MWW 2014 round-up: Elon, Uber and autopilot

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After a year in which Tesla virtually turned the automotive industry on its head, we’re starting to wonder if Elon Musk was sent to our time from the future. Not only has Musk been able to create electric cars that are desirable for their environmental credentials as well as their speed and style, but has rapidly grown Space X with, quite literally, stellar results.

Tesla made a massive push to encourage the use of its infrastructure, releasing all technology patents under open source licensing and (purportedly) collaborating with its closest competition, BMW, to improve battery technology. There’s also talk of a snake-like robot cable that can connect and charge Tesla vehicles without any human aid.

Aggressively expansive ride sharing business Uber had a tumultuous year. As a permanent fixture in headlines throughout the year, it faced strong resistance from almost every city it launched in. Uber management was subject to criticism, after threatening to investigate and expose a journalist that dared speak ill of the business, and on its lack of driver regulation processes after accusations of sexual assault in India.

What’s next?

Google’s driverless car is a successful proof-of-concept, which is to be followed by models from numerous manufacturers. Already this year, Mercedes-Benz head of Dieter Zetsche revealed a concept car, commenting that “the car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space”, something discussed by IDEO’s in-depth exploration of the future of not-driving. The tech behind self-driving cars is ready, but legislation is not. As we see electric car charging stations become a common sight, lawmakers will begin to tackle the difficult legal problems posed by self-driving cars.

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