Grayson Brulte

Grayson Brulte

@gbrulte | @gbrulte

Grayson Brulte is an Innovation Strategist and Co-Founder of Brulte & Company.

Grayson Brulte is an Innovation Strategist and Co-Founder of Brulte & Company. As an innovation strategist and strategic advisor, Grayson builds trusted relationships with organizations, working together with internal teams to prepare clients for what’s next.

From developing strategies for autonomous vehicle programs to helping companies become the go-to resource for technology innovation, Grayson empowers clients with the foresight and intelligence to take on the world’s biggest challenges.

Sharing his insights into what’s next, Grayson hosts The Road To Autonomy Podcast and the SAE International Tomorrow Today Podcast, where he interviews high-caliber guests and leaders across industries, sharing his own unique perspective to deliver one-of-a-kind discussions.

Harnessing his in-depth knowledge of diverse markets, economics, politics, and technology, he and the guests tackle topics from autonomous vehicles and mobility trends to the financial effects of innovative breakthroughs and their impact on society.

Grayson understands the intricate relationship between politics and innovation, expertly navigating between these worlds and facilitating the impactful conversations between the two. Grayson has enabled forward momentum and transformation from a city to a national level.

As a former Co-Chair of the City of Beverly Hills Mayor's Autonomous Vehicle Task Force and member of the city’s Smart City/Technology Committee, he helped Beverly Hills become one of America’s digital capitals chosen by Google.

His perspective, insights, and opinions are utilized and shared by leading organizations and publications throughout the market.

Grayson’s comments and opinions have appeared in numerous publications, including: The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, CNN, Forbes, The Hollywood Reporter, and Reuters.

For speaking engagements, editorials and media enquiries please email [email protected].

The Path To Profitable LiDAR

Ted Tewksbury, CEO, Velodyne Lidar joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss Velodyne’s path to profitable LiDAR.

The conversation begins with Ted discussing why he joined Velodyne now.

I joined the company for three very simple reasons, first of all, I believe passionately that LiDAR is going to be an enormous market and it’s going to transform virtually every industry as we know it. Second, I believe that Velodyne has the right technologies at the right time to really capitalize on that opportunity. And, thirdly I knew that I had the right set of skills and expertise and grey hair to really help parlay the company’s technologies strengths into revenue growth, profitability and shareholder value.

– Ted Tewksbury

In 2021, Velodyne put in place a strong foundation for growth, including new executives and an upgraded Board of Directors. Now that the foundation has been laid, the company’s top priority for 2022 is to accelerate the company’s path to profitability.

We are doing that by rationalizing our cost structure, while at the same time driving deployments of LiDAR at scale into a wide range of industries.

– Ted Tewksbury

Taking a look at the current state of markets, Velodyne is prioritizing the industrial robotics and the intelligent infrastructure markets as the company focuses on generating profitable revenue today. Overlapping this market is the rapid growth of e-commerce fulfillment centers which inherently relay on industrial robots to move goods from the shelfs to the shipping line.

It’s not just about sensors. At the end of the day, our customers are solving a business level problem, so we offer the full stack solution, software plus sensors.

– Ted Tewksbury

Under Ted’s leadership as CEO, the company is taking steps to lower the cost of LiDAR to sub $500 by offshoring manufacturing to Thailand. When the sub $500 LiDAR sensor is achieved, growth will be accelerated, especially in the automotive market.

The biggest single challenge that faces not only Velodyne, but the entire LiDAR industry is cost. Because the competition is very inexpensive. The competition is radar and camera.

– Ted Tewksbury

In order to achieve cost reduction, the company has implemented a platform based design (MLA – Micro Lidar Array) strategy. With the company’s manufacturing occurring in Thailand and the current delay of 111 days for foods shipped from Asian Ports to the United States, Grayson asks Ted how he is managing the business for supply chain delays.

We’re taking very proactive steps to alleviate bottlenecks. We are not just sitting idly by and waiting for the macro crisis to subside. First of all, we have lined up multiple sources for critical components, which gives us more flexibility. Second, we have redesigned some of our sensors to use more readily available components.

Third, we’re judiciously building inventory on long lead-time components. Under those circumstances, that’s risky, and so we are requiring non-cancelable, non-returnable purchase orders from our customers.

– Ted Tewksbury

Behind this strategy is Ted’s goal of Velodyne becoming the world’s first profitable LiDAR company. To achieve this goal, risk has to be managed and this is where the non-cancelable, non-returnable purchase orders strategy into comes into play. Velodyne is showing shrewd business acumen.

Wrapping up the conversation, Ted shares his outlook on the economy.

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Recorded on Monday, June 6, 2022.

The Rideshare Drivers’ Perspective

Harry Campbell, The Rideshare Guy joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the current state of the rideshare industry from the drivers’ perspective.

The conversation begins with Harry sharing his thoughts on the current state of the rideshare business.

One thing that has defined the rideshare is the shortage of drivers. The shortage on the supply side, and this extends to the macro environment too. Many industries across the board have kind of reported for various reasons that they cannot hire enough workers, and Uber and Lyft have been no stranger to that.

– Harry Campbell

A shortage of drivers is leading to steadily increasing rates for passenger rides. With inflation currently at 8.3% and the average gallon of gas being $4.60 in the United States, the question now becomes is it even profitable for rideshare drivers to drive for Uber and Lyft in this economic environment?

For sure, it’s definitely profitable.

– Harry Campbell

Harry goes onto to break down the economic data that encompasses a rideshare ride for the listeners from both his personal experience and data released by Uber. To achieve profitability, it all comes down to the rideshare drivers’ strategy.

With a potential recession on the horizon, Grayson asks Harry if rideshare drivers are currently preparing for an economic downturn and the impact it could have on their earnings.

Unfortunately, not.

– Harry Campbell

Unfortunately this common throughout the rideshare industry as one of the most popular Uber features for Uber Drivers is Instant Pay. The popularity of the Instant Pay feature is inherently part of a larger overall socioeconomic trend. Planning for a rainy day or building savings is not top of mind for a majority of drivers as they are focused on day-to-day finances. This trend carries over to insurance requirements as certain rideshare drivers do not carry the proper insurance.

If you are interested in learning more about all the facets of the Rideshare business, Harry authored the The Rideshare Guide: Everything You Need to Know about Driving for Uber, Lyft, and Other Ridesharing Companies book which breaks down the rideshare business in great detail.

The business of ridesharing is not currently profitable for operators such as Uber and Lyft. Grayson poses the question to Harry: “Can Uber and Lyft ever become profitable based on the current ways the businesses are structured?” Grayson then asks Harry whether Uber Eats is weighing down the company’s opportunity to achieve profitability.

On a unit economics basis, Uber Eats is dragging down Uber the ride side of the business.

– Harry Campbell

With Uber constantly doubling down on their Eats business, does DoorDash with $4.2 billion of cash on their balance sheet and a market cap of $27 billion make a run and try to acquire Lyft which has a market cap of $6.1 billion to try and compete with Uber? Grayson and Harry discuss the potential for an M&A transaction.

I wouldn’t be shocked if something like that happened in the future.

– Harry Campbell

If this transaction were to happen, how would Uber react? Would this further Uber’s super app push? Harry shares his thoughts on how Uber could potentially counter the move.

Could Uber look to sell Uber Freight which currently operates at a 1% margin to shore up their balance sheet and focus on their core business of rides and delivery?

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Harry discuss the future of the rideshare business and what happens when autonomous vehicles scale globally.

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Recorded on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

Asset-Light Autonomous Trucking

Sam Abidi, Chief Commercial Officer, Embark Trucks joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss Embark’s asset-light approach to autonomous trucking.

The conversation begins with Sam discussing how Embark as a pre-revenue company is approaching commercialization.

We expect to scale operations by way of our carriers who will haul goods for the shippers that we work with, and we expect to work with Tier 1’s and OEMs to deliver that.

– Sam Abidi

To deliver on this model, Embark has a partnership with Knight-Swift where Knight-Swift will own and operate the autonomous trucks running Embark’s Universal Interface.

We set out on a rather large effort to develop a standardized set of sensors and compute with flexible mounts and communication interfaces, so that our AV system could go from one OEM to another.

– Sam Abidi

Each truck running the Embark Universal Interface will have a very similar user interface and experience across multiple OEMs which makes the system scalable. Embark’s system will allow carriers to add more capacity due to hours of service regulations which increases the amount of time it takes for a load to reach its final destination.

With the U.S. inflation rate currently at 8.3%, a 40-year high and a driver shortage which is only growing, Grayson and Sam discuss why autonomous trucking is not being embraced as a tool to help reduce inflation by stabilizing the supply chain.

It’s a complicated story, you got to have a second order understanding of how supply chains work, you got to understand hours of service, you got to understand relay networks and hub networks, to really recognize how autonomy unlocks e-commerce and two-day delivery, and everyone’s desire for cheap goods.

– Sam Abidi

When autonomous trucking is fully embraced by regulators, politicians and the public, the U.S. economy will benefit from job creation and lower inflation. For autonomous trucking to truly scale, partnerships are key.

Embark has a partnership with Alterra for autonomous trucking terminals. At those depots, Ryder will be providing on-site services that are required to properly operate an autonomous trucking operation. From an infrastructure standpoint there are minor upgrades that have to be made to begin autonomous trucking operations, which will allow Embark to scale their terminal networks with partners.

With the average price of diesel in the U.S. being $5.52 a gallon, Embark is beginning to look at alternative forms of fuel.

We look forward to a platform that can run on electric or hydrogen for the distances that make sense for autonomy.

– Sam Abidi

Wrapping up the conversation, Sam shares his thoughts on the current state of the autonomous trucking industry.

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Recorded on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

The Health of Electric Vehicle Batteries

Scott Case, Co-Founder & CEO of Recurrent joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss using data to understand the true health of electric vehicle batteries.

The conversation begins with Grayson asking Scott about the BloombergNEF 2040 electric vehicle forecast.

I think every forecast made by everyone is wrong and too low.

– Scott Case

With over 9,000 vehicles currently on the Recurrent platform and the market for electric vehicle sales projected to grow globally 17.25% annually into 2040, Recurrent is preparing for the rapid growth of their platform.

The Recurrent platform is gathering insights on how electric vehicle batteries perform in different climates, whether it’s a cold or hot weather region.

Exposure to extreme heat over time will break down the battery, it will wear it out more quickly.

– Scott Case

On the other hand, exposure to extreme cold will not wear about the battery more quickly. With the wear on the battery, electric vehicles sold and driven in these environments could have a positive or negative impact on the resell value of the vehicle depending on the conditions.

Grayson asks Scott from an economic standpoint if the health of the battery will be the determining factor when it comes to the price of an electric vehicle.

It’s not yet, but it is going to be.

– Scott Case

This raises the question of what happens when electric vehicles come out of rental car fleets and are sold as used vehicles. How will they be properly priced? Will the pricing be based on the odometer reading or the health of the battery? Grayson and Scott discuss the possible ways the vehicles could be priced and whether a battery swap will be needed prior to selling the used electric vehicle.

With the majority of Recurrent’s data coming from individual EV owners and the United States currently dealing with record high gas prices of $4.58 a gallon, Grayson asks Scott if he is seeing consumers switching from gas cars to electric cars due the high gas prices.

High gas prices haven’t factored into that at all. Not yet, they are going to.

– Scott Case

Making reference to data to validate his point, Scott points to data from the Argonne National Laboratory.

Monthly New Electric Vehicle Sales and Average Gasoline Price - Argonne National Laboratory
Monthly New Electric Vehicle Sales and Average Gasoline Price (Source: Argonne National Laboratory)

With J.P. Morgan projecting the national average price to hit $6 per gallon by the end of the summer, the transition to electric vehicles could accelerate. However, there could be an issue⁠ charging those newly bought electric vehicles as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the regulatory body that oversees grid stability is publicly stating that power supplies in the much of the United States and Canada will be stretched. If the grid issues persist, the adoption of EVs could be slowed.

Wrapping up the conversation, Scott discusses how he sees the used EV market growing and evolving over the next decade.

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Recorded on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Universal Autonomy

Gavin Jackson, CEO of Oxbotica joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how the Oxbotica platform is enabling universal autonomy.

The conversation begins with Gavin discussing why he came on as CEO of Oxbotica in December 2021.

I feel that the autonomy space still is in the very very early stages of being quite a transformative technology, and almost a generational shift in how people and goods will move forever. It’s attractive to me to be so early in such a movement. It’s attractive to me, because I think that the impact that this sort of technology can have on the world will be profound.

– Gavin Jackson

With Gavin’s background at Amazon and Microsoft, he is positioning the company to become a platform.

As a universal platform we are able to compose solutions for different verticals, different vehicle types and different domains. With the very same Oxbotica driver platform, you are able to drive big heavy 600 ton trucks in a mine, or 40 ton trucks on a hub-to-hub on a highway or urban densely populated old fashioned victorian London street for goods delivery or indeed for passengers.

– Gavin Jackson

The platform approach allows Oxbotica to develop solutions that are both convenient for riders and friendly to the environment through the reduction in carbon emissions. Being based in the UK, Gavin shares his thoughts on the UK market as it relates to autonomous vehicles.

All of the infrastructure that exists in the UK is there for excellence.

– Gavin Jackson

As Oxbotica scales, the company has global ambitions. In Germany at BP’s Lingen refinery, Oxbotica trialed an autonomous vehicle at the refinery as part of BP’s technical due diligence prior investing in the company. Deploying an autonomous vehicle at a refinery requires trust and transparency. This is exactly what Oxbotica did and they thrived at it, as it lead to an investment by BP which was a clear validation of their approach.

With the proven success of operating at a BP refinery, the company is looking to expand their business in the Oil & Gas market as they prepare to scale their industrial autonomy platform.

We think that autonomy is going to change the game.

– Gavin Jackson

Oxbotica’s industrial autonomy platform is also being deployed in the mining industry through a partnership with Wenco, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi Construction Machinery. By using autonomous vehicles in mines, global miners are able to reduce carbon emissions due to the lack of idling and in some cases, the electrification of heavy-duty mining vehicles.

From autonomous shuttles to autonomous cars to heavy duty mining trucks, Oxbotica is taking a platform approach to autonomy.

The diversity of vehicle type is really attractive to us, because it really ignites what we are here to do, which is universal autonomy. One unified platform to drive all of these vehicles.

– Gavin Jackson

Wrapping up the conversation, Gavin shares his vision for the future of Oxbotica.

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Recorded on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.