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 Platform For Autonomy

Danny Shapiro, Vice President, Automotive, NVIDIA joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why NVIDIA is the platform for enabling autonomy.

The conversation begins with Grayson and Danny discussing how NVIDIA developed the platform for autonomous vehicles and why NVIDIA first entered the automotive market.

We’ve created an open platform. It’s an accelerated computing platform for autonomous vehicles.

– Danny Shapiro

In 1999, NVIDIA invented the GPU to overcome performance bottlenecks of the CPU.

Think of it as lanes on a highway, where a CPU maybe would be a dual-core or quad-core. It would have two lanes or four lanes for data to travel. The GPU has thousands of lanes. A highway with a thousand lanes is going to accommodate a lot more traffic.

– Danny Shapiro

With over 370 automakers, tier 1 suppliers, developers, and researchers as partners, NVIDIA is playing a crucial role in ushering in the future of autonomy. A lot more goes into an autonomous vehicle than just the autonomous driving stack. The user experience will be an important element to success and NVIDIA’s GPUs are being used to improve speech recognition in-vehicle.

Speech is very complex. You have many different languages. You have different accents. You have the same word that can mean different things, so the context matters.

– Danny Shapiro

NVIDIA is working on bringing natural language processing to the edge with the goal of reducing latency and improving the user experience inside of the vehicle. As an example, Danny shared the following scenario:

You could say it’s warm and the car would respond, do you want me to turn on the AC or roll down your window? You can say, I will roll down the window. The car will also be able to recognize was it the driver or the passenger speaking.

That’s a multi-modal approach where we are using AI on the voice and also with a camera inside that can monitor the occupants, read lips and determine who was talking. It would roll down the appropriate window based on who was speaking.

– Danny Shapiro

This is the future of in-vehicle experiences and Mercedes, through a partnership with NVIDIA, is beginning to deploy the early stages of this technology in their new flagship 2022 EQS sedan. In the future when SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicles become available, the inside of the vehicle could become an interactive gaming experience.

Integrating the motion of the vehicle with what is happening in virtual reality can be a really amazing experience.

– Danny Shapiro

In the interior of SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicles, window glass will become augmented and screens will be ubiquitous, suggests Grayson. This new digital real estate will allow brands to create bespoke experiences for paying passengers, creating new potential revenue streams.

Disney is an example of a brand that stands to benefit as it can extend the “Disney Experience” into the vehicle. Grayson shares an example of how Disney can potentially create Star Wars autonomous vehicles to further enhance the new Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser two-night immersive experience at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The same technology that is used to develop immersive experiences is used to develop autonomous vehicles — simulation. With DeepMap joining NVIDIA, DeepMap’s maps will be used to enhance NVIDIA’s simulation technology.

Through simulation, we can train the vehicle to be smarter.

– Danny Shapiro

Inside of NVIDIA, there is one centralized engineering organization, which has many benefits as engineers are able to learn from each other and apply processing techniques to different industries from autonomous driving to health care.

If you look at something like autonomous driving where we are taking images from front-facing cameras and trying to detect pedestrians, our health care group and the work they are doing in medical imaging and cancer research leverages a lot of that same technology. Because if you do a scan, an MRI, an X-Ray, you are looking for cancer cells. It’s not that different to process from what we are doing with pedestrian detection.   

– Danny Shapiro

With NVIDIA’s core approach towards engineering and solving the world’s biggest challenges through compute, the company was busy simultaneously building an autonomous trucking business at the same time they were building their automotive business. Today, NVIDIA has 15 truck partners to complement its 370+ automotive industry partners.

We are not building the trucks, we are not building the cars, but we are helping our customers do their life’s work and create amazing products.

– Danny Shapiro

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Danny discuss NVIDIA’s data center strategy and the advantage for autonomous vehicle and trucking companies to build autonomy solutions on the NVIDIA platform.

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Recorded on Tuesday, August 10, 2021.

Optimizing Farms with See & Spray

Lee Redden, Chief Scientist & Co-Founder Blue River Technology and Chief Scientist of the Intelligent Solutions Group at John Deere joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how See & Spray technology can help farmers optimize farms.

The conversation begins with talking about growing up in Nebraska and how having a shop at the back of his house would have a profound impact on his life.

We had a shop on the back of my house and I would spend 4 or 5 hours a day in the back of the shop just putting things together. I built a couple of go-karts, I built a car, I just have so many fond memories of just being back there welding something up, grinding something down, and building.

– Lee Redden

Lee’s hands-on experiences in the shed led to him enrolling at the University of Nebraska where he designed microcircuit boards for miniature surgical robots. During his time on campus, Lee watched a documentary about the DARPA Grand Challenge. Little did Lee know at the time, but the documentary would change his life.

One of the things growing up in Nebraska, I wasn’t really exposed to a lot of computer science. What that documentary did was show that there was this computer science group that was basically taking a stock car and adding a couple of sensors to it, but not putting too many sensors on it.

Then it was a computer science problem and it really kind of paved and showed me the way for what was possible with computer science in an area that I thought was really cool and was cars and autonomy and I just saw that as like oh my gosh if you can make this car do things it couldn’t do before, it just becomes so much more useful. Totally game changing in the possibilities.

– Lee Redden

The documentary exposed Lee to the possibilities of machine learning, computer vision, and AI. Eventually, he enrolled at Stanford to learn computer vision.

I knew this is what I needed to do to really get up to speed to work in the field I wanted to.

– Lee Redden

At Stanford, the seeds were planted for the founding of Blue River Technology when Lee met his co-founder, Jorge Heraud. From autonomous lawnmowers to the autonomous weeding of carrots to the thinning of lettuce. Lee and Jorge kept pivoting until they had their breakthrough moment with high-precision weeding machines.

During the early days of See & Spray, farmers provided invaluable feedback on the system as it was rolled out to farms in the United States. With feedback from farmers in hand, Blue River began to test in different geographies to build the data sets that are required to fully optimize the system.

The diversity of data you have really matters.

– Lee Redden

In 2017, John Deere acquired Blue River Technology. Being part of John Deere is allowing Blue River to take a longer-term view on the development of the technology.

It has been really fantastic for the company to be able to have that longer-term view.

– Lee Redden

After the acquisition, Lee took a step back to focus on control systems.

We will see shifts in machine form and how machines are designed and put together based on control systems.

– Lee Redden

While control systems are next, Lee is still dedicated to See & Spray. With an estimated 250 species of herbicide-resistant weeds, uncontrolled weeds result in annual losses of approximately $43 billion in corn and soybean crops, Blue River is using their computer vision technology to identify the weeds to help farmers save money when they use the See & Spray system.

The See & Spray system reduces the number of herbicides used by 77%, having a positive economic impact on farms and a positive impact on the environment.

Higher precision and plant by plant care is a win, win, win situation.

– Lee Redden

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Lee discuss the global population growth and how automation on farms can help feed the growing global population.

Follow The Road To Autonomy on Apple Podcasts

Recorded on Thursday, August 5, 2021.

Current State of The Public Mobility Markets

Alan Ohnsman, Senior Editor, Forbes joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the public mobility markets. From SPACs to Tesla to traditional IPOs, Grayson and Alan discuss electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, autonomous trucking, and delivery.

The conversation begins with Alan and Grayson discussing the current state of the SPAC market.

SPAC activity in both the EV and AV space is just astonishing. I think there is an increasing concern about the quality of some of these offerings. Not all companies are created equal. Not all startups are the same.

– Alan Ohnsman

As the SPAC market matures and companies begin the process of de-spacing, issues around the business models and the strength of the balance sheet are being to come into question. A major issue with SPACs is the lack of disclosure as compared to a traditional IPO. We are seeing this very issue play out today with Lordstown Motors as they are under investigation by the Department of Justice over the pre-order numbers of their vehicles.

Alan points out the lack of disclosures will lead to increased regulation.

The amount of investor litigation aimed at some of these companies is going to be high. I think it’s inevitable that the regulator is going to step in and say slow your roll. We really need to vet these a little more carefully and set some better ground rules.

– Alan Ohnsman

Tesla which went public in 2010 continues to dominate the public electric vehicle market while capturing the public’s imagination.

There is going to be so much competition in the EV space that Telsa has a first-mover advantage. The brand is well established. It is clearly popular in many markets.

– Alan Ohnsman

While Tesla is dominating the electric vehicle market today, Toyota is well poised to gain market share in the future. As the economics of electric vehicles improve and electric vehicle charging becomes more readily available, the market is going to change as Toyota and Hyundai move into the market.

With the lack of electric vehicle charging around the United States, Grayson raises the point that hybrid vehicles will become the dominant vehicle type sold over the next 10 years. This is where Toyota wins as they are the clear leader in hybrid technology. Until we achieve ubiquitous electric vehicle charging, consumers will be unsure about adopting and embracing EVs.

Ubiquitous charging. It has to be everywhere and people have to know where it is. It has to be a no-brainer.

– Alan Ohnsman

Shifting the conversation back to autonomous vehicles, Grayson asks Alan about the Aurora SPAC and specifically highlights one of the risk factors in the investor presentation:

We operate in a highly competitive market and some market participants have substantially greater resources. If one or more of our competitors commercialize their self-driving technology before we do, develop superior technology, or are perceived to have better technology, it could materially and adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition, and results of operations.

This risk factor is a clear reference to Waymo, which continues to raise billions of dollars.

The amount of funding for [autonomous vehicles] is enormous. Just astonishing.

– Alan Ohnsman

Both Aurora and Waymo are focused on developing a universal driver which can drive a robo-taxi and an autonomous truck. As Aurora begins life as a public company, investors and analysts could begin to question the universal driver approach due to economics and the business model.

The same can be said for Waymo if and when Alphabet spins out Waymo as a publicly-traded company. If this was to happen, investors would have the opportunity to invest in a pure-play. Waymo for the robo-taxi market and Waymo Via for the logistics market.

The money maker in the near term certainly is going to be trucking and logistics. No question about it. That is going to be where everyone makes their money at the outset.

– Alan Ohnsman

With the iShares US Transportation ETF ($IYT) having returned 15.16% YTD (as of Monday, July 19, 2021), Grayson asks Alan when will we see an autonomous trucking company added to the index. Alan believes by 2023 we will start to see autonomous trucking companies added to the index. Those companies could be TuSimple and Waymo.

Staying on the 2023 theme, Alan discusses why this could be the year that autonomous trucking becomes a two-horse race between TuSimple and Waymo. With TuSimple and Waymo’s growing fleets of autonomous trucks, the companies are well poised for the future.

Fielding an ever-larger fleet is important. You can do a lot on modeling in computer simulation, but having physical fleets and getting real-world data day-in and day-out, it’s really hard to substitute that.

– Alan Ohnsman

While fielding an ever-larger fleet is critically important, having real-world experience and hiring individuals from the trucking industry is also one of the keys to success. Another key is understanding the global supply chain and the impact that the driver shortage is having on the global economy.

The habits of consumers are shifting to e-commerce as Adobe is projecting that global e-commerce sales will reach $4.2 trillion this year. As consumers shift their habits to ordering online, this creates new opportunities for companies to serve the growing demand for the delivery of goods. Uber’s EATS business is booming as the business is now a $50 billion business.

You want to go where the money is.

– Alan Ohnsman

This raises the question of, does Uber one day shut down the passenger ride business to focus solely on delivery and logistics? It’s an interesting question with a lot of what if’s. But one thing is for certain, Dara Khosrowshahi will make the hard decisions that ultimately benefit the business. What we do know today is that the consumer appetite for delivery is only going to grow.

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Alan discuss the 2028 Summer Olympics and what the transportation network will look like in Los Angeles.

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Recorded on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

Obsessed with The Impossible

Alex Roy, Director of Special Operations at Argo AI, host of The No Parking and Autonocast Podcasts, Editor-at-Large, The Drive, Founder of the Human Driving Association, author of The Driver, and Producer of APEX: The Secret Race Across America joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why he has always been obsessed with the impossible.

The conversation begins with Alex discussing his 2007 U.S. Cannonball Run in a BMW M5 and how he was able to break the record using data.

I have always been obsessed with things that people said are impossible. Someone says something is impossible, I want to try it. Or as an investor, I want to invest in it because the future is always built by optimists.

– Alex Roy

It was during this time that Alex first learned about mapping and how creating a map with intricate details such as construction zones and potential police hiding places could enable the U.S. Cannonball record to be broken.

16, 17 years ago, we created map data sets around road construction, road conditions, police locations, and looked at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) [for] weather, and created a very comprehensive data set and plan.

– Alex Roy

The U.S. Cannonball Run changed Alex’s life after the story was published in Wired Magazine. The FBI called and invited Alex to speak at the FBI Academy about how he used free off-the-shelf mapping tools to create datasets to do the impossible – breaking the Cannonball record.

With the record broken, the FBI asking how he did it, corporations asking for advice on mapping, an appearance on The Tonight Show with David Letterman, the Alex Roy brand was born.

Years later, Alex would meet Bryan Salesky, Co-Founder & CEO of Argo AI. That meeting would change Alex’s life when Bryan asked him how he did it and said the following:

So basically you were using for bad all of the technology that we use for good. You have an engineer’s mind but not the education. Have you ever considered how else you might use that knowledge?

It was at that moment that Alex put his knowledge to good and joined Argo AI.

Very few people in life are lucky enough to have such an opportunity, so I was going to take it. If I had lasted one week, I would have said that was the best week of my life because I could point back and say that was a good thing.

– Alex Roy

While Argo operates as a business, other companies in the industry are solely focused on perfection and not necessarily the business of autonomy. Grayson asks Alex for his thoughts on this trend and what is behind it. Alex emphasizes the importance of studying and understanding history.

Every successful technology and business built around it learns from the prior one. Or at least the successful companies do.

– Alex Roy

Looking at history, Grayson discusses his theory on why autonomous vehicles will become platforms that will enable businesses to build experiences and expand margins. Staying on the history theme, Alex talks about the ascending room and how elevators enabled profitable experiences.

[Elevators] were installed by the department stores because as spectacles and experiences the thought was that they would compel or inspire shopping.

– Alex Roy

Combining an Only in Vegas experience with a mobile gambling platform and an autonomous vehicle, casinos can expand their highly profitable gaming operations into mobility. Grayson and Alex discuss why this could become a product.

Each city will have multiple products based on and around the autonomous vehicles. Some may exist today, but what you really want is to create experiences and products around autonomy that don’t exist today. What is the number one lesson in entertainment? Give them something that they can’t get anywhere else and if you can, let them have it twice.

– Alex Roy

Taking this experience outside of Vegas to cities around the world, this experience will become possible as States continue to legalize online gambling. In the future fans will be able to ride in bespoke autonomous vehicles to sports events. These vehicles will be fully stocked for tailgating with beverages, food, and the ability to gamble. From a safety perspective, fans will no longer be driving home from the game after consuming adult beverages.

With the advancements of AR (augmented reality), new experiences will be created in the mobility sector that will turn into new profitable revenue streams for autonomous vehicle companies which operate as platforms. This is the future of the much-rumored Apple Car. The Apple Car will be a platform that allows Apple to expand its fast-growing services business.

Airbnb will be another very large player in the autonomous vehicle industry in the future as the company looks to expand its experiences business. The music industry will also benefit as it is an experiences business. On an episode of The No Parking Podcast, Alex and Bryan spoke with Barak Moffitt, Executive Vice President of Content Strategy & Operations, Universal Music Group about combining music with AR to enable in-autonomous vehicle experiences.

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Alex discuss how autonomous vehicles will eliminate friction when attending concerts.

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Recorded on Thursday, July 15, 2021.

The Data Will Always Set You Free

Andy Smart, Safety & Technical Standards Specialist joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why the data will always set you free when an organization embraces and implements a culture of safety.

The conversation begins with Andy talking about the first time he experienced mobility freedom when he got his first bike at age ten in Scotland. Today, Andy rides a fixed-gear bike without brakes as he wants to be in control and fully aware of his surroundings at all times.

It’s all about the awareness of your surroundings and your connectivity to your environment. You will never be more connected in that sense when you are riding [a fixed-gear bike without brakes] as you have to be tuned in both from an acoustic point of view, visual and acoustic.

– Andy Smart

When Andy is driving a vehicle he uses the same visual and acoustic tactics that he uses while riding a bike. Once on a cross-country drive from Michigan to California with his wife, Andy overtook a truck as he heard the sound of little pieces of rubber hitting the windshield because it was only a matter of time before the truck tire would blow. Potentially avoiding a crash because he was fully aware of his surroundings.

It is all about the feeling.

– Andy Smart

While driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle or a bike, Andy is always aware of his surroundings.

I am looking through the lens of the driver and also the environment and the connection between the two.

– Andy Smart

Taking a look at the current driving environment, a lot of drivers do not pay attention while driving as they are distracted by their phones. What these drivers fail to realize and what Andy points out very clearly is that a vehicle is a lethal weapon that has to be treated with care and respect.

Building upon Andy’s real-world experiences, Grayson shifts the conversation to autonomous vehicles and how Andy approaches AV safety. One of the most important elements of AV safety is the organization’s commitment to safety.

The whole basis of a safety culture in an organization is above any business objectives. It has to be you are held to a higher level. Business decisions should not be built around safety. Safety decisions are made because of safety, not through business decisions.

– Andy Smart

A holistic approach to safety is what is required to develop a culture of safety. It’s an approach that is built around all aspects of the operation and takes into account both off-vehicle and on-vehicle operations. Without a globally recognized safety standard, Grayson asks Andy how AV safety can be measured.

As engineers, it is our responsibility to go in and look and to say ok who already does this. Let’s benchmark other industries. We are not unique. We are into some groundbreaking stuff here, but hey would you believe that mining has been automating mining trucks for the last 35 years.

Maybe we can learn a bit from them. It’s different but learn, adapt, because as engineers you have to put your hand on your heart and say I did my best and I did everything I could do to find out what was the right way to do it.

– Andy Smart

With the advancements of ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) and the growing trend of consumers over-relying on SAE Level 2+ systems, Grayson and Andy discuss who is responsible for a crash and what can be done to improve safety.

The person who is making the decisions is responsible, they have primary responsibility.

– Andy Smart

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Andy discuss how consumers approach safety. Why dealer training for ADAS is important and the role driver monitoring will play in the future of ADAS.

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Recorded on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.