Tyler Suiters  0:11 

Hey everybody, with the Consumer Technology Association, I'm Tyler Suiters. We are the owners and the producers of CES, the biggest the most influential tech events on the planet. We are trying to get you CES Ready. All right? Getting all geared up for the big show in Las Vegas this January 8-11. Now, you know CES is this remarkable tech show, right? But did you know CES is also an amazing Auto Show. Yeah, USAToday called it one of the 10 best auto shows in fact. You will find the latest vehicle tech innovations, the latest in concept cars, and also connected vehicles that will just blow you away. But today we're taking a specific look at the vehicle tech world, and that is self-driving vehicles, right? These are going to make our roads remarkably safer. Think about when we get deep in this direction, we have self-driving vehicles all over our roads. And we're cutting into those 35,000 plus lives that are taken every year here in the U.S. on roadways. SDVs are also going to enable greater accessibility, better job opportunities for seniors, for people dealing with disabilities who can't drive for themselves. And all of that equals greater productivity for us as a society, as a country. In the end, you'll see Las Vegas is going to look like a turbocharged Detroit when it comes to vehicle tech at CES 2019. So today, we are getting you two separate takes on the promise of self-driving vehicles. One is a journalist. She is deep in the policy world of this sector here in Washington, DC and also the tech innovation that's going on in Silicon Valley right now around vehicle technology. And then we're talking to a longtime vehicle innovator. He comes with the global auto hub of big Detroit, and has some valuable insights, given his deep past in vehicle innovations. So you may not know Kim Hart by name or by byline, but I bet you've seen her work if you're anywhere around the SDV space. She is, right now, managing editor of Axios, but she's also worked at the Washington Post, The Hill, and just to get a federal perspective, she was a press secretary for the FCC for two years. And Kim, it's great to have you with us here.

Kim Hart  2:40 

Thank you for having me.

Tyler Suiters  2:41 

Nice to have you actually coming into studio from your offices at Axios, which are which are not far away.

Kim Hart  2:45 

That's right, very close.

Tyler Suiters  2:47 

So what's the atmosphere right now? And I asked that very broadly to someone who talks to lots and lots of smart people in the self-driving vehicle space.

Kim Hart  2:55 

So I think there's a lot of excitement around the potential for self-driving vehicles. I think there is still some skepticism, though, about the timeline — how soon they'll actually be a reality and whether some of the estimates might be overly ambitious, or overly optimistic. I think there are still some skeptics on the safety, which is not surprising. And that's really what's holding up some of the legislation, but I'm sure we can talk and get into. So I think that there's, you know, if you're in Silicon Valley, for example, there's so much money and so many startups working on different elements of this technology, that there's so much buzz and excitement and like, the line there is just look at how much this is going to be able to do. This is going to be able to give freedom to people in all walks of life from elderly citizens to children who need to be, you know, shuttled from school to soccer practice. It could help free up parents who need extra hands or who need help with running errands, or so on. It could help industries, it could help trucking, it could help save energy on the highways if cars are able to autonomously drive closer together, and therefore kind of take advantage of the airflow and Platoon, if you will. So there's a lot of excitement across the board. But, like I said, there's still some question about when this is actually going to be a reality and they say different estimates. Some say it could be as soon, you know, some companies are actively deploying cars right now in certain areas of the country. But there are, you know, in some areas, other areas of the country where they have harsher weather conditions, for example, or really mountainous roads, I mean, it's going to be harder for people to, number one, feel comfortable getting in a car without a driver, or even a driving wheel. And I think it's going to be hard, it'll take longer for companies to feel comfortable rolling out those technologies commercially in those places. So you're going to see a very even rollout and also a very uneven adoption rate. And so I think depending on where you are in the country and also probably what generation you are, you're really going to see these technologies in a very different light.

Tyler Suiters  4:59 

You know, that's a great point. I want to get back to that in terms of the generational acceptance or maybe geographical perception. But let's start with geography, Kim, based on leadership right now. So you mentioned Silicon Valley to begin with.  Right there, as you said, a number of small companies and major tech players are in this space. Are they leading on their own? Or is it critical right now to have that automobile industry partner on board?

Kim Hart  5:27 

I think it depends on who you're talking to. So if your Waymo, which was started as just an experiment within Google and then spun out as its own unit, because they saw real commercial potential for creating your own business outside of Google, I think, you know, they are — they're using vehicles created by an auto manufacturer, but they're really building everything else from the ground up. So while they are, right now, using an OEM minivan in order for — and retrofitting it with their own technology, they're really building the technology, everything else around it. And so I think they would argue that they're going to kind of be self-sufficient, and maybe they're not going to need Detroit to really get going and get on the road. You have other companies that are really building more components. Some are perfecting the LIDAR, or the radar or the sensors, and they're perfecting the different components of the technology that then will be pieced together. And a lot of the automakers in Detroit — Ford and GM — they've all got different approaches to how they are building these out. Some of them are doing it more piecemeal, by taking those, the technologies that are being created in Silicon Valley and adding them on to their own existing technologies, or they're looking at, if you look at like, you know, GM has invested in Cruise, and they're really trying to become its own self sustained unit. So I think it really depends, but I think one thing that is really clear is Silicon Valley, and Detroit, there's a nice... there's a very healthy competition, I think, going on there in that they know that they kind of need each other. But it's really a race to be the next hotbed for this industry. And Detroit is not used to being second fiddle when it comes to the automotive industry. So they have a real incentive to attract the talent that's needed to develop the stuff there and to take advantage of, you know, some and helping to revitalize Detroit, to be honest, because they have so much of the infrastructure for testing vehicles, for making vehicles from scratch that if you live in the Bay Area, you know, there's just not a lot of that there.

Tyler Suiters  7:33 

Right. Right. So is it fair to say when comparing the two geographic centers, then, Silicon Valley is about the art of the possible, to use a well-known catch phrase now? Is Detroit right now more about the art of the practical? Like the realistic view of: how many cars can we make? How quickly can we adapt an entire fleet? How soon can we get them on the road?

Kim Hart  7:55 

I think that's actually a really good way of putting it. I mean, they've always been rooted. I mean, the auto industry, you know, throughout its lifespan has been very focused on numbers, how do we make this work? How do we get certain cars on the road that consumers are going to want to drive? And how do we make that a profitable business so that we can employ all the workers that rely on us for their livelihood? And so I think it comes from a very different generational place, and a place in the American economy. When you think about, you know, for Silicon Valley, a lot of the projects have been kind of...they started as side projects, or they were kind of vanity projects in some ways, and they kind of took on a life of their own, 'cause they were like "oh, I think we're onto something here." But it was never a "we're doing this to pay the bills." It was kind of a "let's see what we can do. Because we are smart people and have a little bit of free time."

Tyler Suiters  8:43 

Yeah, there was a moonshot atmosphere, to some degree, right?

Kim Hart  8:46 

Exactly. And I think there's still very much that. I mean, we're not...people are already looking way beyond self-driving cars to, you know, flying taxis. So I think that this is just one step in a broader approach to the future of transportation and how we move generally, however, whether that includes roads or not in the future, and I think Detroit is still pretty focused on "OK, let's perfect this. And how do we get this on the road before we get ahead of ourselves to the next thing?" And I think that, you know, that actually comes into play when you think about the reactions to the bills, the legislation, that has been trying to work its way through Capitol Hill. You know, the house passed the self-drive act about a year ago. And since then, the Senate component to the AV Start Act has been stalled.

Tyler Suiters  9:35 


Kim Hart  9:36 

...and people are getting pretty...they're kind of starting to lose hope that they're actually going to get it through this legislative session.

Tyler Suiters  9:41 

Yeah. So that's a great point, at the risk of becoming the king of paraphrasing. The Silicon Valley is software, SDV software, let's say, just generally. Detroit is very much the hardware. Washington's the infrastructure, right?
And it's not just maintaining roads and bridges, etc. It's who has rights where, what's allowed, whose responsible? Who is in trouble when something goes wrong.

Kim Hart  9:53 

Right. Right. Right. Exactly. And I think that the automakers in Detroit are very used to working with regulators. So they've worked with the Department of Transportation for decades, and the highway safety regulators and so on. And so they are really looking to some certainty from Washington and from regulators saying, here, to put out some national standards that they can then refer to and say, okay, we know for some certainty that this is what regulators are going to expect from us, they're going to allow us to do but how we need to report back to them, what kind of safety measurements they're going to take, what we need...what kind of information they need from us, in order to make this huge investment into getting these cars on the road. Because it is a really big shift in business for them. And it kind of turns the whole, you know, car ownership model on its head, if you think if you think about it. But first San Francisco, for Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, they aren't as concerned about that legislation be installed, because they see, well, some states, while that's stalled, some other states - 29 other states have come in and pass their own regulations or their own laws that will govern how self-driving cars can be deployed and tested in their jurisdictions. And so they're just kind of plowing ahead and saying, well, while the Fed get their act together, we're going to pick our spots in the states that makes sense for us. And we're going to just keep on testing and keep on deploying and see what we can learn. They think they do know that this is going to be an iterative process, because it's not just about the technology, and just about the infrastructure. It's also about consumer adoption, and consumer perception of these vehicles. So that's going to take some time to test and that's what they're working on in the states on a smaller scale, while they wait for the federal level to kind of create what they want the national framework to be.

Tyler Suiters  11:52 

Right. And that national framework is critical. And I'm speaking practically here. You are in Pittsburgh, let's say, and you're with Uber or you're with Carnegie Mellon in the AI center there, but you're testing in Pittsburgh, and that gets back to an area where, as you pointed out, has the climatological variety, which is a fancy way of saying they have crummy weather, right, most of the year? And so SDVs can test to those conditions. That's great. So you get an ok from Pittsburgh, or a general permit to test and you're okay in the city limits, and then what happens when you're in the county? What's the rule there, then. So you're on a really long testing campaign, what happens when you cross the state line into Ohio, right, and then you multiply that by every state border around the country, and it underscores the need for the federal government to do something and something soon.

Kim Hart  12:13 

Right. Right. And the industry knows that in order to have a viable business, they're going to need to sell cars that can drive from coast to coast. That, if they need...if a car needs to get from California to Maine, it can do that and not have to do either zigzags to avoid states that don't allow them, or have different rules. Or maybe, you know, they can get to the border of Arizona but can't go any further.

Tyler Suiters  13:00 


Kim Hart  13:01 

And that really, that's no good for anyone. That's no good for the trucking companies or logistics companies that want to use this technology to move goods and people that's not consumer based.

Tyler Suiters  13:13 

So to quote one of my favorite lines ever from the Simpsons, I believe it was Ned Flanders, who said, I'm from a little place between New York and Los Angeles, called America. All right? And when we talk about America, that's those of us who will buy these cars and who will eventually buy them in mass, right? And drive adoption.

Kim Hart  13:33 

In theory.

Tyler Suiters  13:34 

Yes, exactly, in theory. Or share them.

Kim Hart  13:36 


Tyler Suiters  13:36 

...to some degree. What are you hearing from the rest of the country, the real people who are paying gas prices and looking for parking and navigating our interstates? 

Kim Hart  13:47 

Well, so I actually, I have family in Tampa, and Tampa, Florida is one of the testing grounds for building out kind of smart roads and smart highways to test some of these cars, and they're very excited about it. They think, wow, this is cool. They don't really know what it will look like in five years, but they're not opposed to the testing of it. And I think you're seeing that in - and that's one reason that these companies are picking the places that they are to test because there's a generally open public opinion about it. Like  there, the people don't hate them, there, they're not super skeptical, so the laws, the state laws, reflect that, that there may be more relaxed rules about what's required, how many miles you have to drive, whether they're...how many people need to be in the vehicle, whether it's kind of an autopilot kind of situation, and someone's always monitoring the car. And so they're all of these different levels of rules and different levels of autonomy for vehicles. But I think if you look at the places where you're seeing most of the testing happening, it's Texas, Florida, Arizona is a huge hotbed. And those are places where there is a lot of enthusiasm, and they're taking advantage of that. You know, it's hard to tell what other jurisdictions feel about it, because they're not as used to it. There's not as much happening there. And I think that the car companies are trying to get out ahead of that. And even if there aren't active autonomous vehicles on the road, they're trying to get a sense for how consumers are going to interact with them. So you remember, it was a year ago that there was a news reports that there was a van driving around Arlington without a driver. Do you remember this?

Tyler Suiters  15:29 

That's Arlington, Virginia, right outside DC, yes.

Kim Hart  15:32 

Right. And people noticed that there was no driver and kind of freaked out about it. And they're like, what is this?

Tyler Suiters  15:38 

Social media blew up, yeah.

Kim Hart  15:39 

Exactly, exactly. It turns out that it was an experiment by researchers at Virginia Tech in partnership with Ford, to get a sense of how pedestrians and other drivers would react if they saw a car moving without a driver. And it was, there was a lot of surprise and a lot of double takes. And I think people kind of avoided it and stopped driving around it, and pedestrians didn't really know what to do. And that was a very good learning experience for the researchers because a big part of this is not only how it drives on the road, but how other drivers react with a car that doesn't have what they're used to having in a car.

Tyler Suiters  16:17 

Bringing this back to your wheelhouse, Kim, and that is policy, specifically federal policy. One of the carryover issues that has been seemingly consistent, at least externally, between the Obama administration and the Trump administration, is the department transportation's position on self-driving vehicles, from Secretary Anthony Foxx to the current secretary, Elaine Chao. Do you see that developing further? Do you see inconsistencies? Do you see this as a great way to get self-driving vehicles on the road faster? Congress notwithstanding?

Kim Hart  16:50 

That's a good question. I think that there has been a good continuation from one administration to the next on the acknowledgement that this is coming and we need to keep up with the industry and with the technology, and trying to keep up with that. Obviously, Congress has to go on its own path and its own dual track. But I think from what I understand, the companies and the industry itself has been pretty pleased with the speed at which regulators in the agencies are moving forward. Yes, it always takes longer than industry would like, because regulation is hard and it takes a while even if it's a fairly simple standard or rule that they're coming up with, or revising some guidelines. All of that takes way more time than any company would like that it would take, but I think that they're fairly pleased that it's moving along, and at least there are people who are enthusiastic about the future and the potential benefits of the technology working within the government.

Tyler Suiters  17:54 

Mind if we end with a short pop quiz?

Kim Hart  17:55 

Go for it.

Tyler Suiters  17:56 

It's all just "Yes/No." And it's really based on your opinions so...you can't get any wrong, Kim, but I'm curious given how deep you are in the industry.

Kim Hart  17:58 


Tyler Suiters  18:03 

Have you ridden in a self-driving vehicle?

Kim Hart  18:05 

I have, yes.

Tyler Suiters  18:06 

Are you excited for them to be on the road?

Kim Hart  18:10 

Yeah, yes.

Tyler Suiters  18:11 

Would you buy one if it were ready right now?

Kim Hart  18:14 


Tyler Suiters  18:15 

Would you test drive one as a considerable purchase?

Kim Hart  18:18 


Tyler Suiters  18:19 

Alright. Will we see self driving vehicles on the road next year?

Kim Hart  18:25 

Probably not.

Tyler Suiters  18:26 

No. Okay. Alright, last question. It's not a yes or no, it's not binary, all right? So you can you can free will a little bit, Kim. When will we see Congress act? You know, not in in 2018. Beyond this, would you say? Commercially available?

Kim Hart  18:26 

No. I think there will be enough pent up interest and demand. And maybe some of the safety advocates who have been some of the holdups this time might become more comfortable, and we might start to see some action in 2019, I think you're going to see a really orchestrated push from the industry to figure out what needs to happen to get this over the finish line, whether that's addressing certain concerns, making some compromises where they need to in order to get a national standard that preempts all of these state standards that could create kind of this really difficult patchwork of rules to navigate for a big company.

Tyler Suiters  19:20 

But if you want to have a great conversation with someone on an interesting topic, talk to a journalist because they talk to every smart person in the sector. Kim Hart, managing editor at Axios, former FCC press secretary deeply involved in the SDVC, especially in DC right now. What a pleasure, Kim, thanks for coming in.

Kim Hart  19:39 

Thank you for having me.

Tyler Suiters  19:43 

Sherif Marakby is president and CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, joins us here now. And Sherif, thanks for taking time with us today.

Sherif Marakby  19:52 

Thank you for inviting me.

Tyler Suiters  19:54 

Let's begin with a bit of a level set, if you don't mind, where are self-driving vehicle goals right now? And I think there's almost a two-fold path, right? One is more commercial and one is more consumer centric.

Sherif Marakby  20:09 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, in general,  there's a lot of hype and report around where everyone is with autonomous cars. And I always find it interesting when people say, Oh, we have a lot of autonomous cars on the road today. And in reality is where autonomous cars are, is in development. So the industry, the world, is working on autonomy, and integrating that with cars, riding and driving on roads, with safety drivers, to develop the system so at some point in the future, you're not going to have someone sitting in the front seat. And we believe that's going to be around the 2021 timeframe. So three more years to make sure that we work out all the kinks, if you will, all the tech things where you can ride the vehicle, on public roads, with pedestrians, with cyclists, and be safe. And if things happen, it can react to those things in a mass scale, in 2021.

Tyler Suiters  21:23 

So when you talk about the kinks that need to be worked out. There seem to be two sets, one is much more of the engineering side, hardware, software, the technology work, which we'll get to in a second. But there's also a softer set of challenges, if you will, that is perception, right? Understanding the consumer or public embrace of the fact that there will be vehicles on the roads without anyone behind the wheel, maybe without a steering wheel to begin with, and that they'll be safer than what we have right now.

Sherif Marakby  21:56 

That's right, that's right. So today, you know, in the U.S., for example, there's over 30,000 deaths on roads in the U.S. and over 90% of them are human caused. And when we implement all these sensing and systems in the car, it's to minimize that, you know, those instances, and you can see the opportunity is tremendous to reduce, and to improve safety, reduce accidents and improve safety tremendously with autonomous cars. I mean, that's the reality. That's the goal of what we're trying to do to get autonomous cars on the road.

Tyler Suiters  22:42 

And our research at CTA, and this is just about two years old right now, shows that the majority of consumers would like to test drive or test ride - I think we need the right terminology on this — a self-driving vehicle. And the majority, also, would willing to trade in their current car for a self-driving vehicle to give it a shot. Now, surveys that are trending negative, it may have something to do with the way the questions are phrased or how it's posed. But there is a perception that has to be overcome, right? Do you see that turning soon? Has it already happened? Or is it a major step that is still to come?

Sherif Marakby  23:22 

Yeah, no, I think there's a lot of...and that the surveys are usually - could have, like you mentioned, positive or negative results, what we've observed and what we're working on is actually putting, you know, in today's world, driven vehicles, but they are simulated autonomous behaviors, to see how people behave. One, if you're riding in the car, two, even if you're outside the car, pedestrians and cyclists, how do they feel and feel good or not good about having an autonomous car riding on roads. So some of the things we're doing is to build that trust through all the things that we're doing, simple things like when people can see on a screen in the car, what they're seeing with their eyes through the windshield, and they know that the car is seeing everything they're seeing and more, and reacting to those, you start seeing that level of anxiety or concern really reduce there, the people in the car. Another example we have is we've had some work with Virginia Tech and on the road where we include certain signals that the autonomous car would give to pedestrians, and learning what people feel about certain signals. If you think about, we as humans and drivers are very sophisticated. And people look at the driver's eye contact and gestures to know where they're going and where they're going to take the vehicle. We don't have any of that in an autonomous car. So we have to create those signals and those gestures. So a lot of that is key in our view to build that trust of an autonomous car. Plus, having all the engineering that we're doing and making sure that when we take a car on the road, we've done the testing on our Proving Grounds, we've done all the engineering, the simulation, and be able to put that — the more people get used to those cars being on the road, the more their level of concern is reduced.

Tyler Suiters  25:39 

So let's follow that a little bit, Sherif, and this is, I think much more in your wheelhouse, which is the engineering side of things. Where are the challenges right now, because already, self-driving vehicles have achieved, you know, depending on your perspective, a remarkable level of autonomy and recognition. What's next in the that line, from an engineering standpoint, that needs to be done? And you already alluded to the various obstacles and behaviors that have to be considered.

Sherif Marakby  26:08 

Yeah, I mean, the biggest area of work to make an autonomous car work is the software meeting the precept- you know, when you're a human driving the car, your eyes and your ears do most of the work to alert you to what you need to do as you're driving this car. Well, we don't have that human anymore. So the perception, and we call it the prediction, understanding where the car is, as you're driving, and then reacting to it. And then finally, steering or breaking or accelerating the car is all done through software. So the brain of the system is the software. So having that technology, perfect that technology, to the point that you can rely on that instead of a driver, is the biggest challenge. And that's what's taken a long time. But you're right, that it's made tremendous progress in the last few years. And now we have to get it at scale and Ford as an auto company that knows how to do scale, that knows how to do vehicles, that tens of thousands of vehicles in different circumstances behave in a safe way, is in a good position to do that. And we're actually applying some of these engineering rules to software to get that Functional Safety correct.

Tyler Suiters  27:34 

So you mentioned rules. I think that's an interesting avenue to take. And we as drivers, as pedestrians, as cyclists, any mode of transportation, are unpredictable. We as humans make mistakes, we don't pay attention, we don't obey the rules sometimes. How in the world do you write code or good software that can respond to these unpredictablilities that we do?

Sherif Marakby  28:01 

Well, that's a good point. So the interesting thing is, we're designing, I think, you know, most of the industry is designing, we'll call it self-driving system or software to obey the rules.

Tyler Suiters  28:14 

Right, right.

Sherif Marakby  28:15 

We're actually designing everything to obey the speed limit, to obey, you know, when you turn, to obey what you do, and I can guarantee you there's not going to be any self-driving car texting while driving. So it's going to be better for sure. In terms of from that perspective. Really that the challenge here becomes, what we're learning as we're getting the self-driving cars to follow all these rules. You know, like you said, many of the humans driving on the road actually don't necessarily follow some of those rules. And if only the self-driving car is doing that, it becomes an odd situation. So one of the things we're working on, for example, is when it gets into situations that the self-driving car is maybe behaving very differently than a human, is how do we actually work with the city, work with, you know, the legislators, work with the rules of the road, I'll call it, to make sure it's more human, yet it doesn't break the rules, which is really something that we're in the middle of right now.

Tyler Suiters  29:32 

So you have been at Ford a long time, Sherif. You started there in 1990. More than a few things have changed about the auto industry since then. But in all seriousness, you are very familiar with breakthrough innovations. You've led the delivery of battery electric vehicles, plug in hybrids, hybrid electric vehicles, the whole EV sector. Are there parallels between that and what you're working on right now, maybe not as profound a game changer as SDVs will be. But EVs, electric vehicles, were a breakthrough. That was innovation and disruption.

Sherif Marakby  30:06 

Absolutely, I mean, one little fact is just since joining the auto industry, back in the 90s, I've always had passion for technology, but not for the sake of technology. I'll call it commercializing technology, making sure that you can actually have technology for the masses. For the benefits of society when you look at better electric vehicles or hybrids, or plug in hybrids. Or, in addition, I worked on Driver Assist technology, I worked on infotainment systems throughout my career, and those are all, at the time that I was working on them, they were all brand new. They were new, they were unknown, you had to develop requirements. What is the customer looking for? How do you create something that is a "Wow" for the customer. And I've really thrived, and I've really enjoyed over many, many years and a couple of decades, always looking at that technology and creating automobiles that can do things that people never thought that you can do. And there's a lot of parallel to what we're doing now. autonomous cars today feel like what electric cars felt, maybe 10, 15 years ago. They're just getting going, where, you know, nobody knows what they're supposed to do, how they should accelerate, what kind of features you can put on them, those types of things. Except for one thing. autonomous cars are more than just the car. When we talked about autonomous vehicles, it's the software integration to the car, that's the engineering piece. And making sure it's done at scale with safety and everything. That's only the beginning. Autonomous cars as we launch them are going be in service, which means somebody is going to be riding in them. If you think about it, the auto industry has been designing cars for over 100 years, where they're focused on the most, you know, critical passenger in the vehicle, which is the driver, lot of cars have one person, which is a driver. So majority of things that are done around the automobile are to protect, to entertain, to provide service to that driver. Well, that person does not exist anymore in an autonomous car. So it really makes us think, and it makes us need to think very differently. There may be, you know, most of these vehicles are going to have people sitting in the back. So what does that mean? What kind of service do they want when they're riding the car not driving in the car?

Tyler Suiters  32:53 

Yeah, so that's where I thought you were going originally, Sherif, when you said these will be more than just a car. I thought you were heading toward the fact that these will be office spaces, right, where you're working now on your commute to the office. These are entertainment centers where you will have a, you know, a panoply of options to enjoy yourself, while you're getting from point A to point B. These will be you know, micro hotel rooms, or maybe maybe an extension of your bedroom where you can sleep or rest when you're when you're traveling. And all that begs a question of what will the car be if it's not just transportation, right?

Sherif Marakby  33:34 

Absolutely. I mean, you know, one of the things we think about autonomous cars is the interior has to be very different than how we do cars today.

Tyler Suiters  33:43 

Right, right.

Sherif Marakby  33:44 

To your point, they need to be, we call them in our vision calls, that we're going to free the person that's riding in the vehicle, that they can be the most productive. And that could be one of many things. It could it could mean, if you want to do work on the way to work, it frees you up to do that. If you want to watch a movie, if you want to text, if you want to sleep. It's a lot of different things to different people. And what we're in the middle of is actually looking at that interior experience, not only after you get into the interior, but when you're sitting through the ride. What kind of thing do we need to be looking at and designing differently than what we do today in vehicles? And that's exactly what we're trying to do.

Tyler Suiters  34:32 

So you mentioned your company, Ford, in the context of this sector and bringing ideas, concepts innovations at scale. What does the landscape look like, from your point of view, Sherif, with the combination of the big auto companies, primarily Detroit? And then the software driven tech centric companies, often out of Silicon Valley, although it's it's around the world. What does that balance look like to you right now? And how critical is that?

Sherif Marakby  35:04 

Yeah, and I've had the opportunity to work both in Detroit and automotive, and also in Silicon Valley, you know, working on, you know, looking at the integration of that software. So I've had the experience on both sides. And I think from my perspective, the most important thing is that each side respects the fact that the other has to do work in a different manner. And what I mean by that is, Detroit and automotive is really good at mass production of hardware, safety, making sure the systems work in different scenarios as the car is riding on the streets, and making sure that it works every time. What the Silicon Valley is really good at is agile software development and be able to do updates very frequently and be able to, you know, to provide that so that both of them can integrate that at scale into the vehicle. So what Ford has done is actually taken the, you know, the two pieces, and we're actually doing both in a different way to scale in 2021,

Tyler Suiters  36:16 

Sherif, final question. You mentioned 2021 as a milestone year for the self-driving vehicle industry. Is there a year, is there a general timeframe that you could envision the majority of vehicles on our roadways being self-driving?

Sherif Marakby  36:35 

I think that's going to be a long time, for a few reasons. The initial set of autonomous vehicles are going to be very expensive, because there's the sensors and everything that's going to go on, and it's going to be very expensive for someone to own these vehicles. In addition, they do need a lot of what we call High Definition mapping, because you can't- you have to actually be driving on the road, identifying all the objects and reacting to them. So there's geo-fencing, we call it, or a specific area where they can operate. So that's just the initial phase. The cost will come down over time. And the technology will get better to the point that you can keep expanding where these autonomous cars go in many areas. And then comes personal ownership, someone buying an autonomous car, we call those level five. So for all of these reasons, and all the things that need to happen over time, I think it's going to be many, many years before you start seeing a majority of vehicles on the road being autonomous, but it cannot be any more exciting, to be honest, to see that robotics and engineering and all of this technology coming together and making them human to the point that we're actually talking about a good portion of the cars being autonomous.

Tyler Suiters  37:54 

Yeah, that is a true innovator's perspective right there. Sherif Marakby is president and CEO of Ford autonomous vehicles. Sherif, fascinating conversation. Sorry we have to put a bookmark in it right there. Great to talk to you. And we will see you at CES 2019.

Sherif Marakby  38:12 

Thank you very much, Tyler.

Tyler Suiters  38:15 

All right, next time here on CES Tech Talk. We are looking at startups at CES. Did you know Eureka Park at CES 2019 will be the largest collection of startups on the entire planet. So we're getting a unique view. We are talking to a Fortune 500 company about startups at CES. They will give you a deep dive into the current trends that they're seeing in the startup world right now, how the placed sector is evolving, and also how to stand out from the crowd if you're a startup at CES. All right, that is a wrap, everybody. We want you to be CES ready. So subscribe to this CES Tech Talk podcast. That way you won't miss any of our episodes as you're getting geared up for the show. Speaking of, CES 2019 is January 8-11 in Las Vegas. The information you need is at CES.tech, CES.tech. As always, none of this is possible without our stars in studio, our producer Tina Anthony, our engineer John Lindsey, you both rock. We will talk to you next time on this podcast. Until then, I'm Tyler Suiters. Let's Talk Tech again soon.