One More Post about the Puget Sound and Cars

So I was on the treadmill at the gym this morning at 6 am (who’s the man!) watching SportsCenter, and on comes a commercial for Callaway golf clubs. I mean, it’s the Masters this weekend in Augusta, so no surprise, right? Except, the Callaway commercial opens with a picture of a Lamborghini and starts talking about their major strategic partnership between the sports car and the driver (ha! double entendre! but I’m referring to the golf club.) What, you may ask, is the connection?

Composite materials, of course. And where is Lamborghini developing their composites? The University of Washington. In fact, it’s mentioned in this Seattle Times article: “…the lab is a sort of hub for Lamborghini to work with the school, Boeing and other partners, including golf-club manufacturer Callaway and Intel.”

And so I’ll say it one more time. Our region has a secret automotive industry cluster that no one talks about!

You’re probably bored of me laying out the components of said cluster: PACCAR, the Lamborghini Lab at UW, the various software companies – including Microsoft – that do in-car technology, and the fact that our region is a leader in electric vehicle adoption (one of the major first markets for Tesla and the Nissan Leaf).

In fact, Microsoft’s reach into this industry is deeper than I thought. I only knew about their partnership with Ford on the Sync technology. But apparently they have a similar deal with Toyota…and this one will take advantage of the cloud:

Ballmer and Toyoda gave some examples of services to emerge from the partnership in the news conference, which was webcast from Redmond.

  • Drivers could turn on their home heating and air conditioning from the car while driving home.
  • They could use a smartphone to schedule when to charge a plug-in Toyota hybrid car, such as when energy costs are least expensive.
  • They could use a smartphone to check the car’s battery level and monitor how many miles they can drive before recharging.

Ballmer made the distinction that because this service will run in the cloud, drivers can control information to and from the car via PCs and smartphones. With Sync, the in-car platform Microsoft built for Ford, drivers use controls inside the car to use Sync’s location and music services.

Having to actually be inside a car to control it? That is so old-school, bro! And man, do I love the cloud and its many implications for Seattle’s economy. When I was flying back from the Chamber Silicon Valley trip, I picked up an issue of Wired Magazine in the airport, and the first ad was a four-pager from Microsoft touting their cloud products. The only way that I could love the cloud more is if I actually understood what it was, but I’ve never let that stand in my way before.

But back to the point, which is this whole automotive industry cluster thing. What to do about it? Luckily, we’re about to start the development of our new Regional Economic Strategy, and so that’s something we can discuss. But mark my words. In a few years from now, when I’m at the gym at 6 am (did I mention that I was at the gym at 6 am this morning), it’ll be a commercial talking about Callaway and Lamborghini’s partnership with Microsoft to use the cloud to analyze why a golfer’s stroke is off and how to fix it. Which, by the way, is a product that I very much need…

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