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].

Think Big. Do Big.

Greg Rodriguez, Mobility Policy Principal, Stantec joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss autonomous vehicle policy, federal infrastructure funding, and how both policy and funding impact the deployment of autonomous vehicles and trucks.

The conversation begins with Greg sharing his thoughts on the current state of autonomous vehicle policy at the federal level.

It changes yearly, if not daily. One word to describe it all right now, lacking.

– Greg Rodriguez

With the start, stop nature of how autonomous vehicle legislation has progressed on Capital Hill, Greg and Grayson discuss the challenges the AV industry faces from a federal policy perspective and why trust is the key to developing a national autonomous vehicle framework.

With the uncertainty of federal autonomous vehicle legislation in the United States, other countries are using this as an opportunity to leapfrog the U.S. to take the lead on AV policy. During China’s 2022 National People Congress, Chen Hong, Chairman of SAIC Motor (China’s largest automaker) put forward a proposal to clarify the legal status of autonomous driving systems with the aim of speeding up the commercialization of smart vehicles.

Will this motion motivate Congress to move on a national autonomous vehicle framework? At this time, it looks very unlikely due to the geopolitical issues the world is facing and the looming mid-term elections. More likely we will continue to see States introduce AV legislation over the course of the next three to four years.

States such as Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas have all enacted AV legislation. The legislation is having a positive impact on the States from an economic perspective as companies have opened offices and set up operations. Texas in particular has emerged as the home of autonomous trucking as companies flock to the State due to the freight capacity and the friendly AV regulatory environment.

Staying on the theme of autonomous trucking, Grayson and Greg discuss the role that dedicated autonomous truck toll roads that connect ports to intermodal hubs could play in the future of freight logistics.

It’s thinking about the impacts that currently exist in the way we do things and how can we minimize those impacts. It’s thinking about how we can create more efficiencies to move goods.

– Greg Rodriguez

To achieve these efficiencies, we have to think big and do big. This is exactly what Janno Lieber, CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is doing. Mr. Lieber is showing leadership by being honest about the current state of public transportation in New York City and preparing for a future where millions of riders just don’t return.

When you think big, new opportunities arise to do big. Grayson and Greg discuss new ways that MTA can offer transportation services by implementing point-to-point on-demand mobility services.

The more mobility options that we can provide people access to, the more likelihood people will realize, oh wow I do not need to own my car anymore.

– Greg Rodriguez

Mobility options offer choice. Choice gives consumers the ability to choose which mobility service works best for them and their families. At the end of the day, consumers will end up determining the future of mobility as it will be driven by consumer spending.

Wrapping up the conversation, Greg shares his vision for the future of mobility.

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Recorded on Monday, March 7, 2022.

Investing in The Future

Reilly Brennan, General Partner, Trucks VC joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss investing in the future.

The conversation begins with Reilly and Grayson discussing what is going to happen when consolidation begins in the autonomous vehicle industry.

This is a period of consolidation because you have essentially a lot of the robo-taxi ideas turned into commercial applications, probably around logistics and parcels.

– Reilly Brennan

Then there are the startups such as Bear Flag Robotics (acquired by John Deere – August 2021) and Gatik that have been focused on specific applications since day one. Shifting the conversation to industrial use cases, Grayson asks Reilly what his thoughts are on the industrial market as it relates to autonomy.

One of those specific industrial markets is mining. With global mining companies hitting record profits and Rio Tinto recently announcing a $7.7 billion half-year dividend, Grayson asks Reilly if a global mining company could potentially acquire an autonomy startup.

No doubt. Electrification and AV to those specific players is as much on their mind as the way you would think about DHL, UPS, Amazon, etc adding autonomy and electrification to theirs. It’s just a component of how they make money or will make more money in the future.

– Reilly Brennan

There is a growing segment of the startup market has is beginning to focus on the opportunities in the industrial market. One aspect of the startup industrial market that is booming is the autonomous trucking industry.

The autonomous trucking industry is generating revenue and shoring up the supply chain through automation, as consumers battle ever-increasing inflation. Reilly rightly points out that this industry is heavily dependent on partnerships to scale and return capital to shareholders and investors.

One of the key partnerships in the future will be railroads. Grayson makes a prediction that in the next 18 to 24 months, a railroad will buy an autonomous trucking company.

Another segment of the industrial market is maritime. Looking at investment opportunities in the space, Reilly is currently studying hydrography and shipping routes. There is an emerging opportunity to map waterways which will increase shipping efficiencies.

The depths within ports can change so much that it impacts how much payload you can take.

– Reilly Brennan

As maritime shipping routes get optimized, it’s time to allow autonomous trucks to enter and operate at ports.

The partnership dynamics of autonomous trucking is arguably one of the most important parts of the business. In fact, we have seen some of the logistics companies take investments from entities that own or have access to those ports for that specific reason.

It’s a fundamental question that there is not any one company, even Waymo that can lay claim to a leadership position for those specific pickup points. That is a big opportunity and in fact, it’s probably more important than saying you are running 10,000 trips a day on this route in Texas.

If someone came to us and said if I secured the access to these specific vital ports in the United States, I think that is actually saying something a great deal.

– Reilly Brennan

Staying on the topic of Waymo, Grayson asks Reilly if Waymo will eventually split into two separate companies: Waymo Via focused on autonomous trucking and Waymo One focused on autonomous vehicles.

It has always been a question in my mind whether we were at the point in this area of autonomy where you could have a multi-silhouette autonomy company.

– Reilly Brennan

Is Waymo the only company that could pull off a multi-silhouette approach to autonomy, because of Alphabet’s continued long-term financing commitment? It looks that way as Aurora has seemingly shifted a majority of its focus to autonomous trucking.

For companies that don’t have a Google as a supporter and an investor, I think you probably have to pick one thing you are world-class in.

– Reilly Brennan

Without an Alphabet-like financing partner, does Aurora get to a crossroads where they decide to sell off their autonomous vehicle division and focus solely on trucking? It’s a possibility as the autonomous vehicle market is beginning to consolidate around Argo AI, Cruise, and Waymo.

Then there is May Mobility which is focused on structured routes. Pick-up and drop-offs from airports are a huge opportunity that the autonomous vehicle industry is currently not exploiting. The true opportunity for airports and AVs is in resort towns with limited traffic and high-amounts of passenger traffic during predefined periods of time throughout the year.

Looking at the overall investment landscape, Reilly shares a story and his insights into how the team at Trucks VC uncovers potential investment opportunities.

When we look at companies, we tend to not really look for ideas, we kind of just wait for great founders to reveal something to us and then we get onboard.

– Reilly Brennan

Wrapping up the conversation, Reilly and Grayson discuss the circular economy and the future of electric vehicles.

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Recorded on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

Electrification of Industrial Logistics

Alan Ohnsman, Senior Editor, Forbes joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the electrification of industrial logistics.

The conversation begins with Alan and Grayson discussing who is going to win as multiple industries shift to electrification.

Most of the attention has gone to say Tesla and the passenger car market. But what’s happening on the heavy-duty industrial vehicle side, I think is probably more exciting because they can actually move a lot faster. It’s hard to get consumers to change buying habits.

– Alan Ohnsman

While a lot of attention in and around electrification is currently being paid to passenger and heavy-duty industrial vehicles, freight rail is beginning to emerge as an interesting opportunity for electrification.

A freight train is a power plant on wheels.

– Alan Ohnsman

As freight trains begin to become electrified, an opportunity arises to connect freight rail to electric heavy-duty trucks, creating intermodal 2.0. One of the keys to making this happen is positive train control which has created a more intelligent rail network.

You both have the opportunity to move way more freight more efficiently than ever before, and if you can electrify it, so much the better. If you could then tie your railheads and depots into autonomous trucking networks, you got something really interesting going on.

So there is so much potential to increase efficiency, while also cutting carbon emissions from rail and freight movement across the United States over the next five to ten years. It’s really remarkable.

– Alan Ohnsman

With the shift to global electrification, a majority of the infrastructure for heavy-duty industrial applications still has to be developed. Additionally, there are still uncertainties around the global supply chain for precious metals that are needed to make batteries. Is there enough supply?

Based on current technologies, there is probably not enough supply out there. There just isn’t.

– Alan Ohnsman

Does a potential global shortage of precious metals, create a market opening for hydrogen to gain market share and acceptance with industrial applications? Grayson and Alan discuss the potential opportunities for hydrogen and why an industrial company could embrace hydrogen as an alternative to gas.

But at its current stage, hydrogen is not clean. The same could be said for the mining of lithium as Serbia’s government recently revoked a lithium mining permit due to the potential environmental costs of the project.

In California, there are also environmental concerns around mining for lithium in the Salton Sea. With a projected capability of mining 600,000 metric tons of lithium a year from the Salton Sea, will this become a political issue? Potentially as there is a great economic incentive and potential national security issue developing around lithium.

With potentially limited precious metals and a focus on carbon impact, there is an opportunity to introduce and create a circular economy. Volvo is taking the first steps with their soon-to-be-introduced Polestar Zero.

Wrapping up the conversation, Alan discusses what happens if hydrogen could be made from renewable sources of energy and the impact that would have on industrial logistics.

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Recorded on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

Intermodal 2.0

Cheng Lu, President & CEO, TuSimple joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss Driver Out and Intermodal 2.0.

The conversation begins with Cheng reflecting on the last twelve months. From a traditional IPO to Driver Out, TuSimple has made incredible strides as the business and technology scale.

Driver Out is one of our big milestones we had for 2021. It’s clearly a critical path to commercialization.

-Cheng Lu

As TuSimple prepares to commercialize its Driver Out autonomous freight operations, the company announced on February 2, 2022, that it had successfully completed over 550 miles of Driver Out on open public roads in real-world conditions. Cheng goes on to explain how the company is planning to scale the program.

Over the next two years we are scaling the ODD (Operational Design Domain), so day time, new routes.

– Cheng Lu

The annual inflation rate for overall trucking costs is 17%. For the long-haul trucking sector, the annual inflation rate is 25%. With TuSimple successfully launching Driver Out, Grayson asks Cheng how TuSimple’s autonomous trucks can help to lower their customer’s inflation costs.

Our mission is to lower the cost of freight transportation.

– Cheng Lu

With Driver Out in the process of scaling, TuSimple and Union Pacific announced a partnership in which TuSimple will help Union Pacific extend their operations. The partnership will allow Union Pacific to expand their network by using autonomous trucks where rail infrastructure is not available.

If you could mix autonomy into their supply chain and to their network, it could add a lot more flexibility to their network. It can also help them expand their reach of their network, that today their train tracks do not get to. It’s very expensive now to build any new railroad tracks and so if you can leverage autonomy for that, it’s significant.

– Cheng Lu

This is another example of Union Pacific embracing emerging trends that will have an overall positive benefit on their business. Union Pacific had a similar move in 1936 when the company developed Sun Valley and connected the resort to Los Angeles via rail. The all-encompassing travel experience package was invented.

Could the Union Pacific / TuSimple partnership usher in the future of freight shipping? Cheng and the team at TuSimple view it as intermodal 2.0 where autonomous trucks, rail, and human-driven trucks will all complement each other to shore up the supply chain.

Autonomous trucking could be intermodal 2.0.

– Cheng Lu

Wrapping up the conversation, Cheng discusses the economic benefits of Driver Out and scaling the TuSimple business.

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Recorded on Monday, February 7, 2022.

Moving Past Misconceptions

Ariel Wolf, General Counsel, Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss misconceptions of AV technology in the marketplace.

The conversation begins with Ariel discussing the rebranding of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets to the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association.

[The brand] showcases the evolution of both the AV industry and the organization’s role with policymakers and the public.

– Ariel Wolf

As AV technology advances, building and maintaining public trust is critical to the adoption of autonomous vehicles. In addition to public trust, there is a need for a National Autonomous Vehicle Framework that promotes the safe and swift deployment of autonomous vehicles in the United States.

In the market, there are misconceptions around what an autonomous vehicle is as some consumers are mistaken that ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) equipped vehicles are indeed autonomous vehicles.

One of the key challenges is the confusion in the public between the features and benefits of driver-assist technology and autonomous vehicle technology.

– Ariel Wolf

The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association has called on Congress, policymakers, journalists, and the industry to clearly distinguish between ADAS and autonomous vehicles. When the terms are intermingled, it leads to confusion in the market and erodes public trust.

When you look at the perception of AV technology, it’s influenced unfortunately by unrelated ADAS technology and that leads to a diminishment of consumer trust that is really unjustified.

– Ariel Wolf

On February 2, 2022, Ariel testified during The Road Ahead for Automated Vehicles hearing, part of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit in Congress. During his testimony, he highlighted the important safety benefits of autonomous vehicles.

Deploying AV technology to make the roads safer should be part of a holistic solution.

– Ariel Wolf

AV technology will not just make the roads safer, the technology will create jobs and shore up the supply chain. A steady supply chain that is complimented with AV technology will help to lower inflation. With a 40-year high inflation rate in the United States, Grayson and Ariel discuss autonomous trucks and the benefit the technology will have on the U.S. economy.

According to recent data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual inflation rate for overall trucking costs is 17%. For the long-haul trucking sector, the annual inflation rate is 25%.

With record-high inflation, Grayson asks Ariel why the United States is not embracing autonomous trucking as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce inflation. The autonomous trucking industry is willing to step up, but there is a need for a national framework and engaging conversations between the Government and the industry.

Conversations also need to take place between the Ports and the autonomous trucking industry as the costs to ship goods have gone up due to the supply chain crisis. At the Ports of LA and Long Beach, it can take anywhere from 28 to 52 days to ship a pair of shoes produced in China from Shanghai to Los Angeles, up from between 17 and 28 days before the pandemic. And the total cost has gone up by $1.77 per pair. Yet the Ports will not engage with the autonomous trucking industry.

Today, autonomous trucks can not test and/or deploy in California due to the regulatory environment. This is having a negative impact on not only the citizens of the State of California but all Americans, as 31% of all imports to the U.S. enter the country through the Port of LA and Port of Long Beach.

Autonomous trucking is going to be a positive for everyone involved.

– Ariel Wolf

The California Alliance for Freight Innovation (CAFI) was founded to transform how freight moves across the State of California to the benefit of everyone. With the future of autonomous trucking unsure in California, the industry has opened operations in Texas and is actively hauling freight in the State.

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Ariel discuss the environmental benefits of autonomous trucks.

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Recorded on Friday, February 4, 2022.