Adidas and Prada: Or should that be Pradidas or Adada?

Prada/Adidas ad

Italian fashion house Prada and German sportswear giant Adidas are joining forces to produce a limited edition trainer and sailing shoe.

It’s the first time two of the most famous names in retailing have combined in what they say is a long-term partnership.

But what to call the venture? Pradidas and Adada are among the favourites in the Twittersphere.

Prada’s marketing department could probably do better, though, as they’ve already demonstrated peerless descriptive powers in the press release.

“The aim of this partnership is to investigate the realms of heritage, technology and innovation – and to challenge conventional wisdom through unexpected strategies.”

The shoes will be “based on an authentic fusion of fashion and sport” that mixes their “sporting heritage and visionary approach”.

And anyone who thinks they’ll just produce trainers that will be as smelly as the rest after being worn a few times should think again.

These won’t be any old trainers, as Prada is bringing an “iconicity” that “resides in the interplay between form and function, luxury and utility, and the ability to juxtapose different ideologies”.

Snide jibes aside, Prada does not get involved in many collaborations, so a tie-up with Adidas was seen as a surprise among the fashionistas and a coup for the German company. As GQ magazine points out, the companies “sit in different fields”.

Adidas has dipped its toe into the high-end fashion world before with collaborations with Stella McCartney, Rick Owens, and Kanye West’s Yeezy line.

The collection launches next month with two styles of trainer, and next year will see the release of sailing footwear under the Luna Rossa label. The limited-edition footwear will all be made at Prada’s factory in Italy.

Roborace car racing up the hill climb at Goodwood
mage copyrightROBORACE
Image captionThis racing car has no driver but still manages not to crash

Johannes Betz is not your typical racing car driver.

Your ability to be autonomous “is based on your ability to see the world around you”, explains Glen de Vos, chief technology officer at Aptiv, a car electronics company headquartered in Dublin.

So sensors are getting most of the attention these days.

Tesla’s Elon Musk insists cameras can do the job alone. Mobileye, owned by the giant chipmaker Intel, is making a camera-only AV, too.

But most automotive experts think you need lots of other kit, too – lidar, radar, ultrasound, inter-car wireless communication and so on – in case cameras alone aren’t up to the job.

Lidar is “really good at short distance, but gets really interfered with by weather”, says Wael Elrifai, vice president of Hitachi Vantara, a subsidiary of the Japanese electronics multinational.

Cameras are “really good at managing shapes and colours to identify objects, and can even work at long distance”, but rain and fog frustrate them, too.

Charles BoulangerImage copyrightCHARLES BOULANGER
nLeddarTech’s Charles Boulanger is sceptical that cameras alone will be enough to make driverless cars safe

And radar is “low resolution but works at long distances in bad weather, and is also good at determining the relative speed of something coming towards you”, he says.

To be completely reliable, cameras would have to “match the ability of the human eye”, argues Charles Boulanger, chief executive of Quebec lidar company LeddarTech. And cars would need “human brain” processing power to analyse all the images in real time.

But six lidars could add €15,000-20,000 (£13,700-18,300) to the price of a car today, says Mr De Vos, so it’s more likely this tech specification level will be reserved for driverless ride sharing, shuttle buses, automated deliveries and robo-taxis.

Once you remove the cost of the driver and can use the vehicle 24-hours-a-day, the sensors start looking affordable. And once commercial AVs become more common – within the next five years some technologists predict – sensor manufacturing costs will fall.

“Optimising design, materials and manufacturing, this hasn’t really begun in earnest,” says Mr De Vos.

A big move forward, in cost and performance, will come from lidars on a chip, or solid-state lidars, says Raffi Mardirosian, vice president of San Francisco-based lidar-maker Ouster. When technology systems can be built on a single silicon chip, it opens the door to making them much more cheaply.

You might have seen bulky lidars on top of prototype driverless cars, spinning round scanning the environment. Solid-state lidars won’t have moving parts, so one solution is flashing an entire area with laser light, says Mr Boulanger.

Other sensor technologies besides lidars are also emerging.

Kirsty Lloyd-JukesImage copyrightKIRSTY LLOYD-JUKES
Kirsty Lloyd-Jukes says infrared heat sensing could help AVs spot pedestrians

Like far infrared heat sensing, useful for spotting pedestrians, says Kirsty Lloyd-Jukes, chief executive of Latent Logic, an Oxford autonomous systems spin-off.

But there is a long way to go to make all these sensors reliable and cheap enough to please regulators and manufacturers, particularly when a simple sticker or bit of spray paint can fool AI into confusing a stop sign for a speed limit sign.

There is also the issue of how to maintain and repair all this complex sensor technology.

“We’re used to yearly MOTs,” says Ms Lloyd-Jukes, “but the existing ecosystem isn’t going to be enough.”

Insurers, repairers, and regulators will need to adapt to this new autonomous world.

At the moment, on average humans drive for at least eight million hours before misidentifying something that leads to an accident. Currently, AVs can only manage 10,000-30,000 hours.

“When you have a number like that, it’s sending big flashing signals there’s a lot of work to be done,” warns Hitachi Vantara’s Wael Elrifai.

But robo racing cars are at least accelerating development of this autonomous future.

Nissan boss says he was overpaid but denies wrongdoing

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Hiroto Saikawa listens during a joint news conference with Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. on March 12, 2019 in Yokohama. Japan.
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Nissan boss Hiroto Saikawa has accepted he was overpaid as part of a company compensation scheme, but denied any wrongdoing.

He told Japanese media he would return the money he had wrongly received.

It is the latest twist in a saga plaguing the carmaker that centres on improper payments to top executives.

Mr Saikawa has been accused of improperly boosting his compensation in 2013 by 47 million yen ($440,572; £359,869) as part of a stock appreciation rights scheme, according to media reports.

Such schemes tend to link bonuses with the performance of company stocks over a certain period.

Mr Saikawa reportedly delayed his bonus payout by a week to benefit from a stock rise, the reports said.

“The operation of the [scheme] was different than it should have been,” Mr Saikawa told Japanese media.

“I thought the procedures were handled properly and I didn’t know [about the misconduct].”

A Nissan spokesperson told the BBC that the findings from an internal investigation were scheduled to be reported to the board of directors next week, on 9 September.

“We have heard that share appreciation rights will also be part of this report,” the spokesperson

Nissan troubles

The investigation comes at a challenging time for Nissan.

The arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn, the architect of the Nissan-Renault partnership, has cast doubt over the future of its alliance.

The company also saw a slump in quarterly profit and announced sweeping job cuts earlier this year.

Mr Ghosn says his arrest in Japan was the result of a “plot and treason” against him.

Mr Saikawa, who had promised to improve the running of the company in the wake of Mr Ghosn’s arrest, described the bonus system as “a scheme of the Ghosn era”.

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November 2019