The Road to Autonomy Podcast

The Road to Autonomy hosted by Grayson Brulte is a podcast featuring unconventional conversations about the future of mobility.

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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.

The MOKE Experience

Wouter Witvoet, CEO, EVT Group, joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss electrifying the iconic MOKE and reinvigorating a brand that was built around lifestyles and experiences.

The conversation begins with Wouter discussing how as the largest shareholder of MOKE International, he is planning on reinvigorating the iconic MOKE brand.

What we are effectively doing at EV Technology Group with the MOKE brand is that we take a lot of this excitement that exists around this brand, a lot of the following that is there and just creating an electric version of this that is effectively suitable for today’s age which is very much an electric age.

– Wouter Witvoet

As car brands around the world begin the process of electrifying their iconic vehicles, some brands are taking this as an opportunity to redesign the vehicle, instead of focusing on the heritage of the brand. MOKE International has made the decision to lean into the future by electrifying, all the while respecting the heritage and the design of the iconic vehicle.

When a brand electrifies a vehicle:

It always has to start where the brand left off.

– Wouter Witvoet

By taking this approach, the MOKE brand is building upon its heritage and the famous photos of Bridget Bardot driving the vehicle around Saint-Tropez. As the 2022 Season begins in Saint-Tropez, EVT will be integrating the MOKE experience into the overall Saint-Tropez experience through partnerships with villa rental operators and concierge services.

In Saint-Tropez, you are coming here for an experience. You are not coming here because you need to be in Saint-Tropez. In the same logic you drive a MOKE because you want to drive a MOKE, not because it is necessarily the best car to go from A to B. It’s about an experience.

– Wouter Witvoet

The new electric MOKE will be introduced as a subscription plan for €650 a month Saint-Tropez Season Pass and three year subscription service options. Looking to the future and enhancing the subscription service, there is a possibly that EVT will introduce a MOKE subscription plan that travels with you around the world.

It’s about just having access to an EV wherever you go.

– Wouter Witvoet

Expanding the brand from a vehicle to a lifestyle, EVT will be introducing Casa MOKE this summer in Saint-Tropez. If Casa MOKE proves to be successful, the concept will be exported to iconic locations around the world and localized to the environment.

If you have a MOKE, then something must be good in your life.

– Wouter Witvoet

As EVT looks to expand the MOKE brand into new markets, the brand will introduce region specific MOKE experiences.

Our thesis is that if you are talking about a luxury brand, you are talking about experiences. You need to launch a car on the market with a certain activity that is locally for that market.

– Wouter Witvoet

Wrapping up the conversation, Wouter discusses EVT’s strategy as the company expands their brand portfolio.

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Recorded on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Waabi World

Vivian Sun, Chief Commercial Officer, Waabi, joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss Waabi World and a simulation-first approach to autonomous trucking.

The conversation begins with Vivian sharing her thoughts on when consolidation comes to the autonomous trucking industry. While consolidation is on the horizon, Waabi (which was founded in June 2021) is taking a different path to developing and scaling autonomous trucks.

Autonomy is a marathon.

– Vivian Sun

Their approach to autonomy using a simulation-first approach is one that could completely change the end-to-end development process of autonomous trucks. As Waabi prepares to scale, Vivian shares some of the lessons that she learned earlier in her career and how Waabi can avoid those situations.

It is really important that we have a scalable, adaptable technology.

– Vivian Sun

A simulation-first approach to autonomy is allowing Waabi to operate a leaner corporate structure with less overhead as they develop the technology. From an economic standpoint, with the Federal Reserve raising rates as well as the European Central Bank, operating an autonomous trucking with a lean overhead will become a completive advantage as credit markets tighten.

There are huge advantages of a more cost efficient way of developing self-driving technology.

– Vivian Sun

The key technology enabling this approach to autonomy is Waabi World, a high fidelity driving simulator. Inside of Waabi World, weather elements such as rain, fog, wind, ice and snow can be simulated to create real-world driving scenarios.

These scenarios, combined with real-world traffic data, will help to develop a confident and safe Waabi Driver. While the Waabi Driver is being developed in simulation, professional truck drivers are playing a key role in the system ⁠— the Waabi Driver is learning from million plus miler drivers.

We want to create a new paradigm to solve autonomy.

– Vivian Sun

Wrapping up the conversation, Vivian discusses Waabi’s partnership strategy and the company’s plans for commercialization.

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Recorded on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

Decarbonizing the Supply Chain

Craig Harper, Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Vice President, J.B. Hunt Transport Service joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss decarbonizing the supply chain.

The conversation begins with Craig discussing the reason why he stepped into the role of Chief Sustainability Officer in late 2020. When he began to develop J.B. Hunt’s sustainability plan he started by understanding how J.B. Hunt is perceived in the marketplace and by rating agencies.

It’s been a good progress, steps to go through looking at those different rating agencies seeing how they each interpret different segments of the business and where we need to improve.

– Craig Harper

On Monday, April 4, 2022 J.B. Hunt launched their CLEAN Transport Program to help customers reduce the carbon footprint of their supply chain.

Intermodal is a great offering that we have, provides significant benefit to our customer, to citizens across the globe with a 60% reduction on the amount of carbon that it takes to move the same load from point-to-point all the way by truck versus what it takes to move intermodal.

But even when you get that 60% reduction, you still have some residual carbon. And it’s like what are we going to do with this? This is where carbon offsets come in, and what that does it allows a customer to purchase offsets that fund an activity that reduces carbon and make their transport carbon neutral.

– Craig Harper

While we wait for electric trucks to scale, intermodal offers an opportunity for shippers to reduce their carbon emissions by 60% today.

As an organization we said publicly we feel like there is somewhere between 7 to 11 million more loads that could be converted to intermodal.

– Craig Harper

Another way to reduce carbon emissions is renewable diesel. In 2020, 51% of all of the fuel J.B. Hunt purchased was a bio-blended diesel product. Today, the company’s total weighted average of fuel from renewable sources is 8%.

More and more renewable diesel is coming online each and every day, that is going to be great for the industry.

– Craig Harper

J.B. Hunt has a culture of innovation. From embracing renewable diesel to entering into a market study with Waymo to pilot autonomous trucks, J.B. Hunt continues to look forward towards the future. Prior to entering into a market study agreement, Craig visited the Waymo team in Chandler, AZ and took a ride in Waymo’s fully autonomous vehicle. The trip was a culmination of a trusted relationship.

As it relates the deployment of autonomous trucks, Craig shared the following insight:

We believe that the technology will indeed pull certain types of freight on certain lanes and we are excited to play a part in it.

– Craig Harper

Even as autonomous trucks scale, skilled professional drivers will continue to play a significant role in the future of the trucking industry.

Wrapping up the conversation, Craig and Grayson discussed the infrastructure that is needed to scale electric heavy-duty trucks.

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Recorded on Monday, April 4, 2022.

Decarbonizing Last Mile Delivery

Rachad Youssef, Chief Product Officer, BrightDrop joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss decarbonizing last mile delivery.

The conversation begins with Rachad discussing why January 2021 was the right time to launch BrightDrop.

January 2021 was a great opportunity to announce what BrightDrop was going to do, because it was a real date in terms of our ability to deliver.

– Rachad Youssef

With delivery traffic projected to grow 78% by 2030 and the global commitment to decarbonization, BrightDrop created the right product at the right time. One year after announcing the BrightDrop vans, their customers vans are out in the field currently delivering goods to homes and business in the LA region.

The first vans were delivered to FedEx in December 2021, less than one year after launching the company.

It took 14 months to put a vehicle on the road. During that time you have to incorporate a tremendous amount of learnings from studies in the field as well as the ability to find a vehicle platform that can accommodate those needs, and truly tailor it for the use case.

– Rachad Youssef

BrightDrop vans are utilizing GM’s Ultium battery platform providing range of 250 miles on a single charge. As the Ultium battery platform becomes more dense, those new longer range batteries will find their way into the vans.

The ability for us to incorporate new chemistries and new technologies with regards to the battery itself is a commitment from BrightDrop from Day 1.

– Rachad Youssef

BrightDrop is focused on fully integrating software and hardware together to deliver an experience for the delivery driver that is easier than today’s traditional vans. An example of this commitment is the Trace vehicle concept which is integrated into the van’s design. The Trace vehicle allows delivery drivers to move goods quicker and easier.

It’s really about ease of doing business. It’s really about showing our customers that we get it and that we are with them through their deployments.

– Rachad Youssef

One of those customers is Walmart. Walmart is using both the Zevo 400 and Zevo 600 vans as part of their decarbonization strategy for delivery. The decarbonization of last mile delivery using electric vans is only going to accelerate as more companies adopt and implement an ESG strategy.

Wrapping up the conversation, Rachad discusses how his time at Zoox influenced how he approaches design.

Good design for me in this space comes with purpose. In other words, you are really looking for elegant ways to bring simplicity to complex situations.

– Rachad Youssef

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Recorded on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.