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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Electric Vehicle Subscriptions

Scott Painter, Founder & CEO, Autonomy joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss Autonomy’s approach to electric vehicle subscriptions.

The conversation begins with Scott discussing why he founded Autonomy.

I think that great entrepreneurs, great companies have to solve a real problem.

– Scott Painter

One of the key hurdles to the adoption of electric vehicles is affordability and that is the problem that Autonomy is solving with their subscription model. For those individuals who are uncertain about electric vehicles and/or concerned about range, Autonomy offers a low commitment way to discover and experience an electric vehicle without a long-term commitment.

Because Autonomy owns the fleet and gathers data in real-time about the vehicles, the company is able to offer time based episodic insurance for subscribers. With this model, subscribers only pay for insurance when they are driving the vehicle, leading to a lower operating cost than a traditional lease.

Overall, an Autonomy subscription is about 15% less than a traditional lease. When compared to a Tesla lease, an individual needs to have a minimum 720 FICO score in order to qualify for a lease. With an Autonomy subscription, an individual can secure a subscription with a minimum 640 FICO score.

What we are really focused on is giving people the ability to get flexible access to mobility without necessarily having to go into debt.

– Scott Painter

The other key differences are that an Autonomy subscription is minimum of three months as compared to traditional Tesla lease that is 36 months. A Tesla lease will report as debt on consumers credit reports, while an Autonomy subscription will not report as debt.

The fact that a subscription, an Autonomy subscription in particular does not show up on your credit report as debt is a very big deal. Which also allows us to open up another really key value proposition, which is you can pay for it with a credit card. You can not pay a traditional car lease or a car loan with a credit card, because it is illegal to pay debt with debt.

– Scott Painter

With rising consumer credit card debt, Grayson and Scott discuss how Autonomy approaches underwriting and how the company is constantly evaluating potential subscribers from a credit risk standpoint. In addition to the consumers’s credit report, Autonomy also looks at potential subscribers insurability.

The goal here is to have dramatically better outcomes than a traditional auto lender or auto lessor. We just do not want to have bad debt on the books. We want to see good quality revenue coming in.

– Scott Painter

To scale up the business, Autonomy has placed an order for nearly 23,000 electric vehicles from 17 different automakers for a capital expenditure of $1.2 billion order. This order represents 1.2% of the projected U.S. electric vehicle production through the end of 2022.

Wrapping up the conversation, Scott discusses how he plans to expand the business in the coming years.

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Recorded on Thursday, September 8, 2022

Understanding Congestion with Data

Avery Ash, Head of Global Public Policy and Product Strategy, INRIX joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how data can help cities and DOTs (Department of Transportations) better understand congestion and how to properly plan for it.

The conversation begins with Avery discussing how INRIX gathers anonymous data from 500 million vehicles, mobile devices, mobile apps, parking lot operators, mobile carriers and smart meters all in real-time.

Expanding their data gathering capabilities, INRIX recently announced a partnership with GM where data from 15 million vehicles will be used in a collaborative manner to create Safety View. This product leverage the promise of connected vehicles to improve safety planning in local communities.

As local communities plan for safe road ways, data will play a vital role in determining the best way to improve safety. In Washington, D.C. for example, 20% of drivers travel at least 10 mph above the speed limit in school zones. Knowing this data, schools will be better prepared to implement safety solutions such solutions as speed bumps, crossing guards, lowering speed limits in surrounding neighborhoods and working with local law enforcement to increase the police presence.

You can not expect one silver bullet solution that is going to solve this problem.

– Avery Ash

Once the new safety measures are put in place, schools can measure the impact of the changes thanks to the data. Data is also having an impact on how cities tackle the issue of congestion. Each year, INRIX publishes their Annual Global Traffic Scorecard and this year the company reported that the average American driver lost 36 hours in 2021 due to congestion. With all of this data being gathered, how can cities effectively use the data to reduce traffic? That is the million dollar question.

In London which is the world’s most congested city, where drivers lost 148 hours to congestion in 2021, the city has not figured out how to effectively reduce traffic even as the city has a daily £15 congestion tax.

New York City is currently debating on whether to follow London’s lead and introduce a congestion tax. But NYC has a crime problem that three quarters of New Yorkers have called a very serious problem. Crime is driving New Yorkers tourists alike to single occupancy vehicles out of an abundance of caution. When planning for congestion, it’s important to take into account a variety of data points and not just rely on one source of data.

It’s really important to enter into these sorts of policy changes with eyes wide open and with a willingness and frankly a plan for how you are going to measure the impact.

– Avery Ash

Could autonomous vehicle drop-off and pick-up zones be a potential solution in the future as AVs scale and are deployed in cities around the world? Grayson and Avery discuss drop-off and pick-up zones as a potential solution for congestion in cities.

Wrapping up the conversation, Avery shares his opinion on the best way cities can prepare for the large scale deployment of autonomous vehicles.

The first step is to get a really clear understanding of how your roadways are currently being used and what behavior looks like across your road networks, across all road users.

– Avery Ash

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Recorded on Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Developing Public Trust in Autonomous Vehicles

Tara Andringa, Executive Director of Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss developing and maintaining public trust in autonomous vehicles and trucks.

The conversation begins with Tara discussing how PAVE is working on developing public trust of autonomous vehicles.

I really like to think of it as a conversation with the public. Every single person is a stakeholder in transportation, and so what we want to do is let everyone have a voice in thinking about what the future of our transportation system looks like.

– Tara Andringa

One of the biggest hurdles to over come on the road to developing public trust in autonomous vehicles is misleading headlines that erode public trust in the technology.

This is one of our biggest challenges right now.

– Tara Andringa

These headlines are eroding public trust as they are confusing ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) with autonomous vehicles, which is causing confusion with the public. Some individuals are over-trusting that the ADAS system will operate like an autonomous vehicle, meaning that they will not have to pay attention when the vehicle is driving, potentially leading to tragic situations.

One reason these headlines are being printed is the amount of traffic that they generate for news outlets. While the traffic leads to higher ad revenue, the headlines could potentially lead to unfortunate events and an overall erosion of public trust in autonomy.

It’s much easier for them to write self-driving car then it is to say a car that under limited circumstances with an attentive human behind the wheel can handle some driving tasks. That just does not roll off the tongue. It gets simplified to really dangerous results.

– Tara Andringa

It is very important to point out that you cannot buy an autonomous vehicle today and that all autonomous vehicles are currently operated as part of a fleet. To try and clear the confusion, PAVE partnered with AAA, J.D. Power, The National Safety Council, SAE International and Consumer Reports on the CLEARING THE CONFUSION: Common Naming for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems document.

There are two different naming issues and I really want to distinguish between them. One is that we need clear language for what is available today and the other issue is that we need clear language to distinguish today’s technology from future technology.

– Tara Andringa

With over 40 different names for Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), consumers are unsure of what the technology can do, potentially causing confusion. The is why the common naming document is so important. Perhaps the common naming document can be transferred into emojis that everyone around the world no matter what language they speak can understand what it means.

There are examples from history that can help pave the road with trust. One example is The Vagabonds, a group composed of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs who made yearly camping trips in Ford vehicles between 1916 and 1924 with the goal of developing trust in the automobile. A more modern example is what Voyage did in The Villages to develop trust of autonomous vehicles with the residents of the community.

When you really give people exposure to the technology, they start thinking about it in a much more real way.

– Tara Andringa

Building upon history, a diverse group of members from leading startups, to established automakers to insurance companies to non-profits, to software providers came together to form PAVE with the goal of developing public trust in autonomous vehicles and trucks.

Wrapping up the conversation, Tara shares insights on how communities and Governments are preparing for the large-scale deployment of autonomous vehicles.

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Recorded on Tuesday, August 23, 2022

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