The Road to Autonomy Podcast

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

Subscribe to The Road to Autonomy on

Apple Podcasts : Amazon Podcasts : Google Podcasts : Spotify

The Brand is the Experience

Roger Webb, Lifetime Student of the Restaurant Industry joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why the brand is the experience.

The conversation begins with Roger sharing the story of how he first met Dave Thomas, Founder of Wendy’s. Later he shares his experience of when he first joined Wendy’s as the company opened its third restaurant.

Today there over 6,500 Wendy’s around the world and the brand is known and loved by millions of individuals. From the VP of Franchise to a Wendy’s franchisee, Roger had an incredible career with Wendy’s.

Roger was the first Wendy’s franchisee to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge in 2016. Before joining the challenge, Roger had a company-wide energy policy.

We had a very strict policy, never have a light out.

– Roger Webb

Never having a light out is part of the experience of going to a restaurant. It’s an experience that consumers look for and one that the restaurant industry has to deliver on each and every-time.

The experience is the thousands of little things that have to be executed perfectly every time.

– Roger Webb

Expanding upon the conversation of the little things that make an experience, Grayson and Roger go on to discuss brands and experiences and why they are crucial to the ultimate success of a restaurant.

Your brand is the experience.

– Roger Webb

With a great brand, the future is bright and scalable if you are innovative and ahead of trends. Taking a look at the future of the restaurant industry, Grayson and Roger discuss the design of restaurants. Will they have to change with the growth of delivery and eventually autonomous delivery via delivery bots such as Nuro.

With an increase in delivery services, comes the need for new innovative packaging. Roger shares his thoughts on packaging and what needs to be done to ensure the french fries that arrive at your house are warm and crispy.

From drones to autonomous vehicles to delivery cars, the packaging has to be developed for the operating environment. The packaging used in delivery will be different than the packaging used for food picked up at a drive-through.

The drive-through is a booming business for the restaurant industry today. Roger explains how the drive-through operates and what the keys to success are for successfully operating one.

The drive-throughs of today might not look like the drive-throughs of the future. Chipotle is pioneering their Chipotlanes concept throughout the United States to great success.

Chipotlanes are Chipotle’s most-profitable experience because of the higher check averages. This raises the question: Is this the future of the restaurant business? Grayson asks Roger and he goes onto say restaurants are always evolving.

While restaurants are always evolving they must never stop building their brand equity. This lesson can be traced back to Sam Bronfman, Founder of Distillers Corporation who was always focused on quality and the appearance of his brands.

Discounting can impact brand equity in a negative way. Roger explains why discounting is something that should be done with caution.

Brand equity is what you do every day, every minute, every hour, and that should be a part of everything that you do when you are building a brand.

– Roger Webb

Looking at the current trend of Cloud / Ghost Kitchens, Grayson asks Roger how these types of restaurant businesses can develop a brand. Without a brand, customers will be unsure whether to try a new concept that they might never have heard of before.

For Cloud / Ghost Kitchen concepts to be successful, they will have to have a brand that customers know, like and trust. A brand combined with a bespoke delivery service and pick-up service will thrive in resort communities.

Wrapping up the conversation, Roger discusses delivery fees and the economics of delivery services.

Subscribe to The Road To Autonomy on Apple Podcasts

Recorded on Thursday, January 14, 2021.

Automating Fleet Optimization

Aarjav Trivedi, Founder & CEO of Ridecell joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how digitizing and automating fleet management leads to increase revenue and profitability for logistics and mobility companies.

The conversation begins with Aarjav discussing the founding of Ridecell 1.0 in Atlanta, GA. The experience of waiting for the bus in the cold and not knowing if and/or when the bus would show up gave Aarjav the inspiration to change transportation.

Three years in a row this experience on an almost daily basis grinds into you this feeling – there has got to be a better way.

– Aarjav Trivedi

During this time, Uber had yet to exist. The iPhone was just being introduced and Aarjav Trivedi an engineer from Georgia Tech decided to change transportation by combining trust and payments.

In 2011, Aarjav moved to San Fransisco and launched Summon. Summon was the first on-demand taxi company in California to receive a permit and operate legally. While operating Summon, Aarjav saw that partners such as BMW and companies such as Google needed a fleet optimization management software solution.

The relationship and trust Aarjav developed with BMW during the Summon days led to BMW’s i Ventures team leading Ridecell’s $11.7 Series A round.

Most great investors are very focused on creating impact. If you create impact the revenues follow.

– Aarjav Trivedi

Today, Ridecell is a global enterprise operating in multiple countries around the world including the United States, Europe and India. Aarjav discusses how he manages a global team and understands local cultures and customs.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to pivot and embrace new business models. Aarjav discusses how Ridecell was well prepared for the pandemic as the company was well-diversified with digital-first solutions.

With digital-first solutions for fleet operators and the growth of e-commerce, Ridecell’s logistics business is growing as more companies around the globe adopt digital-first solutions. Aarjav explains how Ridecell’s software platform helps logistics companies operate more efficiently and profitability.

One of Ridecell’s strongest value propositions is being able to automate the decisions that increase revenue, decrease cost, increase yield, while increasing sustainability.

– Aarjav Trivedi

Grayson asks Aarjav, how the Ridecell platform can help optimize courier services for the delivery of goods. It all comes down to digitization and using the data to optimize the fleet to ensure optimum up-time. The courier also benefits from a comfort perspective. Before getting into the vehicle, the temperature and music are set for the driver’s preference.

What happens when the vehicles are autonomous? Grayson and Aarjav go on to discuss autonomy and Ridecell’s acquisition of Auro Robotics in 2017. Expanding upon the autonomy theme, they discuss the economics of autonomous vehicles and what the business model might look like in the future.

Grayson asks Aarjav if fleet optimization the key to achieving profitability with autonomous solutions. Fleet optimization along with the eco-system of operating a service is the key. From managing the health of the vehicle to in-vehicle entertainment. All the parts of the eco-system have to work together in harmony.

The core problem is to not let data live in silos so that decisions are made in efficient ways. The core thing is to connect the data from the vehicle.

– Aarjav Trivedi

Wrapping up the conversation, Aarjav shares his thoughts on the future of mobility and the role that Ridecell will play.

Subscribe to The Road To Autonomy on Apple Podcasts

Recorded on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

Thermal Imaging: Making Roads Safer

John Eggert, Automotive Business Development, FLIR Systems joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how thermal imaging is making roads safer.

The conversation begins with John sharing his thoughts on the current state of the autonomous vehicle industry while looking back to 2015 when he first started his career in the industry.

[The industry] has become a lot more professional.

– John Eggert

Today, the industry as a whole is spending money more wisely. It’s maturing, but certain companies still do not have a path to profitability. Expanding upon this, Grayson and John discuss the economics of the autonomous vehicle industry and properly setting expectations for investors and the public.

Diving deeper into the economics discussion, Grayson asks John to talk about his experience of owning a Quiznos franchise in San Fransisco. John shares what he learned and how difficult it was to operate a business in San Fransico.

With John’s unique experience of having owned and operated a business in San Fransisco, Grayson asks John why the autonomous vehicle industry is determined to launch a service in a city that is extremely unwelcoming to the technology.

John explains that the talent pool is currently driving the decision, but that could change in the future as the reality of economics and regulation set in as the companies move to commercialize their services.

Could Miami end up becoming the Autonomous Vehicle Capital of North America as companies are fleeing California every single day? Grayson and John discuss why and what is driving the growth of the autonomous vehicle industry in Miami.

Looking back on his days at Velodyne, John shares some intimate stories about the early days of LiDAR including a meeting with George Hotz, Founder of Comma AI where he showed him the latest Velodyne LiDAR.

The conversation evolves into a discussion about Comma AI and how George Hotz understood the economics of LiDAR. At the prices, George knew that it would be impossible to scale Comma AI with LiDAR due to the cost of LiDAR.

LiDAR is one of the key technologies to enable full self-driving. The other technology is thermal imaging.

There is no technology in vehicles today more capable of identifying or classifying or detecting a human or any living creature for that matter than thermal imaging.

– John Eggert

John goes onto explain the safety benefits of thermal imaging and how this technology can be incorporated into automatic emergency braking systems to save lives. Today, thermal imaging is not included in AEB systems due to the cost.

Grayson makes the case that it is not about the cost, it is about saving lives and doing good by society. In March of 2020, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 76% of all 2018 pedestrian fatalities involving vehicles happened after dark.

This conversation evolves into a discussion around safety and how Volvo built a brand around safety. Expanding upon brands, Grayson and John discuss Zoox and their relationship with Amazon.

Grayson goes on the record to predict that Amazon will launch an Amazon Prime Mobility Tier in the future which will include unlimited Zoox rides.

Closing out the conversation, Grayson and John go onto discuss FLIR Systems and the many use cases for thermal imaging around the world.

Subscribe to The Road To Autonomy on Apple Podcasts

Recorded on Friday, December 18, 2020.

Disrupt Yourself or the Market Will

Chase Koch, President of Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), and Andrew Smith, CEO & Founder of Outrider join Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss automation, partnerships, and the power of the Koch network for principled disruptive entrepreneurs.

The conversation begins with Grayson sharing a high-level overview of Koch Industries and the company’s economic impact globally. Koch Industries is a private company that generates annual revenues of $115 billion according to Forbes and employs over 130,000 individuals in 70 countries around the world.

Following the introduction of Koch Industries, Chase explains the Koch Laboratory approach to entrepreneurship.

We can give entrepreneurs with a lot of upside a place to experiment, grow, and transform their technology and their business model to help them unlock their potential.

– Chase Koch

Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) vision is to be the preferred partner in accelerating value creation for principled disruptive entrepreneurs while helping to transform Koch Industries.

Koch Industries success comes in part from the company’s Market Based Management (MBM) philosophy which was developed by Mr. Charles Koch. This same philosophy is applied to Koch Disruptive Technologies and the Koch Laboratory.

It’s the whole Joseph Schumpeter model, disrupt yourself or the market will.

– Chase Koch

Koch incentives every employee to create value not just for their P&L, but for the entire organization. Expanding upon this conversation, Chase explains Koch’s Republic of Science approach and how it benefits founders who work with Koch Disruptive Technologies.

One of the companies that Koch Disruptive Technologies has invested in is Outrider. Andrew Smith, CEO & Founder shares his inspiration for why he founded Outrider and what the market opportunity is for Outrider.

One of the biggest market opportunities facing today’s business leaders is essentially to reinvent how we move things, power things, produce things to support higher and higher standards of living.

– Andrew Smith

While leading an expedition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to witness the caribou migration, Andrew came up with the idea for Outrider.

Outrider is the perfect example of how innovation allows us to avoid unnecessary tradeoffs.

– Andrew Smith

Grayson asks Andrew, why yard automation. Andrew explains that there are over 10 billion tons of cargo moving around the United States on a daily basis. A majority of the cargo is moving over trucks and yard trucks are being used to move the trailers around yards.

Automation has become more and more a key driver for our transformation vision across all of our businesses.

– Chase Koch

The partnership with Koch Industries gives Outrider a massive path to scaling operations. Andrew talks about his working relationship with Chase and how their organizations are working together.

Chase expands upon Andrew’s thoughts and shares his own thoughts on the power of relationships and partnerships. Additionally, they discuss their mutual commitment to the environment and sustainability.

The Koch Industries vision is applied to everything that Koch does:

We want to create products, services, and solutions that are better than customers’ alternative but do this responsibility while always consuming fewer resources.

– Chase Koch

Over the past five years, Koch Industries has invested over $30 billion in technology alone. This investment in technology is only going to continue to grow.

Using fewer resources and being a sustainable company is one of the key goals of Outrider. Sustainability is core to who Outrider is as a company.

Wherever your gift is, you have to lean into it. Where passion meets your gift, you have to lean into because that is how you are going to unlock your potential.

– Chase Koch

Prior to founding Outrider, Andrew founded ATDynamics and sold it to STEMCO in 2015. During his time running ATDynamics, Andrew learned a lot and he shares his knowledge and how this experience prepared him for Outrider.

To succeed in transportation logistics, it’s not just about fancy technology. It’s about reliability, simplicity and durability.

– Andrew Smith

Andrew discusses why having the right investors is key to succeeding. The team at Outrider works closely with their investors including Prologis to ensure that the company is creating value.

Prologis is working with Outrider to ensure that their warehouse yards are designed for yard automation. Increasing the efficiencies of the yard benefits both Prologis and their customers.

Closing out the conversation, Chase and Andrew share their thoughts on the future of automation and supply-chain management.

Subscribe to The Road To Autonomy on Apple Podcasts

Recorded on Friday, December 11, 2020.

What’s Next: Insight from an Angel Investor

Joshua Schachter, Angel Investor, and Founder of Self Racing Cars joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss what’s next and the current state of investing in the private markets.

The conversation begins with Joshua sharing his thoughts on new trends that he is starting to see emerge and his philosophy regarding investing. One of his key investment traits is the emotional deal in which he invests based on his gut and intuition.

Out of the two-hundred plus companies [that I have invested in] this has probably happened 6,7,8 times, but 5 of those have IPOed.

– Joshua Schachter

Investing in tech start-ups is based on patterns and that is what Joshua looks for when he is making an investment.

By the time people have identified trends, it’s a little lagging.

– Joshua Schachter

While fintech is hot now, it’s an area that Joshua is currently not investing in, despite his experience on Wall Street. Joshua spent a decade on Wall Street working for Morgan Stanley.

Before fintech became an identified trend, Joshua’s long-standing relationship with Jack Dorsey led to an early investment in Square. This conversation evolves into a discussion about reputation and it’s importance in investing.

I will absolutely take it on the chin to make sure that a founder is not screwed over.

– Joshua Schachter

With a great reputation, one can build life-long relationships. To learn a new industry, one must invest. This is one of the main reasons why Joshua created Self Racing Cars. He wanted to develop relationships in a sector where he did not have any connections.

Joshua goes onto explain what Self Racing Cars is and how his love of racing inspired the event. Grayson asks Joshua about how he is planning to maintain the homebrew club feel of the event as it scales and becomes more popular.

This conversation evolves into the current state of markets. With a red-hot IPO market and stocks of electric vehicle companies soaring, Grayson asks Joshua to share his thoughts on the current state of the private market.

It’s a much more slowly moving system. I think venture goes throw waves of contraction and relaxation.

– Joshua Schachter

As a seed-stage investor, Joshua looks for companies that have a market value of $10 – $12 million. Investing at this stage is risky and takes years to realize returns.

With the current global pandemic, Grayson asks Joshua what new opportunities might be bubbling up for investors in the private market. Additionally, why investors are following the herd mentality by investing large sums into loss-making electric vehicle startups.

Expanding upon his thoughts, Joshua explains the difference between enabling and enabled companies. An electric vehicle start-up (excluding Tesla) is an enabled company as the companies depend on battery technology to create and deliver their product.

There are still a lot of enabling technologies that have yet to be unlocked. In the future, new technologies will be invented which completely change the current state of the electric vehicle market.

New technologies (such as autonomous vehicles) will become mainstream one day. But before they get there, there will be a massive round of consolidation in the industry. Grayson and Joshua have a lively discussion around investments in autonomous vehicle companies and the current state of the market.

The shape of organizations will change as consolidation begins. Joshua explains the impact that this will have on the teams that are working on the technology. With Uber ATG being in the news (and eventually sold to Aurora), Grayson and Joshua discuss the program and why it was not in Uber’s best interest to start the program.

Looking at programs and acquisitions, Grayson shares his thoughts on Zoox and why Amazon made a brilliant purchase. With Amazon being the “Everything Store”, Grayson and Joshua discuss why the Amazon Prime Mobility tier might one day become a reality.

Looking at the competitive advantages that certain companies have as they look to enter the autonomous vehicle sector, Grayson discusses why the Apple Store will be one of Apple‘s competitive advantages. Joshua goes onto explain Voyage‘s competitive advantage with master-planned communities. The master-planned community strategy was one of the main reasons why Joshua invested in Voyage.

Closing out the conversation, Grayson and Joshua discuss the current state of the autonomous vehicle market and who will ultimately be the winners.

Subscribe to The Road To Autonomy on Apple Podcasts

Recorded on Friday, December 4, 2020.