The former Tomorrow’s World presenter Michael Rodd has given a word of warning to today’s inventors that they technology is not an idea in itself, but must perform a useful and cost-effective role.
The journalist famously rode in a driverless car in the USA for a feature on the programme in the 1970s, was discussing the difference between good ideas and society changing advances, while chatting to Smart Highways editor Paul Hutton at the Farnborough Airshow.
They talked about Concorde, which he said anyone in technology development can learn from. “Concorde’s a sad story,” he said, “not only because it was incredible engineering, but it taught the lesson that engineering on its own is not enough in today’s market place. You have to make something that the customer can see the value of and make use of and benefit from.”
He talked about why some developments worked and some didn’t, even if, as in Concorde’s case, the technology was exemplary. “Once we started to analyse why the world wasn’t buying Concorde,” he said of a special Tomorrow’s World he produced, “the truth is, it didn’t go far enough, fast enough to do the job it was supposed to do, and it certainly didn’t carry enough people. The world took to a technology that would get them to where they wanted to get to reliably, in large numbers and at a reasonable price [The 747 and other larger aeroplanes], and rejected something that could only position itself for the very elite people. And that was not enough.”
In thinking of technology such as driverless cars, Rodd cautioned that it is important for all today’s technology designers not to fall into the trap of making something because they are achieving something amazing, they must always remember the fact that there must be a commercial reason for doing so, and definitely a confidence that not only that there will be a demand from the public, but that enough of the public can afford it to make it viable.
(Michael Rodd was talking to Paul on Farnborough Airshow Radio)