James Kotecki (00:08): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you one of my favorite C Space studio interviews from CES 2024. I had a lot of great conversations in Las Vegas, and I know you're going to like this one, so enjoy. 

James Kotecki (00:24): 

You're in the C Space studio with me, James Kotecki. We're here at CES 2024 and we are not alone. We're joined by Andrew Poliak, CTO, Panasonic Automotive Systems of America. Thank you for joining. 

Andrew Poliak (00:36): 

Thank you for having me. 

James Kotecki (00:37): 

So Panasonic Automotive Systems, what does the brand mean here in 2024? Can you give us some context? 

Andrew Poliak (00:44): 

Well, we're over 50 years contiguous exhibitor here at CES, so it's a great place for us to be. We have a long storied history here, and it's exciting to be here. 

James Kotecki (00:54): 

Over 50 years? 

Andrew Poliak (00:55): 

Over 50 years. 

James Kotecki (00:55): 

So I know that this is the 100th anniversary of what is now known as the Consumer Technology Association. 

Andrew Poliak (01:01): 


James Kotecki (01:01): 

But I think CES itself is probably about 50 years old. 

Andrew Poliak (01:04): 

We were one of the first. 

James Kotecki (01:04): 

So you're the OGs. 

Andrew Poliak (01:04): 


James Kotecki (01:06): 

One of the OGs, for sure. 

Andrew Poliak (01:07): 


James Kotecki (01:08): 

So tell me about Panasonic's role in the automotive industry specifically and kind of where you sit. 

Andrew Poliak (01:13): 


James Kotecki (01:13): 

The scope of where people might be experiencing things that you produce. 

Andrew Poliak (01:18): 

If you've looked at a screen, looked at a head-up display, listened to audio, looked at a camera, likely you've interacted with our technology. 

James Kotecki (01:26): 


Andrew Poliak (01:26): 

So we're in all the major OEMs globally, and we've been in everything from navigation, rear seat entertainment, augmented reality, HUDs, all kinds of things. 

James Kotecki (01:36): 

Yeah. And you're the CTO. Are there certain kind of major technical challenges with making things that go in cars that people might not think about? 

Andrew Poliak (01:47): 

Oh, yeah. 

James Kotecki (01:47): 

That you have to think about every day? 

Andrew Poliak (01:49): 

Yeah. Everyone wants that consumer experience in their car. But if you think about the challenge you have to deal with is chips that would be available in your latest smartphone today, they'll spin an automotive version of them maybe at the same time as they deal with their newest electronics. But it takes years for that product to get into the field. They have to do special automotive quality for RAM and memory and everything, that those technologies take a long time. So you really have to still make something that performs for three years ahead or five years ahead or 11 years ahead, and that's a challenge. 

James Kotecki (02:24): 

That is a challenge. And are you dealing with things that people might perceive of as just kind of entertainment? Or are you also integrated into safety features, features that are essential to the operation of the automobile? 

Andrew Poliak (02:36): 

Absolutely. There's an up-integration happening in vehicles that create a whole brain, and that brain encompasses safety critical components like autonomous drive or ADAS systems as well as your entertainment experience. And if you think about getting a little technical geeky for a second. 

James Kotecki (02:52): 

Sure. Yeah. 

Andrew Poliak (02:53): 

If you think about the fact that when you have a camera system that's helping to drive or a sensor system, a lot of times they want to use those same cameras for maybe viewing around the car remotely from your phone. And that usually passes through that entertainment system. 

James Kotecki (03:09): 


Andrew Poliak (03:09): 

So there's such latency. If you have them in different boxes, it's very difficult to reuse some of those cameras and sensors for other experiences like augmented reality HUD. 

James Kotecki (03:18): 


Andrew Poliak (03:18): 

So by up-integrating them into one box, you can really create that low latency experience. 

James Kotecki (03:23): 

Yeah. And it's such a challenge because it all has to work perfectly. If I notice it's working, there's something wrong. Right? 

Andrew Poliak (03:29): 


James Kotecki (03:29): 

If I just get in my car and I don't think about it, that's a good day for you. At the same time, it has to work in terms of safety as well, because it's not like it's a speaker in my house where if it doesn't work one day, I'm just annoyed. If it doesn't work, something worse could happen, so you have to be on all that. 

James Kotecki (03:44): 

So if you're thinking about all these issues, and you're also having to think because of the chip issue that you mentioned 5, 8, 11 years out, this is the place to prognosticate about the future. So tell us a little bit about the vision for, and maybe you can contextualize this with kind of the best that we can do today, but what is generally some components of the vision for how we will be moving around in vehicles in the future? 

Andrew Poliak (04:08): 

Yeah. One of the things is to shift left that development cycle so you'll have the same experience in 11 years that you'd be having on your consumer device in your car. 

James Kotecki (04:18): 


Andrew Poliak (04:18): 

So doing things that we can do to decouple the hardware from the software, bring the development earlier, and make upgrade ability, not just software updates but hardware upgrades that will be possible over the life of your vehicle. So in that way, whether you're being driven around and entertained in your second space. Realistically, from your home, your car becomes that second space. Right? 

James Kotecki (04:40): 

And I'm sorry to interrupt then. Is there a bring-your-own-device capacity to this where if I go on a plane, sometimes it seems like planes, they just forgot about updating the screens. They said, "Everybody's carrying something in their pocket that's probably better, so we'll just integrate and make wifi really good so you can use your own iPad or smartphone in the plane." 

Andrew Poliak (04:57): 


James Kotecki (04:57): 

Are there thoughts about things like that? 

Andrew Poliak (04:58): 

Absolutely. Apple just announced the ability to stream Dolby Atmos over CarPlay. And we're a premium audio supplier. We had a lot of announcements with Klipsch and Infinity and ELS and the Fisker Ocean, so those premium audio systems. You'll be able to make a car environment sound better than any home theater you can. And that will be with that brought-in device that will bring the content in your connectivity. 

Andrew Poliak (05:22): 

But realistically, and OEM doesn't need a bring-your-own-device if you have three things. You need to have upgrade ability in software and hardware, you need a dedicated connectivity module, and you need an app platform that can bring your latest apps. If you have those, you really don't need a device. It's just having those things even in a plane become sometimes difficult. Right? 

James Kotecki (05:44): 

Let's talk about autonomous vehicles, self-driving cars. It's a topic that's been at CES For years. 

Andrew Poliak (05:49): 


James Kotecki (05:49): 

How does that play into your vision? Are you preparing for a future where most people get in the car and don't have to drive it because it drives themselves? Because obviously again, you have to set this vision a few years out from where you want to go. So where do you see it going? 

Andrew Poliak (06:03): 

Yeah, absolutely we're prepared for that. I would say this window we're in, I call comfort ADAS. So as cars get more control, doing things that will let people feel confident that their car is piloting them the right way. 

James Kotecki (06:16): 

Yes. The first time that happens, they're a little freaked out and then they get used to it. 

Andrew Poliak (06:19): 


James Kotecki (06:20): 


Andrew Poliak (06:20): 

So things like our augmented reality head-up display, you think in an autonomous vehicle you wouldn't need a head-up display, except for maybe entertainment purposes. But showing and highlighting that stop sign or that car in front of you or that pedestrian going across so you can feel confident that your car sees what you see and it will behave the way you expect it to will build that confidence to let go of the steering wheel and allow the car to pilot. So we're preparing for it. I don't think it will mature as fast as people thought five years ago. 

James Kotecki (06:48): 


Andrew Poliak (06:48): 

But there'll be this in-between stage that we focus on some of the comfort ADAS and then go from there on. 

James Kotecki (06:53): 

And do you see a vision that some people have portrayed, I think at places like CES, of it's two sets of seats that face each other, and it's almost like my own little mini entertainment pod. And I don't even really think of it as a car anymore, and who cares where the seats are facing or if the windows are even real or what? 

Andrew Poliak (07:07): 


James Kotecki (07:08): 

Do you see all that coming down the road? 

Andrew Poliak (07:09): 

Yeah, absolutely. 

James Kotecki (07:10): 

The metaphorical road. 

Andrew Poliak (07:10): 


James Kotecki (07:11): 

Or the literal road. 

Andrew Poliak (07:12): 


James Kotecki (07:12): 

And how does that look then for the future of cities? Asking you, again, just to kind of prognosticate a bit further out here, if you're building a technology that is assisting folks in making the transition to a driverless future, are you excited about what that could mean for kind of urban planning and urban situations? 

Andrew Poliak (07:29): 

Yeah, absolutely. Even again, going to that in-between stage, I'm a cabinet member with something called The Ray, which is the Ray C. Anderson Foundation that builds smart roadways. It's a 5013c. 

James Kotecki (07:40): 


Andrew Poliak (07:40): 

And they're doing things like signal phase and timing, where you can just set lights to green as you approach them. Like Kia in Georgia where I'm located, they actually have made all their trucks where when you get off the freeway, it turns the light green when it goes in to deliver the deliveries to the factory there. And that whole roadway becomes smart and you start planning for more optimal drives. 

James Kotecki (08:02): 

So I've not heard about this, so this is a situation where I'm driving toward a stop light. 

Andrew Poliak (08:07): 


James Kotecki (08:07): 

It's maybe red, but theoretically, there's no one else coming. Right? 

Andrew Poliak (08:11): 


James Kotecki (08:11): 

So it knows it's totally safe for this light to be green. So it's not just on a dumb timer. 

Andrew Poliak (08:15): 


James Kotecki (08:15): 

And we can say, "Just keep going. There's no one else coming." 

Andrew Poliak (08:17): 

Well, it will actually turn the other side red. 

James Kotecki (08:20): 


Andrew Poliak (08:20): 

Turn it green, and you just keep going, yeah. 

James Kotecki (08:21): 

Yeah. Yeah. How do you think about sustainability and environmental impact? And I'm asking that in the context of a theme which has been the case at CES for a couple of years now, which is human security, which is writ large, kind of how technology helps people on this planet do better. And I know that's something that you care about at Panasonic. 

Andrew Poliak (08:38): 

Yep. So if you think about, one way I'll kind of tie back into my technical kind of pontificating earlier. 

James Kotecki (08:45): 


Andrew Poliak (08:45): 

Shifting software left often means decoupling it from hardware. And that means by making it that developers can develop prior to having their first sample of some hardware device means you're not building more samples, you're not shipping them around the planet, you're not wasting precious resources and silicon and boards and everything. You're really unlocking people to be able to develop without hardware. 

James Kotecki (09:08): 


Andrew Poliak (09:09): 

And then, know that that software will then drop right onto the hardware and run. So we've been showing at Amazon's booth, we have something that we call our Virtual SkipGen that's allowing you to develop automotive applications and even safety applications that you could run multiple instances in the cloud on AWS, and you can have testing millions of miles of road, millions of use cases tested, all without having a single piece of hardware. 

James Kotecki (09:32): 


Andrew Poliak (09:32): 

So it's really helping from that green impact and yet still tying it back on the technology side. 

James Kotecki (09:37): 

Yeah. Has the company Panasonic had to go through or is still going through a mentality shift around some of these things? If we're talking about decoupling software from hardware, I think of Panasonic as a hardware company, at least historically. 

Andrew Poliak (09:50): 


James Kotecki (09:51): 

Obviously, it's doing all of these things. Have you had to kind of lead some mindset shifts inside the organization? 

Andrew Poliak (09:57): 

Absolutely. So prior to Panasonic, I've been here eight years, prior to that, I spent 20 years in operating systems, hard realtime operating systems and software. Never touched hardware except for how it interacted with the software. But I love the hardware side. And yes, we're a huge manufacturer, so that's one of our... Global manufacturing footprint it is what makes us so strong. But absolutely, getting into the software is key. 

James Kotecki (10:21): 

Andrew Poliak. 

Andrew Poliak (10:21): 


James Kotecki (10:22): 

CTO, Panasonic Automotive. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Andrew Poliak (10:25): 

Thank you. 

James Kotecki (10:26): 

... in C Space Studio. I really appreciate it. 

Andrew Poliak (10:26): 

Thank you. 

James Kotecki (10:28): 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation from CS 2024. That's our show for now, but there's always more tech to talk about. Hit that YouTube subscribe button, leave a comment, follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart Media, or wherever you're getting this show. And get more CES at ces.tech. That's C-E-S.T-E-C-H. I'm James Kotecki, talking tech on CES Tech Talk.