Connect with us

Tech News

Hey Derek Jenkins, how did you get to be the Design VP of Lucid Motors?



Derek Jenkins is what you would call a designer‘s designer. As the VP of Design at Lucid Motors, Jenkins is tasked with bringing the company’s first luxury EV sedan, the Lucid Air, to market by 2019. He holds a B.S. from the Art Center College of Design in Transportation Design and has spent time in the design studios at Volkswagen and Mazda. If you like the look of the latest MX-5, thank Jenkins.

I spoke with Jenkins over the phone to find out how he got to be top design dog at a start-up car company and how he sees technology impacting future car design.

Lucid Motos Derek Jenkins

Jenkins showing off a clay model of the luxury EV sedan Lucid Air. 

Lucid Motors

Roadshow:  What was your first car?

Jenkins: A 1974 Volkswagen Thing. It’s one of the most undesigned cars on the road, but I just loved it. My father was really into baja bugs in the ’70s and ’80s, and I was just drawn to that kind of minimalist usability. I grew up in Orange County, Calif. in Huntington Beach and the Thing was the ultimate surfmobile. I got it out of this guy’s back yard where it had been sitting for years, filled with leaves and holes in the floor. From when I was 14 to 16 I cleaned it up and got it painted and once I turned 16, that’s what I was driving. It looked pretty stock but it was the ’80s so I put a big stereo in it.

Q. What was your first automotive job, and how did you get it?

A: While I was at Art Center, I interned with Porsche for the summer at the technical and design center outside of Stuttgart. That was my first exposure to a professional design studio. Later in college, I interned at the Volkswagen studio.

When I came out of school, I went straight to work for Audi in Germany. Most of that was based on my internships. I always stress with students in design that those intern programs are critical. We were able to develop a great working relationship during the internship, so right off the bat they said, “Hey, when you get done with school, come work for us.” The internship really led to that employment.

Q:Take me through an average day at Lucid.

A: My average day is a little different from working at a traditional car company. My role spans all the core design disciplines with exterior and interior design, color and materials, and user experience. Beyond that I am doing a lot of strategy work like product planning and our branding efforts. I work on everything aesthetic about the company: website, photography style, videos, the whole look and feel and personality of how this brand is visually represented. That’s typically not handled by design directors, but all that is the creative soul of the company. It’s important that they all align.

In addition I oversee the production development of the Lucid Air. I work with engineers and our marketing team to develop what features we’re pushing into production, how many variants of the vehicle will be available, as well as the ongoing refinement and evolution of the the design.

We also have a series of concepts that would come after Lucid Air that I am responsible for. They will help establish what our second and third products will be.

I’m also deeply involved in sharing the company’s mission and vision with key potential investors. As a start-up, you’re often looking toward your next round of funding, and you need to prepare for that by sharing the company with investors who have shown preliminary interest. We bring them in for a deeper dive and give them a full idea of what they can expect from their potential investment. That takes up quite a bit of my time, and it’s not something I would traditionally do working at Ford or GM.

Q: What is the most tedious thing about your current job?

A: I don’t like the term tedious, but not everything about designing cars is super-sexy. There are some aspects that are arduous. Often it’s trying to realize the most you can from a particular design. Lucid has an advantage because the design and engineering staff are more or less one team, all working under the same roof and in most cases in the same room. Bigger car companies have evolved into big silos where all the different disciplines that go into making a car are in their own departments, and they work to some extent as adversaries. It limits innovation and good design. That said, I am confronted at every turn to get the most out of the design, the look, the feel as well as the engineering of the Lucid Air, and when that is combined with cost and manufacturing, it’s a big challenge. There are days when it does wear you out.


The Lucid Air is scheduled to be on sale at the end of 2019.

Lucid Motors

Q: How does tech affect the future of your job?

A: At this point I’d argue that technology is pretty much everything. Technical innovation and application are at the very core of everything we do. I see our approach toward design as subservient to technology and innovation, and I personally think that’s what will lead to breakthrough in design. If you look at key breakthroughs in the automobile or any other consumer product where the design was well received, often times there is an underpinning of a technology that helped enable that design. We try to take that to heart and make that a part of the design process.

Then there are the broader changes happening with electrification, autonomy, connected tech; all of those things that now have to be considered in the fundamental architecture and layout of a vehicle. I can clearly point out where the Lucid Air has been aesthetically directly influenced by technology. Nearly every aspect of the aesthetic has some technical foundation. I think we are in a massive revolution as we speak, and technology is driving it.

Q: What automotive trend makes your blood boil?

A: My biggest peeve right now with the current state of car design is big fake air intakes and fake grilles. We went through an era in the ’80s and part of the ’90s where the face expression of the automobile was somewhat sedate. Then cars like the Miata, the Dodge Viper, even the new Beetle put the face and expression back on cars. This was part of this retro revolution that happened in the late ’80s and early ’90s. So we spent the next 15 years and more making automobiles more and more expressive from the face. Now it’s kind of out of control; where we have these big gaping holes, not really holes, just black plastic. It’s almost like a Jack-o-lantern approach to car design, where you just cut out big areas to make the car even more expressive. My sense is that it’s just reached a point of absurdity when any given car, even a car that has barely over 120 horsepower, has enough black space on its face to cool a V12. That’s when you know the trend is done.

Lucid Air

Flanked by fog, the Lucid Air makes a statement with its distinct front fascia. No open grilles here.

Lucid Motors

Q: What is the one project you’ve always wanted to tackle professionally but have never been able to do?

A: There are certainly some products that I took a stab at that never came to market. When I was at Volkswagen, I worked on that microbus concept in 2001. Here we are 16 years later and there is still nothing like that on the market. The ID Buzz will show up in 2023, and then they’ll kill it again. It’s VW’s fifth attempt, including the one I worked on, to bring it to market. I hope they do, but I am shocked that nobody else has tried to bring cool vans to the market.

I grew up in the ’70s, and my parents had a van with shag carpeting and bean bags in the bag. I wonder why everyone is driving around in these crossovers when there could be a cool version of something like that. I still feel like there is an untapped market for a cool van. As an industry we continue to find finite iterations of the crossover when there is this blatant opportunity and nobody is doing it.

Q. If you weren’t working in the automotive industry, what would you be doing?

A: Sometimes I think I would be screwed if I weren’t doing this. I probably would have pursued something in architecture. I also like apparel, especially shoe design. I’ve dabbled in that a little bit. Neither are really big stretches from what I’m doing now. I’ve also appreciated boat and yacht design. Art Center had a marine and yacht design program that I looked into, but ultimately the car thing was more of a burning passion than those other areas. To work in car design, you just have to want it badly enough because there are so many people who are trying to do it. The people that are successful are obsessed.

Source link

A lover of all things tech, love all things that uses creative juices (not an innuendo) an avid blogger and part time vlogger, now stop reading and go check out some awesome posts on this site.

Continue Reading

Tech News

Google Doodle honors ‘Prince of Mathematicians’ Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss






Maths is the latest to receive the Google Doodle homage.

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, otherwise known as “The Prince of Mathematicians”, made instrumental contributions to number theory, algebra, geophysics, mechanics and statistics.

Gauss was born on April 30 in 1777 in Brunswick, a city in the north of Germany, near Wolfsburg. Despite poor working-class parents and an illiterate mother, Gauss was a child prodigy, believed to have been able to add up every number from 1 to 100 at 8-years-old.

One of his first major equations was working out his date of birth, which his mother hadn’t recorded. He used the only information she had: that it was a Wednesday, eight days before an Easter holiday.

At university when he was 19, Gauss discovered a heptadecagon, or a 17-sided polygon. He requested that a regular heptadecagon be inscribed on his tombstone, but it was too difficult for the stonemason, who said it would just look like a circle.

 A heptadecagon.


László Németh/Wikipedia

And remember your prime numbers? That year Gauss was involved with proving the prime number theorem, helping understand how prime numbers are distributed among the integers, or whole numbers.

Again the same year, a productive one for Gauss, he discovered the quadratic reciprocity law, which allows mathematicians to determine the solvability of any quadratic equation in modular arithmetic.

At 24, Gauss’ work on number theory, which he completed when he was 21, was published as a textbook. Not only did it involve his original work, but it reconciled that of other mathematicians. It would be considered his magnum opus and had an extraordinary impact on the field.

Oh, and add to those achievements a discovery in astronomy — in the same year, 1801, Gauss calculated the orbit of an asteroid called Ceres.

After a much-accomplished life, Gauss died aged 77 on Feb. 23, 1855.

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech News

How Cambridge Analytica works and turned ‘likes’ into political tool



How Cambridge analytica works

The algorithm at the heart of the Facebook data breach sounds almost too dystopian to be real. It trawls through the most apparently trivial, throwaway postings –the “likes” users dole out as they browse the site – to gather sensitive personal information about sexual orientation, race, gender, even intelligence and childhood trauma. So exactly how cambridge analytica works and why it turned like in to a real world political tool.

A few dozen “likes” can give a strong prediction of which party a user will vote for, reveal their gender and whether their partner is likely to be a man or woman, provide powerful clues about whether their parents stayed together throughout their childhood and predict their vulnerability to substance abuse. And it can do all this without delving into personal messages, posts, status updates, photos or all the other information Facebook holds.

how cambridge analytica works

Some results may sound more like the result of updated online sleuthing than sophisticated data analysis; “liking” a political campaign page is little different from pinning a poster in a window.

But five years ago psychology researchers showed that far more complex traits could be deduced from patterns invisible to a human observer scanning through profiles. Just a few apparently random “likes” could form the basis for disturbingly complex character assessments.

When users liked “curly fries” and Sephora cosmetics, this was said to give clues to intelligence; Hello Kitty likes indicated political views; “Being confused after waking up from naps” was linked to sexuality. These were just some of the unexpected but consistent correlations noted in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal in 2013. “Few users were associated with ‘likes’ explicitly revealing their attributes. For example, less than 5% of users labelled as gay were connected with explicitly gay groups, such as No H8 Campaign,” the peer-reviewed research found.

The researchers, Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell and Thore Graepel, saw the dystopian potential of the study and raised privacy concerns. At the time Facebook “likes” were public by default.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’ How Cambridge Analytica works.

“The predictability of individual attributes from digital records of behaviour may have considerable negative implications, because it can easily be applied to large numbers of people without their individual consent and without them noticing,” they said.

“Commercial companies, governmental institutions, or even your Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation or political views that an individual may not have intended to share.”

To some, that may have sounded like a business opportunity. By early 2014, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix had signed a deal with one of Kosinski’s Cambridge colleagues, lecturer Aleksandr Kogan, for a private commercial venture, separate from Kogan’s duties at the university, but echoing Kosinski’s work.

The academic had developed a Facebook app which featured a personality quiz, and Cambridge Analytica paid for people to take it, advertising on platforms such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

The app recorded the results of each quiz, collected data from the taker’s Facebook account – and, crucially, extracted the data of their Facebook friends as well.

The results were paired with each quiz-taker’s Facebook data to seek out patterns and build an algorithm to predict results for other Facebook users. Their friends’ profiles provided a testing ground for the formula and, more crucially, a resource that would make the algorithm politically valuable.

How Cambridge Analytica works

To be eligible to take the test the user had to have a Facebook account and be a US voter, so tens of millions of the profiles could be matched to electoral rolls. From an initial trial of 1,000 “seeders”, the researchers obtained 160,000 profiles – or about 160 per person. Eventually a few hundred thousand paid test-takers would be the key to data from a vast swath of US voters.

It was extremely attractive. It could also be deemed illicit, primarily because Kogan did not have permission to collect or use data for commercial purposes. His permission from Facebook to harvest profiles in large quantities was specifically restricted to academic use. And although the company at the time allowed apps to collect friend data, it was only for use in the context of Facebook itself, to encourage interaction. Selling data on, or putting it to other purposes, – including Cambridge Analytica’s political marketing – was strictly barred.

It also appears likely the project was breaking British data protection laws, which ban sale or use of personal data without consent. That includes cases where consent is given for one purpose but data is used for another.

The paid test-takers signed up to T&Cs, including collection of their own data, and Facebook’s default terms allowed their friends’ data to be collected by an app, unless their privacy settings allowed this. But none of them agreed to their data possibly being used to create a political marketing tool or to it being placed in a vast campaign database.

How Cambridge Analytica works

Kogan maintains everything he did was legal and says he had a “close working relationship” with Facebook, which had granted him permission for his apps.

Facebook denies this was a data breach. Vice-president Paul Grewal said: “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do, and we require the same from people who operate apps on Facebook. If these reports are true, it’s a serious abuse of our rules.”

Graphic to show key players in Cambridge Analytica story

The scale of the data collection Cambridge Analytica paid for was so large it triggered an automatic shutdown of the app’s ability to harvest profiles. But Kogan told a colleague he “spoke with an engineer” to get the restriction lifted and, within a day or two, work resumed.

Within months, Kogan and Cambridge Analytica had a database of millions of US voters that had its own algorithm to scan them, identifying likely political persuasions and personality traits. They could then decide who to target and craft their messages that was likely to appeal to them – a political approach known as “micro-targeting”.

Facebook announced on Friday that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the platform pending information over misuse of data related to this project.

Facebook denies that the harvesting of tens of millions of profiles by GSR and Cambridge Analytica was a data breach. It said in a statement that Kogan “gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels” but “did not subsequently abide by our rules” because he passed the information onto third parties.

Continue Reading