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Episode Info

Episode Info:

EP010 - CEO at TransLoc, Doug Kaufman

http://www.vehicle2.getspiffy.com

Episode 10 is an interview with Doug Kaufman, CEO at TransLoc; recorded at the TransLoc office on Tuesday, May 7th, 2019. Doug and Scot discuss a variety of topics, including:

  • Doug’s journey from getting a PhD in Psychology to becoming the CEO of TransLoc.
  • How TransLoc went from being a pet project by NC State students to being acquired by Ford Smart Mobility in a 14 year period.
  • Exploring the micro- and macro-level impacts of connectivity in mass transportation.
  • Defining the staggered path towards an all-electric and autonomous industry, as well as the role that TransLoc plays as a part of Ford’s plan for the future of automotive.
  • How transformative 5G technology will be for automakers and software companies alike.

Be sure to follow Doug on LinkedIn and Twitter!

If you enjoyed this episode, please write us a review on iTunes!

The four pillars of Vehicle 2.0 are electrification, connectivity, autonomy, and changing ownership models. In the Vehicle 2.0 Podcast, we will look at the future of the auto industry through guest expert interviews, deep dives into specific topics, news coverage, and hot takes with instant analysis on what the latest breaking news means for today and in time to come.

This episode was produced and sound engineered by Jackson Balling, and hosted by Scot Wingo.

 

Transcript:

Scot:

[00:51] Welcome to the Vehicle 2.0 Podcast. This is episode 10 and it's being recorded Tuesday May 7th. Welcome back Vehicle 2.0 listeners! This week on the show. We are really excited to have Doug Kaufmann. Doug is the CEO of TransLoc, which is a subsidiary of Ford. Welcome to the podcast, Doug.

Doug:

[01:13] Thanks Scot. It's my pleasure to be here.

Scot:

[01:16] Doug, you and I have known each other, but listeners don't have that benefit. Let's start off by going over your career path. How did you end up as CEO of a division inside of Ford?

Doug:

[01:26] Sure. So if I go way back hitting the way back machine here, I actually went to graduate school to get a PhD in psychology. And while I was in graduate school, um, I started making websites for my students. This was before the recourse management systems. And yes, I'm actually that old, uh, and my students really started taking to it and I was getting burnt out with graduate school and I decided when I finished, instead of taking a faculty job, I was going to take what I had made for my students and turn it into a business. I thought this internet thing would be something. So I said, hey, let's make it a business and I can always come back to teaching later. Um, that was very young, naive thinking. Yeah. And so I, I did, uh, I was actually called alley dog.com. It still exists today.

Doug:

[02:11] It's a resource online resource for college level psychology students. And um, while I was doing that, I met folks that had just founded a company called blackboard, which became the dominant player in the learning space. And they said, hey, we're making this move from software to the web and this thing you built for psychology, we want to do the same thing. Um, but for every subject matter that's out there, can you provide content for every subject matter? And it was just me by the way. Yeah. And I said, well, how many subject matters are you covering? And he said, 253. And I said, no problem. Of course I had no ability to do this at all. Yeah. One thing led to another and they said, why don't you forget about that? Why don't you come and join blackboard and let's build this thing together. They were very much a startup at the time.

Doug:

[02:56] And so I did, I went to blackboard and that was a phenomenal experience. That was a rocket ship. Stayed there for a couple of years, right before the IPO I left because the entrepreneurial spirit was calling and I left to start another business. And that put me on a path to starting a series of companies, um, where I would s found them, lead them and exit sometimes good exit. And sometimes not so good exits. Um, when I left the last company I founded, which was called spring metrics, I told a few people that I was going to be leaving soon. And one of them said, hey, you should check out this company called TransLoc. They are small company, but they're doing really interesting things and you might work with them. And so I asked what they did and the person told me they build technology for mass transit. And I said, that really sounds awful.

Doug:

[03:48] I don't know that I could come up with something that was more boring than that and this person assured me just go talk to them. Um, and when I talked to one of the board members and the founder, I really started to see the power of what translate was already doing in the early days and how impactful transportation is to people's lives. This was eyeopening for me. Um, and so I thought, this is definitely something I can do for two years before I go start my next company. And, uh, that's how I ended up at TransLoc. And that was more than seven years ago.

Scot:

[04:17] Cool. And then, so seven years ago you joined TransLoc and then how, how old was the company when you joined?

Doug:

[04:23] Company was founded in 2004 and this was 2012 and I, I did not get hired as the CEO. Um, I got hired. The founder was still the CEO, although he was not operating day to day. So he hired me and one other person to co run the company together. And then two years later I became CEO.

Scot:

[04:44] Very cool. Awesome. Um, and then, uh, what was your Undergrad in? Was it more technical or also

Doug:

[04:51] no, my undergrad was, was also in psychology. It so psychology all the way through.

Scot:

[04:58] Yup. We'll uh, selling one of the core things of being a CEO is selling, right? You're, you're always selling employees or investors or whoever. Yeah. Um, so psychology is good for them.

Doug:

[05:08] Oh, not only is it good for that, but people ask me all the time, I don't understand how you go from being a phd in psychology to being an entrepreneur or a CEO. And I actually think there is no better degree for being a CEO because everything in the company is about people, even the technology comes down to the people, right? If you've got amazing people and they're putting the right situations and you nurture them properly, they're going to build the best technology and they're going to figure out how to sell it best and what have you. So my job really is like chief psychology officer much more than chief executive officer. Yeah. Yeah.

Scot:

[05:41] Very cool. Um, so, uh, let's talk about TransLoc. So my understanding is it started back in ‘04 by some NC state guys to kind of like solve this pretty big problem of we have these buses at NC State called the wolf line and uh, you know, so you know, a lot of times you'd go out there and wait for an hour or so for this bus to come. Wouldn't it be a more awesome if you had an APP for tracking, is that, does that kind of the right startup history story, right?

Doug:

[06:07] Yeah. It really was simply answer the question, where's my bus? Yeah. And at the time, there wasn't even apps, right? 2004, it was can I open a browser on my computer and see where the buses, and so Josh Whitten, who was the founder, um, went to the, went to the wolf line and said, why, why isn't there something like this? And they said, well that technology doesn't exist. And he said, well, that, that can't be because I play online games with people in real time across the world. And so he said, if I build it, will you buy it? And they said yes. So he enlisted the help of Dominic fish off another person at state and they built the first version of what we now call real time, which answers the question, where is my boss?

Scot:

[06:50] Cool. So then, um, so then that seemed to be popular and has expanded to a bunch of other universities and then yeah, then I think it went on into municipalities cause then, you know, it's a logical extension for the city buses to, to have this kind of technology.

Doug:

[07:04] Yeah, it was, it was actually fairly slow going in the beginning. Um, I mean, even when I came in, 2012 company had 38 customers and have customers being transit agencies, not writers. Right? So that's who we sell to. And you know, the way Josh told the stories to me about the early days as he would meet up with a transit agency representative, typically the decision maker, someone that runs the transit agency and even say, look, I have, I've built this technology, you can see it here on my computer. And it allows you to put your entire system online and show writers where the buses are in realtime. Isn't that amazing? And they said, oh my God, no, we don't want that. Why would we want that? Now people can see if we're running late, if the bus is going too fast, too slow, what have you. So there really was a process of educating the market of how valuable this would be for not only writers, but also for the transit agencies. And then it, then it really did take off. Yeah.

Scot:

[07:58] Cool. And then you came on board, um, and then you, um, you know, uh, maybe tell a story, but you saw a lot of value in, you know, a ramping that up would be a lot of value in the data. And then thinking about multimodal transportation and a lot of things like that. So we're, where did you take transload to up into the, the Ford acquisition?

Doug:

[08:16] Absolutely. So interestingly, Josh, when Josh was trying to sell me on joining the company, his pitch really was about sustainability. That if we make transit work really well, people will get out of their cars, get on a transit, and then we'll have, uh, you know, less greenhouse gas, less carbon emission. And that was great, except for me, what resonated more was understanding just how many people were dependent on transit and how bad the service was. Not because transit wasn't trying really hard, but it can only do so much. And so I learned about how many people have literally six hours a days on a bus, right? Three hours each way to potentially a minimum wage job. That would be 30 minutes if they could afford a car. Um, and that resonated with me and I said, yeah, I want to be part of doing something about that.

Doug:

[09:04] And so when I came to the company, um, real time was our only product, the one that answered the question, where's my bus? And then the data started becoming obviously important. And so we went to transit agencies and we said, what if we could actually show you where the riders are, where they start their journey, where they get on transit, what route they take, where they get off transit, and where they end up. And I sort of had a similar experience with Josh where they were like, that's ridiculous. Get out of here kind of an answer. Um, and, and the technology doesn't exist so you can't do it. It was, I forget the technology, we can make it happen. Um, would that be valuable? And they, they, they saw the value in that. So we actually went on a path to creating a product to answer the question for the agencies, where my riders and how well are we serving them.

Doug:

[09:48] And from there we actually created a service, um, to turn transit vehicles into on demand vehicles. Now similar to Uber and Lyft, and we started in the university space because they have safe ride. Many universities have safe ride where the technology was, hey, I'm a student on campus at two in the morning and I need to get back to my dorm. So I pick up the phone and I call and I speak with someone and they come and they send a van to come and pick me up. So what if we could just turn that into push a button and the transit agency vehicle comes and gets them. And so we created that these were actually steps to what we call seamless mobility, which, um, you know, our vision of this is that all of these modes of transportation should be completely interconnected and work seamlessly together to create one mobility network everywhere.

Doug:

[10:37] So that's a fixed route. Buses on demand vehicles, Uber, Lyft, carshare, bikeshare scooters, you name it. These things should just be one connected mobility network. And so we actually, um, in partnership with Uber in 2015 created a prototype at this. Um, this was while we were raising our series a and we showed that we could have walking directions, buses, trains and Uber all work seamlessly together. So as a rider, you can imagine going forward, if you never have to worry about having a car, you can just say, hey, this is where I need to go in the system, learns your preferences, knows what you like, um, is able to say, well, the best way for you to get there is to walk across the street, get on the bus, go to this stop and then take a lift the last three miles. Do you want that? You could just say yes and everything magically happens in the back, right? The ticketing, the payments to tracking, even the hailing of the vehicle happens without you doing anything. Since we track both. Um, so that when your bus arrives, your Lyft arrives and you go from one to the other and off you go. And if we can make it that magical, um, I think we can get a lot of people out of their cars and using transit as sort of the backbone of this seamless mobility network.

Scot:

[11:55] Cool. So then you guys raised a series a in 2015 and then the fort acquisition was, it was the late 17, early 18 a week

Doug:

[12:03] closed our round. Are Our series a in uh, may, I think it was may, it might have been march, I think it was may of 2017, 17 and then we were acquired by Ford, uh, in January of 2018.

Scot:

[12:18] Wow. I bet your, uh, your investors were policemen out. Yes. They always like fast turnarounds. They do have a 10 year timeframe, but they'll take a six months into it. Yeah. And actually,

Doug:

[12:28] sorry, I misspoke. We closed our round in May of 2016. Okay. So it was a, it was under two years, about 18 months from close to being acquired.

Scot:

[12:37] Awesome. Uh, and then I know, you know, um, you're now part of a larger company and very limited in what you can say, but um, you know, so, so for, it obviously gives you a much bigger platform, tore up, roll out of this vision. Um, have you felt a lot of momentum from that? And, and you know, it seems like they're very serious about mobility as well. Oh, there they're definitely serious about it.

Doug:

[12:56] Um, I actually was lucky enough to have conversations with folks like some of the Ford folks actually like Ford family folks. Um, and they right away told me, you know, the days of selling cars to individuals like us is coming to an end. They see it. Yeah, we know the world is becoming a mobility world, but we don't know what that looks like, so why don't we figure, not only figure it out, but why don't we become the leader in mobility going forward? Um, so they're, they're definitely serious about it. What it looks like is the big question. Um, and I often get asked if money was no object would we have still sold to Ford. And for me the answer is yes. And the reason is that our, our ambitions are so big. I mean, if we do what we say we're doing, we have completely transformed transportation forever. That's a pretty big goal for a, you know, 60 person, privately owned company. Yeah. So getting acquired by Ford and becoming part of Ford, which is a iconic global brand, um, really gives us a much better chance of achieving our mission and really changing the world.

Scot:

[14:03] Brickell and post acquisition. It seems like things are going well. You know, it's probably still pretty early, but you could imagine, you know, having your technology and every Ford vehicle, um, we just announced, uh, if he, uh, you know, that we're partnered with Ford on their connected car initiative. So, so although OEMs are really kind of connecting their cars and that kind of thing. Yeah. Um, is that, that part of what got you excited is having access to all that? Oh, absolutely. I mean,

Doug:

[14:29] if you, if you look across the Ford landscape, it's everything from us working with public transit agencies and cities to people working on connected cars to autonomous vehicles are self driving vehicles. Um, so it's, it's really exciting to, to have access to all of that. Um, it's also exciting to, to understand to be a part of 115 year old company redoing itself from the inside out and having a front row seat to that is, is really amazing. Um, and they have you asked earlier about how things have gone since the acquisition. They really have gone, I would say about as well as you can expect when a giant company acquires a, a tiny little company. Um, they've been very supportive of us. They've given us a lot of latitude. They recognize we're going to make a ton of mistakes and we're going to run a lot of experiments and we're going to fail. And that's kind of antithetical to what they may be used to, but they recognize they have to have a different point of view now. So, so that's been great. Yeah.

Scot:

[15:26] I come from, as you know, I come from the eCommerce retail world and it's always interesting to watch this role. Is that very similar to that one and that you had a group of companies that kind of said change is coming, we need to kind of lead it. Then you had a group of companies that kind of put their head in the sand and those companies are like blockbuster and borders and circuit city and you know, kind of going on sales calls across them. You can tell pretty quickly which ones we're going to make it and which ones weren't. And so you know, the early signals of, you know, hey, we realize we've got to get in front of this. Let's go get some innovative blood inside of the company. Sounds seems like Ford's doing all the right things to, to really be aligned with the changes coming.

Doug:

[16:02] Yeah, I think, I think they're doing a lot of the right things. Um, it's going to, we're going to have to see how things go. Right? I mean, this is a long term initiative. And one of the things I always ask is, do companies like Ford that are this big, that make this much money? Do they have the patients to create something from scratch? Right? Because they think in billions, right? I've asked him if we made $100 million tomorrow, would that move the needle for you? And they're like, of course not. Yeah. Right. So are you going to get frustrated that it's going to take us many years before we are $1 billion con contributor? Um, and that we're going to, we're just going to have to see, um, yeah. So that part is scary. Thinking in billions is, is a, is a scary proposition. Yeah.

Scot:

[16:50] Cool. Well, um, appreciate the background there. So, you know, I think the punchline is, um, you've been at this seven years in the mobility space, uh, and you have insights into what Ford's doing a, we won't go into morning any more detail on that. But, um, here on the Vehicle 2.0 Podcast, as our name implies, we have this framework where we look at where vehicles are going. Yeah. We look at, for kind of what I call compounding waves of innovation, we have new ownership models, conductivity, electric, electrification and autonomy. Um, let's start with con activity because you guys were really at the forefront of that, bringing, you know, connecting some of these buses and other things there. Um, so where do you think we are today and where do you think that that goes? I know you and I've talked a lot about, you know, kind of what they call con activity to infrastructure.

Scot:

[17:35] So, so how do you, you know, so, so you guys started tracking buses so the writers would have a better experience and now you can kind of track riders and now the buses can get smarter at some point. Do we like have the infrastructure talking to the cities so the cities get smarter and they can kind of say, wow, you know, a lot of people are going from point a to point B, maybe we should have a road here, or maybe we should do, you know, whatever. Yeah. Um, talk a little bit about what, what you've seen over the arc of your career there.

Doug:

[18:01] Yeah, absolutely. Um, and let me, let me add one other thing that we're doing that I think gets to this and then I'll circle back. One of the things that we built is this product called architect. And the point of architect is to help transit agencies create and manage what's called gcfs feeds, right? Um, so this is a feed specification that was created by Google and try man, which is a public transit agency, uh, to try and standardize all of the data for public transit, right? So if you actually want to have your transit agency on Google maps, bing maps, apple maps, et Cetera, you have to convert all of your routes, stops, latitude, longitude, all, all of these things into this feed specification. Then loaded up to Google and this can be a massive project and the tools out there are really awful for it.

Doug:

[18:53] So we created what we think is the most elegant, easy to use tool and we, we give it away to every transit agency that wants it for free. Nice. Now, what's, what's key about this and gets to the connectivity and infrastructure is if we feel like if we become the central repository for all transit data, we can unlock so much power, not only for the transit agencies who can now really do a lot of predictive work and staging and see what's going on. But also, this is the only way you can start giving riders at real time, vehicle location data everywhere, right? So if you go to Google maps right now, there are only a handful of agencies in the world that have provided what's called GTFS realtime to show realtime location on Google maps. All the rest are scheduled. So what we're doing is unlocking that power so that we can give real time locations to transit agencies are to writers everywhere in the world at no cost.

Scot:

[19:50] Yeah. I was recently in New York and it was really handy because I think they must be the one, one of the ones, because it would say, you know, all right, you need to go to the a train on the northbound thing and uh, and then it would say, and it looks like the train's coming in 10 minutes. So yeah. I would say my family, let's, let's go, let's get going here. We've got a train coming in 10 minutes. That's right. You know, and it looked like it was, and then it would start counting down and that gives a real time. That's right. Kind of view of what was going on.

Doug:

[20:11] Absolutely. And you can, I mean, it'll be easy for you to imagine the future where we have the seamless mobility network that it will adjust. So it's going to know you're going to miss your transfer, let's adjust so that we get you to, your destination is still on time, but you're going to have to take a different route. Just like when your gps in your car. Reroutes yeah. Right. Um, okay. So, yeah, going back to the very beginning, uh, the way Josh and Dominic connected the buses was with a Nextel phone that they, Jerry rigged and put in the glove compartment or in this case it was a bulkhead of a bus. And that's what was sending the signals back to the TransLoc system to try and then present on, on a web browser. And then we moved to a Linux box that was, you know, this big that had to be installed and serviced all the time.

Doug:

[20:59] And I'm now, you know, we work with these really pretty incredible, very small about the size of your cell phone if you have like an iPhone, but, but thicker, maybe an inch thick, and they have everything from Wifi to one second updates, geo location, GPS location, cellular connectivity. They can even start tracking all the things that are going on on the vehicle. Um, like how many bikes are in the bike rack, right? How many times has the door open, how many people have walked on and off. All of these things are now possible, um, pulling data off the vehicle itself. Um, and for Ford, you know, certainly as part afford, you know, getting every vehicle connected is key to the vision that we have going forward and for it is absolutely working on that. Um, that, I mean, that's a, that's a big initiative for Ford.

Scot:

[21:51] Cool. Now our cities, so if you're in a transit, let's use New York as an example. Yeah. It's the city able to Kinda like see that data and then like does it, does it get out of the transportation authority and now the city, you can make smart decisions around, Oh gee, you know, if they had a budget for a new train, they could kind of look at, you know, the, there's people that are going way out of their their way and if they build a train a certain line or something like that. Or are you starting to see the awareness of pop up to the city level or is it still kind of just at the transit authority?

Doug:

[22:20] Yeah, no, it's, it's a mix, right? It depends on the city. And I think every day the city is getting more and more interested to this, uh, interested in us. So we actually think that in the future, cities are going to have departments of mobility, whether that replaces department of transportation as a sub set of it, who knows, but we actually think that's going to exist because cities recognize that, how people move around and what's involved in moving people around is central to how the city runs, period. Right? But this is everything from curb space to parking to land use to transit, to roads. The city wants to have that holistic view and the data associated with all of it. So we target transit agencies to sell, but we work with cities as well to try and take that next step, uh, to really broaden the impact that we have.

Scot:

[23:08] Cool. So another trend, we talk a lot about, um, the kind of, yeah, again, I'd call it an intersecting waves cause they, you can't really talk about them in isolation because they kind of overlap. Um, this one's changing ownership model. So you kind of talked about, you know, Ford already realizes that not everyone's going to win a car and, and whatnot. Um, and here on the show we've had a number of guests that have kind of surfaced a lot of really cool models. You have like the traditional ownership model leasing. Um, you know, uh, you know, these kind of micro rentals are coming out, you have car sharing, ride sharing subscriptions, um, and, and it need an infinite number of these kinds of things. So, you know, do you agree kind of individual car ownership will diminish over time and then it will be, have kind of more different models that people use where they're kind of, you know, based on their use case though they'll have access to a vehicle was just kind of what you see things going.

Doug:

[23:56] Yeah. Um, absolutely. Um, which in some ways I, I'm, I'm conflicted about this. Um, I mean we're playing a very small part in making that happen and car ownership and car human driving go away, which is great because we as humans are the reasons all these accidents happen. Yeah. Um, so if you can get the human out that's really great for saving lives, but at the same time I'm like, God, I love driving. Um, so I'm a little conflicted by it, but it's the right thing to do. Yeah. And yeah, I mean it's not, I don't know that it's worth arguing over is this going to happen in 10 years, 40 years, 80, whatever it's going to happen. I feel very, very strongly that that world is happening. So, um, you know, I've said to my daughter who is 14 years old, it's likely that your kids will never drive. They won't even have the option of getting a driver's license. Um, so I think it's going to be happening soon. I guess the question is, will they, uh, well it all just be car sharing, car subscriptions, car ownership. Um, I actually, if I had to place a bet, I don't think individuals will own cars. Yeah. In the near future.

Scot:

[25:02] Yeah. Do you think there'll be, it's interesting to kind of think, so, you know, the use case today is Google maps because that's kind of got our, you know, that's the APP that owns in our heart, you know, how do I get from point a to point B? But then you could see some of the, you know, uh, everyone's trying to take a run at this, right. So, so Uber and lift very much want it to be them when they're kind of like, you know, they're trying to go from car sharing or ride sharing to more of a multimodal transportation. They now want to Kinda like, you know, get you an Uber from point a to point B and then a, a bike or a, you know, so, um, and then, you know, it seems like they could also ingest a lot of this public data.

Scot:

[25:36] I don't know if they are or not, but you know, I bet it's on their roadmap. Yup. Um, and then, you know, um, I don't know if you guys see yourself as just infrastructure and all that, or maybe Ford wants to be on that APP. Maybe you Toyota wants to be that out. So, yeah. And then we also see, you know, the rental car guys, they kind of say, well, wait a minute, we have a role in this future as well. Um, you have any guesses of Kinda like what's going to win in that space? Yeah, yeah. So, so

Doug:

[26:01] we definitely believe that data is the key to this. And so, um, what we're doing now is we have that architect product, which allows agencies to create all these ttfs feeds and we have an API on the other end that other services can connect to and pull that data into their service. So whether it's the transit app or move it, um, that we have a partnership with, they can just connect with us. I mean, right now they're going in there making deals, one transit agency at a time. They're seeing how difficult that is. So we're saying don't ever do that. Will we have all the relationships and we're gonna keep building them. Here's an API, just connect and you get all the data you need to put in your writer facing app. So definitely see it going down that path. I think that's, it's the less sexy part, but it's probably the most powerful to me, it's the most powerful part and it's probably where the biggest opportunity is. Yeah, yeah.

Scot:

[26:56] Yeah. And then, um, as we talk about some other topics, you know, data does become the key linchpin of all this stuff because you can't really solve any problems with basic data and then you can't improve user experience unless you kind of can start to look at the paths. And that's fine as long as though

Doug:

[27:10] that's right. I mean, you know, Uber or Lyft, if it's true that they want to work with transit and that is very questionable right now. I mean, Uber's filing, they made it pretty clear that they are directly competing with transit agencies. Um, so I personally think they all have to work together for this to work. So let's say transit agencies exist in the future for some time. Um, Uber's going to want to connect with those fixed routes, even the on demand, a transit agency vehicles. And so having that data and playing nicely, it's going to be critical for some time. Yeah. Yeah.

Scot:

[27:44] Cool. Um, uh, the third, third leg of the stool there is a electric vehicles. So they've been around the corner for years. Uh, we're starting to see China, you know, I think is it about 7% of their sales are now evs. They're building out their group in a government sponsored way. Some of the Nordics, the evs are starting to out. So a internal combustion engines. You and I both live in electric car lifestyle. Where do you see EBS going?

Doug:

[28:07] I think everything's going to be electric. Everything. I mean if you were doing a bunch of CEO to work right now, just trying to understand what effect is our, you know, our fixed route vehicles having, what effect are on demand vehicles having and what size vehicle is the right size, right? Should we have a 40 passenger vehicle or an eight passenger vehicle? And if we can optimize the routing and the sharing of the seeds in that eight passenger vehicle, does that bring the carbon emission downs? You know, you get all this and then once you can layer in electrification, oh my gosh, you can, you can reduce greenhouse gases so much. Um, I mean we both also know it's, it's a lot more enjoyable of a ride. Um, so I, I don't, I mean, unless there's some new technology that's going to overtake it, um, I don't know that that's on the horizon. I think. I think all vehicles are going to be electric, including transit vehicles. Um, and that's not Ford transit vehicles, which I assume will be electric at some point. But transit agency vehicles will also be electric one day. Yeah. All of them. Got It.

Scot:

[29:10] Yeah. Do you think will have the charging infrastructure for that?

Doug:

[29:14] The charging is going to be really interesting. Um, so they're, they're different companies now that are, that are experimenting with charging that comes from the top, right. So a bus pulls into a stop and a charger comes down on top of the vehicle and charges very quickly. So it's like little bursts of charging and they do that at every stop or every other stop. So the vehicles never run down to zero and then you'd have to go and sit overnight. They're, they're constantly getting quick, uh, quick charges on the ground as well as another way. Um, so I think there's, there are some pretty interesting things happening in just how we go about charging the vehicle. Um, battery swapping is another thing that I know has been tried in some other countries. I think Israel actually had a company that was, you would literally drive up and they had a service that would take your battery out and drop another one in really quickly and off you would go, which is pretty amazing.

Scot:

[30:08] Yeah. Tesla tried that for awhile and a users wouldn't use it because they were kind of worried they would get a, yeah. A battery that wasn't as good as the one they had. Yeah. Yeah. I get it. You know, I've got a 5,000 miles on my battery. Just left it, level it at a 200,000 miles, like at the end of his fine for someone.

Doug:

[30:22] Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So, um, yeah, so electric, everything in the future. There you go. There's my prediction. I don't think

Scot:

[30:29] prediction, everything's electric. Yeah. Um, and then the last trend we talk about is autonomy. You've hit on there. Um, you know, Tesla is kind of flirting with level three right now. Yeah. I don't know if you saw Tesla's Tesla is a day. Um, it was two weeks ago on a Monday. Yeah. But that was really interesting because, you know, in typical elan fashion, he kind of, you know, uh, like drew a couple lines in the sand and one of them was, he talked about cameras versus Lidar, uh, and how he believes cameras and image processing is superior to lidar because you'll be able to get the cost down. And then they introduced a new chipset that kind of blew everyone's mind. Yeah. And then the last one was, he talked about, you know, ultimately with a approval from, from, you know, local bodies. They all eventually have robo taxis where you can kind of like rent a title or for 18 cents a mile.

Scot:

[31:16] Yeah. Cause you've got the combination of an electric vehicle. So allow low maintenance and then, you know, uh, a Tesla owner while they're at work, kind of check their car into the fleet and it would go shuffle people around. And I'll come pick you up at five when you're ready to go. Um, so, uh, where do you see a bee is going, uh, do you believe in Elan's vision into the future or are you kinda like, think more of like the way Mobar guys are doing? Or maybe you have some other view that, that, uh, where it's gone

Doug:

[31:42] well, I'm certainly hopeful the Ford fee was going to, it's going to do well. Um, yeah. You know, there's some things about the, about Alan's vision that I think are amazing and I, I am bullish on. And then there's other parts that to me don't make any sense. Um, of course I'm not as big a thinker as a lawn, but, um, so I'll give you an example. So if I spend $100,000 on a vehicle, I do not want my vehicle driving around and picking up random. People know if they limit that, there's ways I can control it, fine. But that may reduce the viability of the model. Um, but you know, I'm very particular about, uh, let's say smells in my car. So what if someone is a smoker? They just finished a cigarette and they get in my hundred thousand dollars vehicle and then I get in my car when it comes to pick me up after work and it smells like cigarettes, I'm going to freak out and never use that again. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So I think there are some problems and I don't think I'm alone in that. And I talked to a lot of people and that seems to be shared. Yeah. Um, but I do think when car ownership starts to diminish and you just aren't subscribing to vehicles, um, then I think that Robo taxi model, um, that's a different story. Uh, I think we're, another place we don't necessarily line up is I don't see any way that it's happening. As soon as alon is saying it's going to happen.

Scot:

[32:59] Yeah. He kind of, yeah. Controversially said next year that they could have 200,000 Robo taxis on the road if, if it was approved, we'll see

Doug:

[33:06] Okay. So here's the key: if approved. Yeah. So I think the technology is going to be way ahead of where the government will allow things to be. Right. So, I don't know how other people are thinking about this, but to me I think what'll happen is there will be test areas where autonomous vehicles will be allowed to go and then potentially they'll start saying, um, if you don't have an autonomous vehicle, you can't go into that area because as you know, these cars need to all be connected to each other with no human intervention to really reach optimal performance. Yeah. Um, all it takes is one idiotic human to do something irrational that the others can't adjust to. Right. So, um, I think just like you're seeing in London where they have these zones of efficiency where if you don't have a hybrid or an electric or what have you, you can't drive in there and you get a ticket if he tried to. So I would imagine something similar with autonomous and then it just starts expanding further and further out until you have giant regions where no humans are allowed to drive. Yeah.

Scot:

[34:07] Do you think a, an early use case would be long haul? So like, you know, parts of I-40 where you just going for, for miles and miles without, yeah. You know, maybe some of those lanes are designated autonomous or something like that.

Doug:

[34:18] Yeah. I certainly think that would be, um, a reasonable experiment around run like as, as a first step, um, far less complicated than trying to be and you know, city center. Yeah. With people walking all around. Um, so I, yeah, I could see that happening before, you know, commuter cars are, are really, um, that the Robo taxis are really picking us up. Okay.

Scot:

[34:39] Yeah. Cool. What, uh, who has Ford partnered with? Are they part of the, so GM has like chariot, right? Um, no, not sure yet. Uh, so GM has an effort. You have Uber and Lyft.

Doug:

[34:50] So Ford has Argo Ai. Okay. Yup. Well, I wasn't aware of them. Okay. Yup. Yeah. And they're doing some, some amazing things. Nice. Yeah. Cool. Cool.

Scot:

[34:58] We need to bring him to the triangle here. We do. I keep telling all the, I don't deal with government very much, but whenever I do, I tell him, you know, we should be an autonomous vehicle zone and waiting to get in front of that, you would have my support. I'm counting on you to figure that. Right. I'm there. Let's do it. Yep. So speaking of governments, you, you, you know, because of what you guys do, you have a lot more touch points there. Where do you think that those guys are going to go when it comes to some of these topics? Are the going to be pretty aligned with them or does it scare them? Uh, like the Lyft guys, one of the, when you watched their road show, uh, in the lift founders talk about the reason they started Lyft was, if you think about it as cities are designed all wacky, you know, we use a lot of this space for parking and roads and yeah, it can be much more green areas and bike areas and that kind of thing. Uh, you think cities are, are kind of bought into a lot of this changing mobility?

Doug:

[35:46] Yeah, I think it depends where in the hierarchy the politician is. So, um, I think they're all risk averse. Even the ones that are really forward thinking and want to take, um, you know, want to be innovative, they're still scared about someone dying. Right? I mean, I mean, you know, this one person dies and everyone says, all right, we've got to stop. We've got to pull back on this. Even though, you know, one person dies and autonomous vehicle and that same day, you know, a thousand people died in human driven cars. Okay. Yep. So, um, I, I think you get risk aversion. The more risk, the higher up in the chain, you are the more risk averse. I believe you are to this. So you may have people that are at the city level that are saying, this is, we want to be innovative in our city.

Doug:

[36:31] We want to be one of the leaders. And then you get into the federal government and they want to say, Whoa, Whoa, whoa. We need to figure this out for the entire country. Or the way we can deal with this is we're just gonna leave it up to the cities to deal with it. So it's never on me. Right. So I think there are aligned with the long term, I don't think they're aligned with the shorter term and they're just starting to understand all the layers that are, that are involved every, again from parking to like building parking decks. Right. I mean, these things are enormously expensive. They take up a tremendous amount of space. Nobody in the city wants them, but they have to have them. So if you can start testing with areas where you can say, well, we don't have to build these five parking decks so we can save $100 million and these vehicles are more energy efficient, et Cetera, et Cetera, et Cetera, then you might start getting a little traction there. Um, but yeah. Cool. It's going to be like towns, townships, cities, states, federal. Yeah.

Scot:

[37:30] Do you guys actively get involved in advocacy around the stuff? Because it seems like, you know, you're giving away the, you're the, the architect seems like you're, you're touching a lot of the right parts there. Yes. Or, or, or you leave the advocacy up to someone else.

Doug:

[37:45] So we actually have, uh, folks in house that do some advocacy, advocacy work. But Ford's really, I mean, I have a whole, yes, this is, this is another benefit of me being part of them. You can go all over there

Scot:

[37:56] advocacy group and say, Hey, I need you to get me in front of this person, or

Doug:

[38:01] absolutely, let's talk about x, y, and Z. Yeah. And one of the cool things about four it is, it's not just about smart vehicles, it's also smart cities and a smart world. That's, that's really the vision going forward is how do we, how do we make, take the streets back, right? So Jim Hackett did a ces keynote where he talked about getting, uh, our city streets back and getting our cities back and making them more livable and not just designed around cars. Um, and so there's definitely a big initiative inside Ford to make sure that we are talking to cities and we're helping them. The future, one example is there's a city challenge inside a fort, so it's a group that actually works with cities on becoming more innovative and running innovation experiments and they get, they can win prizes from it and grants and things like that. So it's really, um, it's kind of a grassroots effort. Yeah. Yeah.

Scot:

[38:53] I don't go to Detroit much, but you go to Detroit a lot now. I'll be there next weekend, the following week. Um, it seems like, is that a city that's kind of like on the edge of this because they have so many of the automakers there and they're there, the motor city and all that, that kind of thing. Or ironically, I would say, you know, another set of issues because they've got kind of this urban blight thing going on on, on one edge too.

Doug:

[39:13] They definitely have that. But you know, it's really interesting if, if you go up there, what you won't see is massive traffic. They don't have heavy congestion. And so for them it's very easy to be in your, your Ford f one 50 or your Lincoln navigator rolling down the road at 70 at four 30 in the afternoon saying, I don't know what everyone's talking about the cities. Right? So if you're not experiencing it yourself, it's harder to really say, we should put money behind this. We should go lobby the politicians to make sure we're doing this. Plus that's their whole history, right? Building the cars, is there history. So I would imagine if I worked on the factory line and I kept hearing about people no longer buying cars and I didn't really understand what that meant, it would just be terrifying to me. So I think you have a mix of these things going on that don't lend themselves to making Detroit, maybe the leader in innovation when it comes to mobility. Although they do for automobiles. Yup. Yup.

Scot:

[40:18] We start a program where we send them to La and put them on the 4:05 PM and then let him let him enjoy that for a couple of their way to too nice in Dearborn and Detroit to force that upon them. That would, that would just be cool just as an experiment so he could see what real traffic. Oh my gosh. Um, so some 30,000 foot questions. You've been in the mobility space for a long time. Yep. One of the, a lot of articles I read, they talk about the dealer network as sometimes you can kind of view it as an asset and sometimes a liability. Yeah. It kind of reminds me of the commerce world where we're stores for a long time we're essentially became a liability and now they can kind of like shift from the stores and they've kind of swung back over to an asset. Yeah. Um, where do you see that dealer network? Just kind of generally, um, you know, adding value down the road if we do have these changing models. Yeah.

Doug:

[41:07] Um, so definitely out of my wheelhouse. I don't have a lot of experience or knowledge about dealerships. I would imagine there are, there are places for the dealerships in a mobility future. Um, maybe not so much selling cars to individuals because I think that's going away. But all of these vehicles that are going to drive 24, seven, which is one of the benefits of all Thomas Vehicles, they never need to rest and they just need to be charged and maintain is where are they going to be charged and maintained? Where are they going to be staged? Right? So if you know patterns that as well as we hope they will in the future with our products and others you're going to want to do staging and you're going to want to be very smart about how you deploy these vehicles. And so I could see dealerships in the future morphing into something more along the lines of maintenance, staging, um, potentially charging service education to the public, these sorts of things.

Scot:

[42:02] Cool. Um, so, uh, any last thoughts on where we're going to be in kind of five, 10 years?

Doug:

[42:09] Yeah. So, um, as you know, and now your listeners know, because we talked about being a blackboard, um, early on that that space went through a very similar change. So when I joined blackboard, schools were saying this internet thing is not really a real thing, so why do we need to buy this? Right? So they had to go through that education process and then it became, well, if we don't have this for every student, they're going to go to another college and transportation has going through the same thing, but it's actually happening much, much faster. So, um, I do think we are going to start seeing experiments on the roads with autonomous vehicles, transit agency, electrification, um, bringing these modes together. So you're going to have much more seamless mobility probably in let's say two to three years on that front. On the seamless mobility side. It's going to be much easier for you as a rider to go to a city and just use your phone and it'll just magically take you wherever you need to go. Right. So I do see that coming in the next couple of years.

Scot:

[43:12] Do you think? Um, so the, the next big thing in smartphones is going to be 5G does that, it sounds like you've already got the con activity you need to do most of what you want. Um, you know, maybe some of these maps are large enough that 5G is necessary. Do you see 5G changing that at all or just another kind of supporting part of this is kind of seamless mobility?

Doug:

[43:33] Yeah, I I think, um, I don't know how transformative 5G will, it seems like is going to be transformative to everything. So I'm probably an idiot by not saying of course it's going to transform transportation. But I do think if you think about trying to connect all the vehicles until they are all built, you know from the OEMs are with connectivity in them. You may think, you know, it's expensive or inexpensive to get these devices and actually install them on transit vehicles and wire them up. It's time consuming, resource intensive if nothing else. So if we really can get to a point sort of back where TransLoc started, where you can take an inexpensive phone that's running on 5G and use that to connect vehicles around you until everything is built in connectivity that actually might accelerate us getting to a more connected world. Yep.

Scot:

[44:17] Very cool. Awesome. We'll run up against time and really appreciate you taking the, I know you're super busy. My pleasure. Um, and then so one last question. If folks want to follow you, find you tweet you, um, what's the, what's the best location them to learn more about what you're thinking about?

Doug:

[44:32] Yeah, I'm going to be really old school and say email is probably the best way. Um, so my, my email address is just doug@transloc.com. And TransLoc is T R A N S L O C.com.

Scot:

[44:49] Cool. Uh, and I know you are on Linkedin and Twitter, but you're not super active publishing stuff out, but

Doug:

[44:53] I'm not, but I am on linkedin every day. So linkedin is also another really good way if you want to connect with me.

Scot:

[44:59] Got It. And your Dr. Doug Kaufman on there, which is

Doug:

[45:02] Yeah. I don't tell too many people know that people don't. People don't actually believe that I am, but I, I really do have a degree to prove it.

Scot:

[45:07] Yeah. Dr. Doug. I like that. Cool. We really appreciate you coming on the podcast and taking time and sharing your vision of mobility.

Doug:

[45:14] No, I appreciate you asking me. It's, it's a really great to do it.

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