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].

Trust The Autonomy

Hayk Martiros, VP of Autonomy, Skydio joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss developing a vision-based autonomous drone complete with obstacle avoidance and why this system enables pilots to trust the autonomy.

The conversation begins with Hayk discussing what makes Skydio different from other drone companies.

The whole premise of Skydio is to build a vision-based autonomous drone. A drone that uses cameras to see and understand the world around it, and then navigate in that world so that the user does not have to be an expert pilot. They do not have to worry about avoiding objects or knowing exactly how to have your fingers on the sticks ready to go, but rather you are just interacting with this robot that you feel that you can trust.

– Hayk Martiros

Skydio drones operate a vision-based autonomous system with cameras instead of radar and LiDAR because cameras are the only way to make an autonomous drone that just works. Cameras also enable the drone to have a longer battery life as they are lighter and less power intensive when compared to radar and LiDAR.

Designing everything, form and function together to absolutely optimize for weight is kind of everything with a flying machine.

– Hayk Martiros

While the drones are designed for weight, the vision-based autonomous system has an obstacle avoidance system that operates smoothly while in-flight. The system develops trust with the pilot and enables them to fly without having to worry about the drone crashing into a visible object.

We invested a huge amount of effort into this. We were the first company and team to use deep learning for robot obstacle avoidance in a real product.

– Hayk Martiros

Autonomy combined with an obstacle avoidance system is one of the key ways that trust with drones will be developed in the future. This will lead to trust being built with regulators such as the FAA when companies request permission to fly beyond the visual line of sight. Skydio customer Dominion Energy was recently granted FAA approval to fly beyond the line of sight in seven U.S. States to inspect power generation facilities.

Our approach has been let’s try to prove our case and prove the trust worthiness of our autonomy through data and work with the FAA to make progress.

– Hayk Martiros

When flying beyond the line of sight, Skydio has a return to home feature where the drone will autonomously fly back to the launch point or a pre-specified point if the battery runs low or connectivity is lost for example. The drone autonomously makes this decision based on data from the on-board health monitoring system.

Autonomy combined with the ease of use makes Skydio special.

– Hayk Martiros

Evolving from a software company to a vertically integrated hardware and software company has allowed Skydio to design an autonomous drone that just works. The autonomy system was first developed in 2014 when the company was focused solely on software. Since then the technology has continuously advanced as more and more edge cases are added into the autonomy stack leading to the system becoming more robust and more autonomous.

Wrapping up the conversation, Hayk shares his thoughts on the future of autonomous drones.

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Recorded on Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A Future That Is Yet To Be Written

Damien Scott, Director of EV Product Strategy, BrightDrop joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss energy and the role that managing energy usage in real-time will play in a future with electrified transportation.

The conversation begins with Damien discussing growing up in Botswana, flying around the country with his father who was a medical doctor and why his parents made the decision to homeschool him and his sisters.

One of the amazing things about living on a remote game farm in Botswana is you have to become incredibly practical fixing vehicles, borehole pumps, electricity frequently goes down, and so there is a lot of direct exposure to the fundamental things that we use in our life.

– Damien Scott

Having been exposed to medicine and aviation at an early age, Damien made the decision to go into technology after being inspired by science fiction. He wanted to work on technology that would bring about some of the more positive visions of the future that involved energy and transportation.

While living on the farm, Damien’s father installed their first solar powered borehole pump, which reduced the families dependence on diesel. This was the first time that Damien was exposed to solar and the true benefits of the technology. Having experienced solar energy in a remote part of the world first-hand, Damien discusses the opportunities that he sees for solar energy.

The market for renewable energy such as solar continues to grow and is projected to make up 27% of the world’s energy by 2050, coal still accounts for 27% of the world’s primary energy, roughly the same level as 50 years ago. In 50 years from now, how will the world’s mix of energy sources change?

This is the big question. I think it boils down to a set of actions that technology companies will take, the policy makers will take. It’s not determined what this mix is going to look like, it is really ours as a species to make these decisions.

– Damien Scott

Energy demand is growing globally and The US Energy Information Administration is projecting that the global energy demand will grow by 47% by 2050. To be prepared to handle this increase in demand, we have to start paying attention to energy demand and its impact on the energy grid.

One of the first things to look at is, can we optimize what we have already and take the assets that we have the electricity grid we have today and the one that we expect to evolve in the short to medium term and just use it more efficiently.

– Damien Scott

What happens when you electrify large fleets of commercial vehicles? What will their impact be on the energy grid? How do you manage the energy usage. This is the problem that Marain set out to fix and they are now doing it as part of BrightDrop.

In order to create the future that we want, we have to simulate it. It’s really expensive to make the wrong decisions in our infrastructure buildout with the electricity grid.

– Damien Scott

This approach will ensure that commercial EV fleet owners are properly prepared and not caught flat footed as they scale up their global electric vehicle fleets. As we are still early in the adoption of electric vehicles, the future is yet to be written in terms of how fleet operators will manage their fleets.

Wrapping up the conversation, Damien shares his thoughts on the future of global energy consumption.

The next decade leading up to 2030 is going to be the most important for energy and transportation across all areas, technology, business models, policy.

– Damien Scott

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Recorded on Tuesday August 9, 2022

Market Consolidation

David Welch, Detroit Bureau Chief, Bloomberg and Author of Charging Ahead, General Motors, Mary Bara, and the Reinvention of an American Icon joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss market consolidation in the electric and autonomous vehicle markets along with his new book.

The conversation begins with David sharing his thoughts on market consolidation in the autonomous vehicle market and who he thinks could potentially be acquired.

Not all of these companies have to sell right now, but if capital markets stay as tight as they are, I think you are going to see a lot of action there.

– David Welch

On the electric vehicle side of the equation, EV start-ups are having a hard time raising cash and when they successful raise capital, the capital is expensive. Some of the EV companies are spreading themselves too thin by focusing on multiple markets instead of having a a singular focus on developing a great electric vehicle.

A subset of the electric vehicle market that is becoming over saturated is the last-mile electric van delivery market as GM scales BrightDrop and Ford scales their E-Transit van.

Anyone trying to get into this business, including Rivian, they are going to have a tough time because Ford and GM not only have vans that are already being built, they have the industrial prowess and the factories to make a big go of it.

– David Welch

Outside of the electrification of vans, GM has made several savvy moves by acquiring Cruise and Marain among other all the while preparing for the future of mobility which will be on-demand, electric and autonomous. From an economics standpoint, GM is funding Cruise to the tune of $1 billion a year and Ford and VW are investing significant funds into Argo each and every year.

The big question is, how long will GM continue to fund Cruise and how long will Ford/VW continue to fund Argo? David shares his thoughts on what the future could hold for Cruise and Argo and when GM and Ford will further tap outside investors and/or spin out the divisions once they start generating significant revenue.

Waymo similar to Cruise is generating revenue from their robo-taxi business in addition to their Waymo Via trucking logistics business. Grayson asks David: what will it take and when does he think Alphabet will have their Amazon AWS moment and breakout Waymo earnings for the first time?

I do not know if it’s monetary or has a number on it, I think it’s more a strategic thing.

– David Welch

While this will be a strategic decision, the bigger question at present time, do the autonomous vehicle companies have the right executive leadership to commercialize, scale and eventually run a profitable business? Grayson and David discuss the current state of management talent and why Cruise’s competitive commercial advantage could be the executives who joined from Delta and Southwest.

Commercializing an AV company to running a profitable AV company requires a different set of management skills. While management will play a key role, a larger question is; will the robo-taxi business ever be profitable in it’s current state?

This is not a high-margin business. It’s just one that they can do and has the potential to get very big in terms of revenue.

– David Welch

Looking at different commercial models, do we get to the point where one of the large AV developers pivots from operating a robo-taxi business to operating a licensing business? Possibly.

I think there is a business there.

– David Welch

Based on the way Waymo is currently structured and being owned by a large technology company instead of an auto manufacturer, it’s a possibility. Grayson offers that the service could be called Waymo Drive and offered as a monthly add-on option for JLR vehicles. The core software would run on Google Cloud, leading to increased revenue in a division that is under Wall Street pressure to gain more marketshare.

Or there is Walmart which is currently battling high-inflation make a move to acquire an autonomous trucking company with the long-term goal of lowering operating expenses? Grayson and David discuss as Walmart kicked the tires on acquiring Zoox prior to Amazon buying the company. Would Walmart consider acquiring Gatik?

I do not think they are going to want to necessarily own these assets if they do not have to, they just need the benefits of it.

– David Welch

Staying on the topic of Wall Street, could SoftBank which is the second largest shareholder of Aurora with an 11.8% stake, force the company to split in two by merging the trucking side of the business with Uber Freight of which they are a 3.18% owner (of Uber) and possibly selling the car side of the business to Toyota which owns 6.72% of Aurora? Grayson and David discuss if this is possible and would it create long-term shareholder value?

Or could a U.S. Class 1 Railroad make a move and look to acquire an autonomous trucking to expand their railroad operations by connecting the trains to autonomous trucks? The big question again is, does a U.S. Class 1 Railroad they have to own the company?

The only reason railroad or anybody buys this is if It looks like they can no longer get access to the technology they need to work this into some sort of intermodal system.

– David Welch

Wrapping up the conversation, David discusses his new book Charging Ahead, General Motors, Mary Bara, and the Reinvention of an American Icon.

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Recorded on Thursday, August 11, 2022

Autonomous Mining and Construction Operations

Bibhrajit Halder, Founder & CEO, SafeAI joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss autonomous mining and construction operations.

The conversation begins with Bibhrajit discussing why in 2017 when the market was full of hype and investment dollars for passenger autonomous vehicles, that he bucked the trend and made the strategic decision to focus on the heavy equipment industry.

Bibhrajit’s strategic decision is paying dividends today as the global mining industry is a $2 trillion dollar market with accelerating growth thanks in part to the growth of the electric vehicle market. The heavy equipment industry is a key supplier to this market, setting SafeAI up with the perfect scenario for growth, all the while helping to improve safety and increase operational efficiency through autonomy.

This industry is also not the most safest industry. This industry also wants to run more efficiently.

– Bibhrajit Halder

The largest deployment of heavy equipment autonomous vehicles is located in Australia where there are over 1,000 actively heavy equipment autonomous vehicles in operation today.

The thousand autonomous trucks that have been running for seven or eight years, and they have moved about 4 to 5 billion tons of material over 24/7 operations without a single fatal accident.

– Bibhrajit Halder

Mines in Australia are capitalizing on the efficiencies unlocked by autonomy and the positive benefits that this technology has on society. In Western Australia, SafeAI has a partnership with MACA to retrofit 100 heavy equipment trucks for autonomy. While Australia is a booming market for heavy equipment autonomous vehicles, the markets of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Japan are emerging markets with growth potential.

With autonomy scaling in the mining industry, Grayson compares the mining industry to the agricultural industry and asks Bibhrajit if he sees a global miner making autonomy acquisitions similar to the way John Deere has done to grow their business.

If you look at in general, any industry this kind of fundamental technology, there will be consolidation. No doubt about it. There will be consolidation and that consolidation happens naturally as different players come up and show their strengths and weaknesses.

– Bibhrajit Halder

While consolidation will happen at some point in the global mining industry, Bibhrajit is laser focused on serving his customers for the long-term. That is both in the mining industry and the construction industry where SafeAI is actively expanding their business through a partnership with the Obayashi Corporation in Japan.

This is the first step of our way to expand autonomous construction in Japan, and we are working hand-in-hand with Obayashi.

– Bibhrajit Halder

Wrapping up the conversation, Bibhrajit explains how autonomy compliments the mining and construction industries.

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Recorded on Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Changing Landscape of Cities

John Rossant, Founder & CEO, CoMotion and Advisory Board Member, NEOM joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the changing landscape of cities.

The conversation begins with John discussing the vision for the futuristic region of NEOM which is roughly the size of Massachusetts located in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia. 95% of the NEOM region will be preserved in it’s natural state and there will be no highways or carbon emissions. Sustainability is at the core of NEOM.

NEOM is a very big bet on hydrogen. The core energy of NEOM is hydrogen.

– John Rossant

The heart of NEOM should be THE LINE development which is a 75-mile long and 1,600 foot skyscraper which is connected by a high-speed train.

The world does needs a radical experiment like this. We can not continue urbanizing as we have been, we are ruining the planet. If we can think of a way to do this in a sustainable way using renewable energy, that could be pretty interesting.

– John Rossant

In the United States, the City of Miami is growing and changing as new individuals move into the region from around the world. However the issue facing Miami today is the city’s all-in approach to cryptocurrency without diversification. Could the lack of the City’s diversification lead to another classic Miami boom and bust cycle? Grayson and John discuss the current state of Miami’s economy, while offering their unique opinions on the future of Miami.

Miami, it’s a much much much bigger story than just crypto.

– John Rossant

One of the stories emerging in Miami is the focus on decarbonizing ocean transport. Over in NEOM, there is a a mixed-use urban development called OXAGON located in the Red Sea which when completed will be the largest floating structure in the world.

In time, I think the Red Sea will become the new Mediterranean in terms of kind of yachting in paradise, boating, etc.

– John Rossant

The story emerging in Dubai is Cruise preparing to deploy the fully autonomous Cruise Origin in 2023 on public roads. With the advancement of NEOM and the emerging Cruise deployment in Dubai, the Middle East is beginning to emerge as a growing market for autonomy. While the Middle East is a growing market for autonomy, New York City is a shrinking market for mass-transit.

Mass-transit and public transportation have to be made fun and seamless.

– John Rossant

This is where multi-modal and on-demand mobility is thriving as consumers want what they want, when they want it without friction.

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and John discuss why the future of mobility is choice.

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Recorded on Tuesday, July 26, 2022