] Tim: Yeah.
Dan: It's an incredibly abstract control mechanism. You've got levers and you've got joysticks and you've got pedals and it's very much like driving a car driving a car. It's something that you learn to do and I don't think driving the car ever becomes instinctive. You just you just get used to it.
Whereas balancing your body using just your arms and your legs and distributing your weight. It becomes very intuitive and can become something that you do just without thinking about it.
Tim: I'm going to disagree with you about cars because I mean there have been some there have been many occasions particularly back in the day when I was commuting by car.
When I've arrived at the office without any sense of how I got there like, you know, there have been two or three routes I could have taken in if I was forced to say which one I take I really couldn't because it's just like, you know the autopilot taking me there and that's in my head. Not not Tesla here.
Dan: Yeah, well, that's just terrifying.
Tim: Well, I don't know actually, I mean I was just my suspicion is that my subconscious is a better driver than I am. You know, I mean like, you [00:12:00] know,
Dan: yeah, yeah. Yeah. So yeah, it's I've certainly experienced that myself as well just get there and you just don't remember how you got there.
But I wonder if that's actually just due to fatigue and you've not remembered but at the time you were paying attention,
Tim: I think you were but I'm not sure you were paying conscious attention, which is kind of what I'm squaring were you saying about like that that driving after you've done it
particularly a route, you know, I think it does become somewhat less of a conscious activity that I guess what I'm trying to say that it becomes not intuitive, but but. More ingrained at any rate. So back back back back to Flying Like boring practical questions. Like what kind of range are they super noisy those sorts of things.
Dan: It is one of the noisiest things I've ever heard. You absolutely need ear protection a lot of people go. It's not that loud as it spools up people say, oh, it's not it's not that loud. I'll be fine. They're not fine. As soon as it spools up and you you bring it up to Full Throttle it is it is a piercingly loud.
[00:13:00] But it is also one of the most incredible sounds I've ever heard and it's one of the most visceral experiences I've ever. I've ever had growing up around sort of high-end super cars and top fuel dragsters and things I'm used to noisy loud fast things, but the jet suit just blow them all away as the other question sort of the the boring practical stuff like range and height things like that that people always ask us these and the question it the answer is really.
It goes as far as its can as far as it can fly with fuel that's depends on how fast you can go. We've had it up to I think about 70 kilometers an hour, but then you start to get aerodynamic issues because human beings don't have any sort of wing surface and things so you're kind of buffer to your shoulders and stuff which is all things.
We're working on improving about the soup. So you can fly for up to 12 minutes. Most of our flights are around sort of under five minutes that is demonstration flights or that sort of exciting little things that we do little stunt things and stuff like that. Mostly for entertainment. Um, so it's basically as far as you can fly in under 10 minutes really and [00:14:00] as for height, we don't carry our own oxygen so it uses air so the higher you go the thinner the air the less.
The less efficient your debts become and all of this is subject to things like pilot weight how much fuel you've got in there more fuel? You have the more weight. You're carrying the more you use and also temperature comes into as well because jets are much less efficient in warmer environment.
Tim: Wow, right since actually not like this isn't we're not at the point where this is just like wander out there and strap-on on and and fly up there.
There's a whole bunch of kind of safety maths you have to do before you do a flight about them. Am I going to get there and watch the temperature and what their
Dan: yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We do a lot of our flights over water just in case there is a failure and we had our first public failure at Bournemouth.
We had one of the one of the Jets. And you know, that's that people look at them when I that's terrible. I'm really feel really bad for you guys. But actually it was an immense bit of learning for us because we've never had a failure in [00:15:00] public would never had a proper failure while flying at height and it's be because it was over the sea.
The pilot was absolutely fine. We pulled him out send them off to A and E to get checked over and he's absolutely fine. And we reconditioned the suit he flew again the next day and what that prove to us is that in the up-and-coming racing series we're doing if we do over water we can have racing incedents where people fall out the sky and they will be absolutely fine.
So it was really valuable thing for us to learn.
Tim: So I guess I mean, I've just that can be back to the noise thing. I've actually heard. I've been next to it and closer than I've probably should have been to Harrier taking off a long time ago. And that was just the most fantastically loud noise and like, you know gut-wrenchingly loud.
You've felt it through, you know through your skin and that was amazingly loud. But the thing that with them was that like the Dynamics of. Of flying was we're actually quite kind of complicated because [00:16:00] you were you know, you're basically in the same thing. It's kind of vertical thrust. But you as you as you go faster, you're compromising the stability to some extent until it becomes an aeroplane.
Dan: Yeah that the Harrier is I mean, we absolutely love the Harrier so much so that even it out at our training facility in Ipswich where we train the people that buy the Jets do some people come for experience those we actually have an old T4 trainer Harrier outside or liveried up with the Gravity logo and our names on any things this is because it's an analogous thing to us as a British invention it hovers.
As well as flying and it did and it does that by just Brute Force pointing straight down. And you know, like like the jet suit, it shouldn't really exist but it does and it exists because of classic British sort of engineering and just that or can-do attitude that we seem to be known for and one of my [00:17:00] fave my my absolute favorite photos that we have and we've got some incredible footage of the Jetsuits, but my absolute favorite is of Richard at Farnborough airshow hovering in front of one of the Spanish harriers that was demonstrating their hovering behind him.
Tim: Wow. Well, that's the so actually I'll put in the I'll put in the notes and links and if you can send me a link to that or
Dan: I will say yeah, it's my absolute favorite and the Spanish Harrier pilot was polite enough to come and see us beforehand and arrange to hover exactly in front of our stand where we were demonstrating the jet suit, so it was incredible but as for the noise, yeah, it's very similar that it's obviously gonna be different because the Harriet is one giant Pegasus engine and the the jet suit is is.
Five much smaller engines, so it's a different tone. But in terms of volume, it's not far off and certainly the guys at Farnborough were very surprised at how loud it was. They said it's actually now the lot of the demonstration Jets they have just because of the way it she is [00:18:00] the air.
Tim: Right? Right. I mean I suppose what you've got is quite quite a thin nozzle with no no shielding and no baffle.
So you kind of got like all the noise there is to escape is going to come out. It's like there's nowhere else. It's going to go.
Dan: Absolutely and and our Engineers we're very lucky to have some of the most talented people in the entire world coming and working with us on this and some of the work that's going on in the lab is about changing those nozzles and changing the way air flows through the Jets and around the Jets, too.
To either minimize that noise I make it a more pleasant noise, although that's totally subjective. I think it's an incredibly Pleasant noise to hear.
Tim: So so one of the things that are going to kind of coming back with the Harrier things that some of the one of the things that they found in the Harrier, which I think they hadn't actually kind of thought about when they first built it but the test pilots discovered was that you could use the thrust horizontally to make you go around corners faster.
[00:19:00] Presumably that something you wouldn't like do I suppose it doesn't apply and in the jetsuit suit, but well
Dan: the thing about the jet series you have an almost almost infinite amount of vectoring on your arms as if you can move your arms in a direction your you can vector to your thrust there which is which is a huge advantage over something where you're mechanically vectoring so there.
Devices out there which use similar sorts of jets where they have a gimboling system or a directional nozzle similar to the way the Harrier had a direct had directional nozzles. And what that does is it uses a mechanical interface to direct the thrust now with that you've got all the risk of mechanical failure, but you're also Limited in the directions of those can go.
With the jet suit, you're only limited by where you can where you can move your arms around.
Tim: I guess it's probably an efficiency cost as well in terms of kind of redirecting it. You must lose some percentage in that kind of that angle shift.
Dan: Yeah, I wouldn't yeah, I would imagine serving we just pointing straight out and just move them around.
Dan: we don't really see that but it does [00:20:00] give us a huge amount more agility over those other there's other devices. You know, we've we've demonstrated that with a couple of races against jet skis and we're just training up more pilots at the moment. So we're looking to launch our jetsuit racing series next year, which you'll see some incredibly incredibly agile young men flying around during the most incredible things.
And I know that there are two sort of most enthusiastic Pilots are a stuntman and a gold medal gold medalist gymnast. And they are both competing right now to be the first person to do an in air flip forward or backwards in the Jetsuit
Tim: strikes me that you might like go and recruit some people from the kind of
stunt bike Arena because it feels like the same sort of mindset, you know people
Dan: possibly . Yeah, we've been recruiting from all over but where we found some we found real success is in gymnasts because they know how to conduct that know how to [00:21:00] maneuver themselves around space while they're jumping around.
Tim: Right? Right
Dan: and they tend to be small and Powerful. So that's one of the problems is you get these you get guys who are big and strong way so much. And yeah, you can you can fly if you if you weigh. You know, I'm not I'm not a small man myself and you know, it will carry me, but if I want to do anything competitive or very agile you need to be very strong to have that upper body strength.
And also very light to get yourself that that sort of extra agility. So using the match that perfectly
Tim: no women gymnast yet,
Dan: but we have a I mean this is this is this is a topic that that but I am really really keen on pushing for us. We do a lot about reaching in sort of stem or steam now because we've added in the art side of it because of the fashion side of the suit and one of my passion projects is is to make sure that we have.
Huge range of pilots from all from all backgrounds. We've had we've [00:22:00] had I think probably about four or five women fly the suit and trained to fly this in things like that. It's just finding the right person who wants to you know, make a career out of this and do that, but what I what I really want and I think we'll have achieved this when we can do a demonstration in front of a school or university and have a pilot land.
Take off the helmet and give a talk and just Inspire young young young people, especially young women to get into engineering to get into science because we cover all of that for my science engineering and fitness as well. So it's basically the ultimate stem tool because it's
Tim: yeah, that's interesting.
So we're I mean. Where's the money in all this? Where's the rest of the kind of commercial sense? I mean you've talked about racing as a commercial Enterprise. I guess what else
Dan: it's in. It's it's easy for people to say, you know, you've got to get out of military. You've got to go down industrial that's all stuff.
And those are great [00:23:00] great Avenues to go down and it's kind of obvious ones from from from from a certain point of view and we're certainly talking to a lot of people in that area, but I think from a business model if we were to. To sort of look at that as our. As our only Market we would we would just be sitting there trying to chase those sales for years before we even got one where I think this has huge applications is pure entertainment because it is it is fun to watch is fun to do and it's seeing it in person is like nothing else.
Sometimes I think displays and things that we've been doing we've done, you know hundreds of events all over the world in almost every country for all kinds of people whether it's schools or big, you know, big private events. We recently done--for Singularity University. We've done Ted we've done all of those and those are all great great things to do and demonstrate the technology and now we're doing our own events such as the racing and experience days where people can come along and fly the suit.
Tim: Yeah I [00:24:00] mean, so you saying that over water was kind of preferred. Does that ? Is there any other kind of if somebody listening which seems unlikely but it's only listening to podcasts thinks. Hey, I want to want to want to have this at my corporate event or whatever. What would they need in terms of a space to do it in?
What are the kind of safety concerns that you have to work with?
Dan: We've flown in all kinds of places. We've flown in doors and film studios for TV shows flown in tobacco docks in London inside and a small small area. It really is very very practical in terms of getting it places and flying it. It's just you know over water is ideal because you can do more you can go higher you can go faster because if anything happens you just fall in the water and yeah, it's expensive because the suit needs to be rebuilt, but the pilot is is very safe over over land, you know, you've got grass and other soft things.
It's akin to having a motorcycle accident.
Tim: So the same helmet you don't want to see [00:25:00] yeah.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah, you don't want to fall off a motorcycle 30 feet in the air. Right? Right. So don't so you don't go that high which means you know, you need a smaller intimate crowd and you know, we we can tailor something for most any event
we certainly have done corporate things. We've done sort of parties for for very high net worth individuals. Who wanted someone to fly in and wow everyone
Tim: brilliant absolutely brilliant. So I was kind of thinking about this and it struck me that what's sort of almost since sounds terrible to say it almost kind of old school in the sense that this is this isn't like drone technology.
It's not a brushless electric motor on each arm. It's a real jet burning carbon-based fuel like and have you looked at that, I mean presumably you've looked at that and just gonna like this the weight is the weight power-to-weight ratio wins. Is that right? Or like there's [00:26:00] another reason.
Dan: Well, I think the the honest answer is when it started out Richard the inventor just kind of.
Thought can I strap Jets myself and fly around because that sounds like fun and actually has then since hit on this incredible invention and this incredible journey that he and the rest of the team are now going on of discovering. You know, what is the most efficient way to use this technology? Is there anything better?
You know, we have electric prototypes in the lab and we have people working on that so that we can have all of these. All of these all of these things in a slightly more efficient package or slightly more quiet packaging and things like that. And that's that's really where we're heading. Next is looking electric motors.
What is the technology what the Battery Technology can do anything?
Tim: Right, right. So you haven't ruled it's not the kind of an aesthetic judgment or ruling it out. It's just like where are we in the Technologies curve? And yeah, I didn't have that there is
Dan: yeah, the electric stuff isn't quite there yet, you [00:27:00] know in terms of battery power for performance and things but there's also that that visceral entertainment factor that visceral feeling of being around jet engines.
I don't think it's something that people generally have a lot of exposure to Beyond getting on a plane and going on holiday and you'll never really up close to the Jets in that in that scenario. So, you know going to an air show or going to display and seeing something up close. I think we described it as this this.
Multiple stages of experiencing the jet suit. The first is you see on online and a lot of people think it's fake second is you see it in person and that's when you get that visceral that you get the smell of the jet fuel you get the feeling of the hot air blowing against you because you're near you're near it and you get that incredible sound and then a human being lifts up off the ground and it's still kind of looks very unnatural even in real life.
I've seen it. I've seen it so many times now that there's a great video. I've sort of myself Farnborough Airshow. Someone in the crowd took where I'm doing a bit of ground support and helping them get set up in a now [00:28:00] just before they took take off a walk away. And I'm just I'm just on my phone looking Facebook or something while they're flying around because I've seen it so many times but that's just because I was doing so many demonstrations that day if I haven't seen it for a week or so, I'll go and see it and I'll still be amazed at seeing it take off and just seeing the human being his legs lift off the ground then just fly off into the distance.
It's is something you absolutely have to experience if you get the opportunity to see us do a display somewhere. And then the final one which is the most special thing. I can possibly think of right now is when you strap the suit on and you are sort of in this harness and it's all very I wouldn't say unnatural but it's a it's a strange feeling being harnessed up wearing all this bulky kit.
And then you can't be can still walk around. You're still very free. It's not like you're strapped into something. And you sort of start to spool up and you start to feel it's very strange because when you're outside the suit and you're watching it, it's an incredibly violent thing because you've got all this.
hot air , you've got all this noise you go to smell, but when you're in it, all of that energy has been pushed away from you.
Tim: Oh [00:29:00] right, so it's kind of like the storm thing that you're in the middle of it.
Dan: I won't say it's relaxing but to me whenever I'm in the suit, it feels just like it feels very strange.
It feels very much. Like it's just a sign of Zen things all this energy. So this power but because that's such precise engines. There's not there's not like vibration like you get on a big big sort of petrol engine or big like V8 or something plugging away giving a lot of vibration. You've just got all this noise and power and you can feel it
but it's kind of a just a feeling of powerfulness.
Tim: That's interesting
Dan: if that's even a thing.
Tim: Yeah, you know
Dan: just being pushed away from you. It's much less violent and it's much more sort of relaxed
Tim: interesting because I had a RX-8 for years and the interesting thing with that was that you didn't get because of the like it's a rotary and
Dan: rotary engine.
Tim: Yeah that you didn't get the kind of classic, you know V6 or whatever. Kind of vibration it [00:30:00] just yeah, and it made a noise like nothing else. I mean I loved it but a lot of people hate the noise it makes because it's more like kind of buzzsaw or something than
Dan: yeah. Yeah
Tim: V6, but but it was just like.
I loved that car I mean I had a lot of fun in it, but it was totally impractical in every possible respect and died died about died after 10 years which like it should have lasted and whatever it was sixty, seventy thousand miles and it got to the point where it was kind of I would have repaired it except that the cost of repair were just crazy high and I just dumped it.
But yeah, so that's sort of not ended than the lack of a piston. Lack of a of that kind of horizontal movement does change the feel of being in the thing and so I can kind of see that that might be true for the suit as well. We should talk about cars given that we are here. And
Tim: you haven't like you haven't succumbed to an electric car.
You have you [00:31:00] driven one?
Dan: Yeah, so I I'm a massive petrol head which I guess isn't isn't really the time to use these days what with everything moving away from Petrol by Massive car geek a car Enthusiast, but I'm a bit of a weird one because of living in cities. I never bothered taking my test until about six years ago when I left.
And so I'm a recent driver who has a passion for cars and I have a passion for really big powerful loud engines. So it's not really compatible with with the electric car movement. Although I also love technology. So I'm kind of conflicted and I did look at Tesla few years ago. And I wasn't that impressed.
I'll be honest with you and I know it's not popular popular Viewpoint at the moment.
Tim: So I I mean I so I like when they when the RX8 died. I didn't have a car for a I mean my wife has a car so I had a car I could drive but but at that point in my life, I basically didn't need a car so I didn't have one for about nine months.
And then I thought well, you know just the [00:32:00] odd trip to the airport or something. It would be useful to have one. So I bought the cheapest electric car I could find. It's tiny but it's quick. It's like, you know and you have a proper proper kind of small car experience, you're throwing it around corners and burning people off at the lights and this kind of stuff.
I mean the range is shit, but you know it but it's actually kind of that way. I like you not desperately tempted by the big Tesla's there's just like there's sort of doing. Two incompatible things from my point of view. You don't get the big car fun and and they're sort of you know, and they somehow you don't you know what you should get out of a big car for
Dan: why I think I think to me it came down to I wanted something I could be really comfortable in.
You know, my first car was a Mercedes SL which is a ridiculous first Car, by the way, I do not recommend that to anyone the insurance was ridiculous in the first year and it was a it was a 5-liter V8. Which I love because it was [00:33:00] noisy and I had the exhaust done. So it made a lot of noise and had a lot of torque at accelerated.
It's only two seats. It's massively impractical but it's you know, it was fun and I enjoyed it and I had it for I only got rid of it earlier this year. So I've had it for so I had a full five years or so and and like like you were saying about needing to airport runs and things like that if I ever need anything practical it was absolutely useless.
It was my only car. And really when you ask questions like the title of this this podcast for the future of Transport, I think it's actually moving away from ownership and it's not actually the things like all of this, you know Auto driving self piloting stuff and all these safety features and things like that.
That's really going to revolutionize what it is to move people around. I think there's actually going to be business models that are going to they're going to change it and so. I signed up a few years ago to this thing that Enterprise do which is Enterprise Car Club to solve a progression of like Zipcar and things like that where you just have a an RFID Card and an app and [00:34:00] you just say right now the car park three blocks away.
It's a I think they use Toyota. Auris and things like that and they had this car it's an estate, you know seats seats five people or you can fold the seats down and use it like a little little van or something and you just pay pay per hour or per mile. Unlock it with the card with the with the app and the keys are in the glove box and I can just use it.
And then when I'm done with it, I put it back pay the bill and carry on and then I don't have all the cost of ownership and hassle of ownership of an estate car, which I don't really want because I need it maybe once a month,
Tim: right? Right, right. Yeah. No, I mean, I think that's that's true. The only fly in that ointment as far as I'm concerned, is that the capital cost of that?
Doing that for the whole population somebody like whoever wins that battle is going to end up owning all the cars in the country and and like they are then going to be the biggest like they're going to have a huge Capital overhead of like owning these things. Whereas at the moment what's nice is that that Capital overhead is spread out over all [00:35:00] of us and all over all the companies and they are like it's only a percentage of a company's ownership or whatever of their Capital whereas like you're going to end up kind of like GE was with with with home appliances. They with this enormous leasing business on the side of of an equipment company and I kind of worry about the Dynamics of that.
Dan: Well, I think I think you'll start off with a subsidized model similar to sort of mobile phones, but. Obviously just inflated massively to cover their additional cost.
So, you know, you buy them a lot of people don't buy their phones. It's going away. Now where people are buying sim-free phones, but most people still get them under contract for the mobile operators and subsidizing their monthly cost. And so I wouldn't be surprised to see models coming out and you kind of kind of already go this way with Leasing and things but I kind of get this this idea that especially someone like Tesla where they have a they've completely gone in different directions when you actually go and.
Tesla to the traditional [00:36:00] sort of dealer model I can totally see the signing up online and then a few days later. They deliver you a Tesla and you pay a monthly fee for it. And in 12 months time, you can you can choose an upgrade or you can choose just carry on paying it and it comes cheaper or something like that.
It's sort of getting there.
Tim: One of the German car companies. Does that that you can sign up and you basically get. Like a choice of cars. So in any given time you can have one of three cars, so in the winter, you can have something kind of different from in the summer or if you go on a skiing holiday, you can get the estate and they just kind of swap them round and they're covered by your payment.
Yeah, and I'd so I think you're right. It doesn't it's so interesting stuff with with business models there. Although one of the things that I I mean, I don't when I'm when I'm in a city I used quite often bicycles, but what I've discovered is that I really like using these short-term, you know rental bikes because they're [00:37:00] asymmetrical I can cycle down to to go somewhere for a few beers and then if it transpires that I don't actually want to cycle back because it's dark wet and drunk.
Then I doesn't matter because I've just checked the bike in back again and it's still still there and then I jump in a taxi or the uBahn or whatever it is and like leave the bike there and I don't have to go back and get it the next day or any of that because basically somebody else will pick it up and take the other Journey.
So it's like that asymmetrical Journey thing is actually really interesting. It also works for airports.
Dan: That's a real problem that moment with the models like Enterprise Car Club is I have to return the car back to the exact place where I picked out from. Which you know means that first of airport Journeys and things it's completely useless because I can't leave it the airport and expect someone else to take it.
Tim: Yeah, so I think that's the strong point for Zipcar in cities. But obviously that doesn't work the moment you leave a city because the kind of population density isn't high enough to to work to [00:38:00] what extent you think we're building these models around cities and like. The the rural population again to get like kind of totally different or no service at all.
Dan: Well, it's it's down to where the car ownership is needed. So, you know, as I said, I didn't even though I'm massively passionate about cars. It never made sense to me to get into car ownership while I was in the city. And it was only once I left the city and sort of moved out something still a city but it's more rural.
I realize actually owning a car is an essential thing. So the business model for people who need to own a car whether that's because of where they live or just their lifestyle is actually going to be very different from those who don't need to own a car and I think probably in cities that's that that is you know, the majority of people in the city probably don't need to own a car and it's actually a luxury.
Whereas outside of the city it's a necessity to the business model, there is totally different. So Zipcar and things wouldn't necessarily work so well, but the subscription [00:39:00] ownership model Works quite Works quite well out there
Tim: interesting. I wonder who's going to subsidize who or whether whether we just see a complete dichotomy between those two models and you basically like with like you say with mobile phones you either do, you know contract-free or you buy it's part of your contract on it, you know, 31 months.
Purchase away over the deals are the extent.
Dan: I mean people already do that because people a lot of people will lease their cars to get their cars on finance and then at the end of the finance , they'll give them back and get another one. So it's not it's not like that model isn't completely alien, but I just feel like it's going to be it's going to be more of a.
A actually presented more in a subscription model where people feel like it's more like buying a mobile phone or Sky TV or something. Then it is going and signing a credit agreement on a my car.
Tim: Hmm interesting it will be fun to see how that turns out. I mean it's sort of do you think there's not a risk that that like homogenizes cars and makes them more dull [00:40:00] and and safe that they're all exactly the same.
Dan: I don't think that's a risk. I think that's exactly where we're going and that's that's why I don't like the Tesla's because and there is something of a vanity aspect to this as well because I think if you're going to spend that much money on a car I kind of want it to be comparable to other cars in that and that price bracket.
So for example, I one of the reasons I didn't get the Tesla and I was looking at I think that at the time the p90d was the top. Top end one there and it had the really early basic sort of Lane assist autopilot stuff. And it had I think it was ludicrous mode or something like that at the time and I knew that I would get it and I would be able to get one for about 40 Grand and I would get it and all of my geeky friends would say, oh my God, you got Tesla what's ludicrous mode like and I'd say I don't know.
I don't have it. What's autopilot? I don't know. I don't have it. And what I'd end up with is just an electric [00:41:00] car with none of the things that people associate with being a Tesla. So I really didn't want to just answer those questions every single time. I mentioned I had a Tesla and yeah, that's a little bit of vanity but still it's one of the big parts of owning it and the other thing is actually once you got in it and I know the build quality is improved in recent years, but when I got in it it felt like it was just a kind of a nice Mondeo.
And if you're going to spend 40 to a hundred grand on a car you kind of want it to feel like a jaguar or a Mercedes or something like that. There's a bit more high end. It just didn't feel like that inside.
Tim: Right, right. I mean I think I think they mean well, you know suppose it given that it was a new new enterprise on the new game for them
basically. There's in kind of inevitable that it's going to take them awhile to get the build quality solid.
Dan: Absolutely. And if and if you really want an electric car, I don't think there's anything better at them and Tesla my I have a guy I use to drive me around from time to time if I need an airport run or you know, I'm going out and he has a Tesla and it [00:42:00] is it's really nice
to be driven around in a tesla. Don't get me wrong. I'm I'm not entirely anti Tesla's. I just think that there's there's a model that's going to come out in maybe two or three years. That is probably the one for me rather than what's out there now.
Tim: Yeah, and it may not be a Tesla. It might be a Merc.
Dan: May it may well. Do you know there's a lot of hybrid stuff going into the murk have hybrid. I did look also at the same time look at the Lexus Hybrid. But they were really boring, you know, so simple
Tim: so now merc have a now have a non hybrid-electric release now, I think sometimes on this Autumn anyway, yeah, I haven't seen it in the flesh.
I think it may be a bit chunky for my taste. I mean like so we totally disagree about like the size of car should be. I'm I really like small cars. I've always kind of the RX-8 was an aberration. That was big for me. And my first car was a Citroen GS [00:43:00] which to be honest, like it was absolutely magic.
I mean if you're a techno nut then like, you know, the technology that went into that was just glorious certainly at the time which was like, you know mid 80s. There was nothing on the road that had as much stupid technology in a Citroen and that point.
Dan: Yeah, absolutely.
Tim: So they don't know what the modern equivalent is.
I mean, I guess it's the Tesla that it's somehow. Was interesting that you know, who's got like groundbreaking technology and their cars?
Dan: Well they were there. That was the first there were the first to have things like swiveling head lights and things like that when they
Tim: well yeah, but but but also like hydraulic suspension and and their this bizarre thing that the brakes and the suspension used to same
hydraulics see you like you lost pressure. You were really really really Spirit. Yeah, and I think the steering was assisted on the same cylinder as I see you like, you know, basically they will think if you don't if you don't that then basically [00:44:00] everything went
Dan: yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, the SL was very similar in that sort of that sort of a I think that was a that was first released in 2004 and you know had the same stuff it had a single pump that did the suspension and the steering and a whole bunch.
Other things and you know when that goes, you know about it, I think I think in terms of where we going with a manufacturer today, that's that's doing all that yeah. Tesla are the only people I can think of that actually coming out with things that are totally different and not just a progression of what other people have already done.
And that's that's the important thing when it comes to Innovation. There's a lot of things that are just progressions of things that already exist and I think the Tesla autopilot things and all that stuff and bringing that to commercial Market is. Is a real achievement that they've done
Tim: Have you seen a bare Tesla without the mean just the chassis.
Dan: I've seen I've seen pictures of yeah, but
Tim: but so like. And that's fundament because this basically there's almost nothing there. [00:45:00] It's like, you know, there's a there's a flat sheet of motor at Each corner and wheels and just like, you know, okay, we're done as compared to the whole, you know, whole complexity of a like classic internal combustion engine and all of the moving Parts have to kinda.
Be fitted into this space. They've got a much kind of flatter surface to work on with the tesla that which I think is really easy. It's an innovation itself
Dan: well platforms are a huge thing in the automotive industry at the moment if you look at. You've just just through the side effects of having these huge companies.
Now that own multiple marques you end up with platforms being shared between them so you can get an Audi 4 by 4. That is the same base platform as I think. Certainly, I think the new Lamborghini Uris 4x4 and possibly something like the Bentley or one of the other high-end ones and underneath it's the same [00:46:00] platform that they build upon so they can you know, save a lot of costs and development and also sort of getting those Vehicles legalized for use on the road and I've been looking at this recently for a start-up.
I'm talking to about doing some things with about what it takes to get a car from the drawing board. To actually being legally sold on the streets in multiple countries as a huge amount of work. So pairing that down into a platform is going to be it's going to be a great way for these companies to innovate and bring new things to the market.
Tim: Yeah. I had a conversation with with Bosch about this and they are they're very interested in in selling. I mean. Not, actually the kind of physical iron work. But but the rest of it like as pre-designed pre-certified you know designs for the control systems and the motors and like so basically you can take a Bosch [00:47:00] reference design and you can put your own.
You know truck frame around it and you can make a delivery vehicle or you can change into something else and they see that as the way that they can. I mean that problem of course is that you've got like very small number of very high value customers and they would quite like to have a few more smaller customers to kind of spread the risk over and and so they I think they think that they can seed the kind of Market you're talking about like, you know an Innovative, you know bread delivery.
Oh, you know a lorry that's specifically designed for food trucks. You know something like that.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. And again, this is this is this is all kind of progression of what what's already happening, you know with us. There's there's platforms out there already as I said and you've got people like.
to use, to use your sort of thing that you can buy a Mercedes version of I think it's then it might be the Navara or something. Like that is one of the other one of the sort of normal pickup trucks Mercedes [00:48:00] basically took that slapped on a bunch of Mercedes quality sort of Kit and made a high-end pickup truck the X Series but it's still based on someone else's actual actual chassis and core sort of drivetrain and.
And electronics so building building things like that certainly for smaller companies that want to do more Innovative things and certain areas such as self-driving and Communications means they can do that without having to design a car from scratch. Actually, look at Tesla that's what they did their first their first car.
I think was based on the Lotus was not the first Tesla Roadster,
Tim: right? So it was it was a Lotus chassis and then
Dan: I believe I believe. Yeah, I believe they took her to her later chassis and body and then stuck at all. The electric things in I think it was a long time ago now,
Tim: yeah actually know somebody who owned owned or still owns one of those which I would like that's about the only Tesla I would go and buy right now.
Dan: Well, the new one certainly [00:49:00] looks quite exciting the new Roadster when
Tim: yeah, yeah. Well I mean again, but but who knows we'll see so cool. Any kind of final thoughts you want to you want to sum up on like the future is bright. The future is petrol
Dan: or one of the things we haven't touched on and I know we're running short on time.
But one of the things to think about is actually Communications and 5G and Beyond I think is going to be pivotal for the automotive industry. Whether it's whether it's for in-car entertainment or for car to car communication and you know, we've both done a lot of work in the sort of Internet of things and M2M Industries.
I think that's that's really where there's a there's room for a lot of improvement is in the National infrastructure National infrastructure for car-to-car communications and entertainment. Is going to be critical in the next in the next few years.
Tim: Yes. Unfortunately, the the telcos will who own the Spectrum will will not be able to see past their [00:50:00] current business models to to allow Carter current communication.
They'll always want to go through through a central platform with it where they can do billing and um and and that will put so much latency in it that it's useless.
Dan: And um as you know that's that's been most of my career has been fighting with traditional telcos as you're so yeah, so
Tim: I got out
Dan: It's a problem we are used to.
Tim: I quite deliberately like well asked after the last round of entertainment with dealing with telcos and Telco suppliers.
I quite deliberately got out of that market. I don't I'm not I don't have the patience for it anymore. I'm too old to put up with that nonsense.
Dan: You're a wise man A wise man there. One more thing that actually is quite sombering from a petrol heads point of view is what happens when the government says, okay, no more non-self-driving cars what happens to Enthusiast like myself who love the feeling of driving an actual car [00:51:00] and once a self-driving car to go to the shops, but actually for a bit of a fun wants to go but a bit of a laugh wants to go out in something
with a petrol engine and a steering wheel and a gearbox.
Tim: So I think we're going to be in the same position that well. So I think there's two things to say that one of which is that I think will will be in the same position that we were with with cars that couldn't take unleaded petrol. There will be like slightly less good substitutes available.
Like the retrofit or something like that, so that's one thing and I don't actually think that it's something that government will do I think it will come from insurance. I think it will get like you said like, you know new driver almost impossible to insure a Mercedes sports car. You'll have exactly the same problem with insuring your your non self driving car that it's just gets prohibitively expensive to insure yourself to drive it.
Like off the track and I think I [00:52:00] think that's kind of you know, but let's be honest driving isn't any fun anymore. Anyway, the roads too busy.
Dan: Yes, yes or no. Yes or no. I I still enjoy blasting around town in my car. So.
Tim: Yeah, I mean I enjoyed last around town in my tiny electric car, but mostly because it pisses people off.
Dan: I think I like driving around in mine for the same reasons, but does mine just pisses people off because it's noisy