Winning the hearts of regulators can ensure the future of any technology. In the past, one inventor didn’t waste his time catering to the right audience.
Samuel Morse was no fool. The first message his new Telegraph Machine sent in 1844, ‘What God hath wrought’, was a dash and dot demonstration performed for a group of Congressmen in the Supreme Court Chamber.
A year later, Morse was still working connections. He and his partner Alfred Vail, hired Amos Kendall, US President Andrew Jackson’s former postmaster general to run the business development of the telegraph. With Kendall on board, they acquired a small group of investors to form the Magnetic Telegraph Company. Morse, Vail and Kendall made hay while the sun shone and sold as many licenses of the Telegraph patent as they could.
This, as it turns out, was not a bright idea. With the patent disbursed and competition on the horizon, the telegraph found trouble. A rash of suits and countersuits harried Morse’s company, costing time and money. Vermont man, Royal E. House, had invented one printing in Roman letters and Scottish inventor, Alexander Bain, greatly improved the speed of the earlier model with his new chemical telegraph.
Eventually, Congress’ enthusiasm for the project waned and investors wore thin. By 1851, 50 disparate telegraph companies laboured under an unreliable, chaotic system. While Morse and Vail had grown rich from the sale of many telegraph patents, the very existence of the telegraph was in danger.
Connections saved the day, again. New York Man, Hiram Sibley, the sheriff of Monroe Country teamed up with the owner of the house telegraph patent rights, Judge Samuel L. Selden. Through a concerted effort they unified all the Telegraph companies and streamlined the communications system. In 1851, Sibley and Selden utilised government channels once again and filed the Albany of the Articles of Association forming the “New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company” (NYMVPTC), a company we know today as Western Union.
Thirteen years after its first click, in December 1857, the Company paid stockholders their first dividend.
Following in Morse’s canny footsteps is one of today’s technologies that car companies have kept in the political limelight from the start.
Despite the dangers of drivers distracted by its alarms and flashing lights, the threat of accidents because of machine malfunction and everyone’s favourite fear, the hacker, V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) Technology has been the apple of Congress’ eye from its beginning.
The University of Michigan, Michigan’s Department of Transportation and 13 car companies including GM and Ford, have partnered to develop ways for cars to talk directly to one another.
The Department of Transport has already put together it’s own numbers to educate the press and consumers. They project the system could save 1,083 lives a year.
Demos for politicians always carry risk. A test of the driverless Cadillac SRX had to be scrapped in front 20 members of Congress because the car couldn’t handle passing cyclists and an impromptu construction site featuring an electric saw.
V2V, however, has not strayed from the road of success and as the technology advances there is little chance of regulatory intervention. Whether it’s people sending Morse code or cars exchanging wireless information, both of these innovations capitalized on the benefits of clear communication with regulators from their very conception.