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EQ drives innovation IQ

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According to a new study, listening to, understanding, and inspiring colleagues can account for as much as 31 per cent of their effectiveness and so Ford will be rolling out emotional intelligence training for its employees in Europe.

In the movies, James Bond solves problems with his fists and the help of super-smart Q – whose futuristic and deadly gadgets help do the talking. Being a good listener is not part of the package.

But just as Bond’s real-life counterparts are now required to show a full set of social skills, so that is the case with Q’s automotive counterparts, the engineers who are working on the cars of the future.

Ford will be rolling out emotional intelligence training for its employees in Europe, through a course with RWTH Aachen University, the company’s research partner in Germany.

“Traditionally, engineers have been seen as individual contributors and there remains a major focus on technical skills, knowledge and imagination,” said Prof. Richard Boyatzis of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. “But contrary to common perception, engineers do not work alone. They work in multidisciplinary teams with diverse clients. The ability to work with others is an important consideration.”

According to a new first-of-its-kind study, listening to, understanding, and inspiring colleagues can account for as much as 31 per cent of their effectiveness. This was a key finding of research undertaken with Ford engineers – and their colleagues and reports – who were asked whether they love their workplace, and how they cooperate and discuss ideas for the future. The study also found it was possible to predict how enthusiastic engineers would be about projects, just by knowing how those projects were communicated.

“Emotional intelligence is about being able to identify emotions, in yourself and others, and to know how to handle and manage them,” said Rocio Luna, team coach and mediator, Training and Consulting e. V., Ford of Europe. “We’re looking to train our engineers to be better at recognising their own feelings and at reading those of others – so they can best handle when an angry person might cause problems, a happy person is keen to collaborate, and a stressed person wants to talk.”

In an age where the importance of artificial intelligence and robots is increasing, people are expected to focus on skills and capabilities that artificial intelligence has trouble replicating – understanding, motivating, and interacting with human beings.

Ford has a network of ten engineering and research centres around the world – including Merkenich in Germany, Dunton in England and Golcuk in Turkey – which harness the talents of 25,000 engineers. The company recently opened the Merkenich Innovation Hub that offers employees on‑demand dedicated workshops; training and ideation sessions; anonymous access to research and tailored, in-depth information; as well as patent consultation.

“In many engineering schools and programs, emotional and social intelligence is given cursory attention, like tolerating your crazy uncle at a wedding after he has had too much to drink. But companies are facing a motivational crisis; with three out of four employees not feeling engaged at work. Our research shows just how much emotions matter,” Prof. Boyatzis added.

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Why sports cars make us feel good

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Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.

The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.

Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior. 

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU

“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”

Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss. 

For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:

From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:

  • High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
  • 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
  • 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs

Driver state research

Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.

“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”

Activity Buzz Moments *
Roller Coaster 3
Driving 2.1
Shopping 1.7
Game of Thrones 1.5
Football Game 1.5
Kissing 0
Salsa Dancing 0
Dining 0

* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant

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Car that sees round corners

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Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.

Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.

Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”

Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of an engaged or automated drive, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. The company’s vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.

AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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