Shiva Shivakumar of Urban Engines
Streetline's Zia Yusuf
Jeff Olson of Alta Planning + Design
Greg Lindsay of Fast Company
Ford's Don Butler
An audience member at Wayne State University puts a questions to (from left) Greg Lindsay, Don Butler, Jeff Olson, Shiva Shivakumar, and Zia Yusuf.
Executive Director, Connected Vehicle and Services, Ford Motor Company
Principal, Alta Planning + Design
CEO and Co-founder, Urban Engines
President and CEO, Streetline, Inc.
Senior Fellow, World Policy Institute
From bike lanes to the hyper-loop, how do you build an intelligent urban transit infrastructure that offers efficient mobility? How do we knit together the various modes of transit to form robust, sustainable transportation systems that serve the city and its citizens?
Lindsay: We’re going to discuss hiking, biking, the connected car, the future of the autonomous car, and really I think what’s going to be the next revolution in urban transportation, which is going to be the primacy of information. We’re reaching the point where the information for any mode of transit is more important than the more itself. And how that information is used, shared, networked together, managed, is going to lead to all sorts of new, flexible meshes of transportation I think that will be different than anything we’ve ever seen in cities. So, it’s interesting to me—we’ll go through introductions, here, before getting into some early questions. So on my immediate left here is Don Butler, who is the Executive Director of connected vehicles and services at Ford. He’s the one responsible for those beautiful cars parked on the lawn. To his immediate left is Jeff Olson, who’s the Principle at Alta Planning and Design, the folks who basically produce most of the bike sharing systems to know and love. To his immediate left is Shiva Shivakumar, who is the CEO and cofounder of Urban Engines, which is one of the companies that are doing a lot with that sort of transit data, as I mentioned. And then, finally at the end, is Zia Yusuf, who is the CEO and President of Streetline, which is doing some interesting stuff in, basically, what we would call connected parking.
So, without much further ado or introductions, I want to start getting into the nitty-gritty around the future of transportation, I think, you know, befitting Detroit and Dave’s introduction, the first question is for Don really, about where the car’s headed. I mean, it’s been the dominant form of mobility in the United States for a century. It’s really—I think this year is the anniversary, among many, of Henry Ford perfecting the assembly line as we know it and ushering in the age of the Model T and mass production. And so, the first question that I have Don, is that I’m hoping you could talk a bit, as someone who is new in the post of running connected vehicles at Ford about, I guess, Ford’s vision of the car. I mean, there’s a lot of discussion now around the car, in the sense of—I think it’s interesting that the two companies that are doing the most right now to get people excited about cars right now are not auto-makers, I would say it’s Google and Uber. One of which, you know, is trying to disrupt the auto-makers, arguably, if it actually intends to fully mass produce its own autonomous car. The other one, of course, treats cars as another bit of information, and a service to be provided. So, in light of that, how does Ford make people excited about owning their own car again, and driving their own car again, and what is the “car as digital platform” going to look like?
Butler: Sure, well, it really all goes back to, as you mentioned, Henry Ford, his vision of opening all highways for mankind. That vision has, obviously, largely come to pass, with over a billion vehicles on the road globally today. As we go forward in the future, his great-great-grandson Bill Ford, our chairman, has broadened that definition to talk about mobility, and mobility solutions. So, we view the vehicle as part of that mobility solution, that mobility fabric. We certainly intend to satisfy those folks that would like to own a vehicle as a personal mode of transportation, and that will continue to be something that we build upon, and one of the ways that we do that is we make our vehicles more attractive in the sense of leveraging connectivity. What I mean, when I say connectivity—there are really three different forms. There’s beamed in, there’s brought in, and then there’s built in. Beamed in connectivity, ever since we’ve had AM radios, there’s been beamed in connectivity, if you will. The ability to attach yourself to the outside world, or get information from the outside world. Brought in connectivity, that’s leveraging a smart device, for instance, that you might bring into the vehicle, and with our sync system we’ve established a lead there, in terms of enabling people to interact with that device, the content on the device, the contacts on the device, the communication capability of that device, and enabling them to interact with that in a seamless way, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel. And finally there’s built in connectivity, the vehicle itself as a network on the node. This increasing presence of the Internet of things, and the vehicle as a smart, computing, connected platform sharing information, gathering information, being able to be updated remotely, and so we leverage connectivity to make our vehicles more attractive, and I think we can talk about some interesting things that are possibilities as we look at our vehicle as one piece of that mobility and utility fabric, and how we can leverage connectivity to make that happen, as well.
Lindsay: Just to follow up on that. So, you mentioned beforehand that your previous gig was at Cadillac, which just recently said that they intend to have at least some limited form of hands-free autonomy by 2016, which I think is ahead of even—you know, Nissan is on the record, saying they’re going to have their first autonomous car by 2020. So, what’s Ford’s perspective on the autonomous car? What’s a realistic timeframe?
Butler: Well, when you talk about autonomous vehicles, you have to understand—when you say autonomous, what do you mean? There are various levels, four levels, there are four different levels, and we don’t have time to get into the distinctions between each of them, but it basically goes from assisted to totally unassisted, without the driver being involved at all, which is kind of where Google is leading, no steering wheel at all in the vehicle, and from a Ford perspective, we believe that the driver should always be engaged, if not actively in the driving experience, aware of what’s going on. So, the way that we look at it, we are on a path towards autonomous driving, with things like lane-keeping systems, with things like adaptive cruise control, things like perpendicular parking and parallel parking automatically, which hopefully you’ve had a chance to experience in our vehicles. We believe that there will be an evolvement of technology, but at the same time as should be really apparent, there are legal implications, there are societal implications. When you think about the ethics of driverless vehicles, what does that mean? If a vehicle has to make a decision about what’s the least impactful accident to have, if I have to have an accident? How do you really get into the machine ethics of that, as it were? So, there’s a lot that needs to take place before we get to the point that we have completely autonomous. Certainly we’re on the path as well, in terms of increasingly driver-assisted systems, things like traffic jam assistance, for instance, which will be coming out shortly from Ford. So, we’re on that same path as other companies, but we’re hesitant to say that a vehicle will be completely autonomous within any specific time frame, because there are so many other pieces of the puzzle that have to come together first.
Lindsay: Great. Well, Jeff, skipping from cars to bikes, while focusing on modes, since we have the transportation modes on this side, and the information folks on the other. Jeff, Alta, of course, is basically the leading provider of bike sharing as we know it, Divvy in Chicago, being, I think, one of the leading examples—and I promised Jeff I would note, as a “Fast Company” writer, that they’re one of the 50 most innovative companies in business, the Alta folks. But I guess my question is, where is bike sharing, the revolution, headed next? Because it’s been, I think, less than a decade since Paris Vélib’ really sort of implemented the first modern system. No one actually thought in the United States that bike sharing would take off in the way that it has, and groups like C40—some of the city’s initiatives—have really sort of made an effort to turn bike sharing into a best practice. So, I guess one question—it’s sort of a short question, is, what are some of the best practices that we learn from bike sharing so far, and how would you implement a bike sharing program in Detroit, given its size and the lack of a really concentrated public transport system here, which cities like Washington DC have benefited from, where people are using bikes as the last mile for major transit stops. So, how do you apply it to something at the scale of Detroit?
Olson: That’s a great series of questions, and thanks to “Fast Company” for the honor. We really think mobility, as just mentioned a second ago by Don, is a symbol—the bike is a symbol of how we’ll be mobile in the future. It’s one of many mode choices that people can make. Bike sharing makes that choice easier to do, and more often. When you ask about that state of the practice, we’ve just passed through 25 million rides with zero fatalities. More than a billion calories burned, tens of millions of miles traveled, and that’s something a lot of people five years ago said would never happen. If you get a chance, go look at the “Daily Show” and their great episode of “Full Pedal Racket,” it’s really one of the funniest pieces that they’ve done, and you just look back to that short time ago when people said this wouldn’t be successful, and it’s been, I think, very, very successful, and not just in New York but in Toronto, in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Boston, Melbourne—and it’s happening in cities around the world. Mexico City was just on the panel a moment ago. So, I think that state of the practice is evolving very quickly. Solar-powered, Wi-Fi–enabled technology, stations that are fully movable—we’re seeing probably 20 different innovations in the technology realm of how that’s going to work, and cities are getting very sophisticated about providing that future infrastructure, which is different than the cities we’ve had before. I think the question becomes when we move in the city of the future, where do we want to go, how do we want to get there, how does our experience of the day in that city interact—whether it’s with motor vehicles, bicycles or walking. Those are all important aspects of that practice, so, the question about Detroit—I want to thank Wayne State, we did a feasibility study, here with the campus and the city, looking at the future of bike-sharing here in Detroit. There are tremendous opportunities for possibly manufacturing. The campus, right here, has just started its own on-campus bike share. This is just becoming one of the must-haves for cities around the world. It is not the solution to every problem, but it’s a good solution to a lot of things, and it’s one that we can afford to do, that can be made to work. The infrastructure we know how to design and build, and hopefully we’ll be a seeing a lot more of it.
Lindsay: Great, thank you Jeff. I want to skip over to Zia, to discuss Streetline, and parking, which of course is one of the great resource conundrums of cities. You know, this massive public good the streetscape, which is often either—either essentially parking is too cheap, and the city is giving away the good, or in many cases parking is too rare, and then you basically have increased carbon emissions, because drivers are constantly circling blocks. So, I was hoping you could talk a bit about, before we get to Shiva talking about the urban engines, and how this all comes together, but talk about the parking piece of the puzzle and the first steps towards really embedding sensors in the environment for aiding transit.
Yusuf: It’s interesting: cars only do two things. They either drive or they park. And, for most of our history, we’ve ignored the parking piece of it. So much effort has been focused on the traffic, and the lowering of it—it takes you 14.2 minutes to get from point A to point B. The problem is, point B isn’t your real destination. Your real destination is point C, when you’ve parked the car. And there was so much technological advancement in mobile phones, certainly on the sensor side, that it seems strange that we weren’t using these new technologies to solve this very basic problem for consumers, as well as for cities. I mean, for cities, this is a massive real estate plate, right? It’s a piece of real estate that’s not priced appropriately, it’s not allocated appropriately. You have huge spikes of demand in certain areas, and you’re paying 50 cents an hour. Three blocks over, there’s nobody there, and you’re still paying 50 cents an hour. So, it’s not like I grew up saying I wanted to be in the parking industry, but I am. They don’t laugh, it’s very important. And it’s been a fascinating journey. So, it’s estimated that 25–30% of the traffic in the city is caused by people looking for parking, and that’s a huge number, and maybe it’s off by 10%, so make it 20%. That’s still a huge number. So, what Streetline does is, we go and put out these sensors in the ground. In each parking spot, there’s a mesh network, and then there are seven different apps that sit on top of it. There are the apps for consumers that guide you to an open parking spot in real time, there’s analytics information for the city to really look at, you know, the policy in a certain area, the pricing in a certain area. Los Angeles is now doing dynamic pricing, and if you look on that app, it will show you that it’s a dollar per hour here, and maybe up to six dollars per hour in another block. So, when you have such a scarce resource, you need pricing in order to take care of it. The sensors are an important piece of it, but it’s the, it’s the data and the applications that sit on top that are important. We just announced a deal with Cisco where we’ve starting to use cameras in order to extend the detection capability. At some point, if cars get specific enough that they can give us the data, we’d love to use that. If the brain trust that Shiva has is able to do it without the sensors, we’re open to that as well. So, it’s about rethinking something that impacts everybody that has a car in a fundamentally different way and there’s no reason why you should pay for a parking spot. Maybe the Starbucks, or the restaurant, they ask you, “What spot are you?” And you say “Spot 36.” They pay for parking, you’re done. So, there’s all kinds of things—there are reservations, and so on and so forth, that we can think about. And I think we’re in 40 different locations now. You can find parking in a couple of minutes, instead of in 10–15 minutes, so—it’s just very exciting how much innovation is taking place in transportation through information and through technology. And, full disclosure, Bill Ford is an investor in Streetline, so.
Lindsay: Mobility solutions. Well, speaking of which, this is a good setup then for Shiva to talk about this, because Urban Engines, in my understanding, is really in the business of taking all this data. So, that’s my question for you, Shiva, is really, what is the end game for cities, and for the actors in cities, who are collecting all this data from parking, from cars, from bike sharing stations, and from, of course, the GPS in our phones, and soon to be our Apple watches, you know, with sensor data and GPS and Foursquare and all these other sorts of instrumenting the urban environment is, what can we do with it? How are we going to use this? Because it strikes me that the discussion around Detroit, as David pointed out, you know, there’s no mass transit from the airport. Detroit is the largest city in America with no actual sort of rail public transit grid. But, really, it strikes me that we have an opportunity to create a much more flexible form of transit collected from everything. So, how do we go about building that? How do we build that engine?
Shivakumar: Yeah, so, as Don was saying, there’s a lot of data coming in from cars, lots of data coming in from buses, from mass transit, from smart cars, from smartphones, from parking sensors.
Yusuf: I’ll sell it to you.
Shivakumar: There’s a lot of data coming in from all these different places, and the reality is that a lot of the data is siloed, and it’s piecemeal, in some way. But we sort of view this as a big jigsaw puzzle. If you actually can put these pieces together, than we actually can figure out exactly how people, you know, what people’s choices are, how do they want to use this city, what are the places they would like to go to, where they like to go to work, where they want to go to play, where they want to buy. So, you can sort of figure out what are the key behaviors of the commuting population at large, and from that you can start figuring out how responsive is the underlying infrastructure going to be to respond to these kinds of demand. How does a city grow, how does it change over time? What are the spaces that are being used, and what are the spaces that are not as actively being used. So, a lot of those things are certainly, when you put this jigsaw puzzle together, can figure out—can I improve the commute tomorrow? What happens when there’s an event going on? What happens when it’s raining, or it’s snowing, and how does a city evolve in the next 20 years? Where do I put my next set of residential complexes? Where should I build my next set of office complexes? Where should I put retail? So, all those kind of longer term planning questions are possible now, now that we have all the data being collected, and can be sort of analyzed and given a unified view of the city, the pulse of the city.
Lindsay: Well, that gives the question—so, here’s a question for any of you to take, or how you imagine this—what is the end game of all these revolutions? So, for example, this is something: I was having breakfast this morning with the attorney who represents Lyft, here in Detroit. You know, the entry of Uber and Lyft, with the people that I’ve spoken to, has been hailed as a great thing because of the limited taxi services and the limited public transportation. And one of the things that came up in our discussion this morning is how seamless the Uber and Lyft interfaces are. It’s an app, it comes to you. So, with Urban Engine perhaps powering the system below, and the fact that some people want to have an Uber that arrives at their doorstep, or an autonomous car and some people want to drive, what is the end game? Are going to have a seamless service, where I’m going to basically say I’m going to go to the nearest bike sharing station, or I want a car that’s going to take me from A to B? How do you imagine this mobility mash evolving? What will it look like, how will I use it, how will the people in Detroit use it, and who owns it? Is it a private service, is it a public service, is it something a Ford wants to get into, as part of its mobility, for example.
Butler: I don’t know that I have a complete answer, but we know that within this space, it’s going to require partnerships. No one entity is going to be able to develop a complete and total solution, and so we’ll need to understand what are the auspices and what are the, if you will, virtual APIs under which we’ll share data on an aggregated basis, in order to make better decisions. We’ll need to understand how to help consumers enable and live the experiences that they want to live, and increasingly it’s going to be tailored and contextual for exactly what people are doing within that particular phase of their life, and that particular phase of their day. So, two things, I would say: partnerships are going to be required, and then we need a way to share that data while protecting our consumer’s ability to remain anonymous, but also sharing it in a way that provides value.
Olson: I’m just going to jump in and say, there’s some bigger picture questions that, again, if mobility provides us more access to communities we want to be in, we need to be healthy, we need to have an environment that’s better for the next generation, we need to make sure that we can afford the modes of travel that we choose and that they’re supporting our economic conditions—so, it’s really, how do we get to that point? Can our children walk or ride their bicycles to school? Can our seniors live in neighborhoods that are safe for them to simply get around, as we age in place. Those are sort of basic fundamentals, and if you look at the infrastructure the United States primarily has been building for the last 50 years, we’ve left a lot of gaps, right? Other countries, in other places, have been much more successful in becoming more mobile and using less energy to be able to do so. I would argue that that continuum, from walking to bicycling to shared transit to transit, all the way up to air travel and maybe space travel, by the time we get there, we need to provide that, and they need to be interconnected in ways that we haven’t quite figured out yet. So, I think that’s the end game, is that your daily life will be better, that we’ll make the world a better place, and that the things we’re working on help us to get there.
Shivakumar: I think the future is completely multi-modal, I think we all believe that, so on the demand side, I think people are going to have a unified experience, whether it’s jumping on a bike to get to the local train station, and taking the train from one city to another, and then going from there to the last mile through a bike sharing program, I think that’s kind of a no-brainer from a demand perspective. On the supply side, I think there are a lot of opportunities as well, because if we actually understand what people’s behaviors are, and what their patterns of movement are—can I now look at my fleets, and just optimize that a lot better, right? If I notice that the trains are running packed, can I run bus services that are express services that can capture some of the demand and be much more responsive. If it’s raining—so, we’ve been analyzing billions of commutes across the world, and it’s fascinating to see people’s behavior changes, even if it’s raining lightly versus heavily, or if it’s snowing. People tend to jump on different modes of transportation, just from a convenience perspective. So, you sort of understand those kinds of macro patterns from a supply and from a demand perspective. I think the commuting experience is just going to keep getting faster and better and more personalized.
Yusuf: The only comment I would make is that timing is a big factor in all of this. What’s the time horizon you’re talking about? I think I agree from a demand perspective, the demand to have an integrated multi-modal system is there. I think the U.S. in particular, but also certainly Europe and other parts of the world, are much more challenged on the supply side. So, you can have a pocket of bike share, or if you look at California public transportation, horrible, and so on and so forth. I think the automobile is still going to be central to what we do for many years to come. Even if you look at the cities of Europe, where admittedly they are much more advanced from the public transportation side, even cities like Amsterdam and Paris and so on, the gridlock created by cars—the demand for cars—continues to grow. So, there’s a little bit of a separation between the hopes and dreams, and what’s actually happening in terms of the reality, and especially in the emerging markets, whether it’s China or India. I mean, the car is still very much that symbol. It’s a different situation. So this will take decades, if not longer than that, to manifest itself. And the question is, what do we do in the interim to solve these problems, to actually improve people’s lives.
Lindsay: Well, that’s a good question. I mean, and again, perhaps if any of you want to take this, but considering we’re in Detroit—I mean, this is a city, of course, that was molded by the car. This is really, arguably this and Los Angeles, the two cities whose entire urban form was shaped by the automobile, truly in many ways. So, I think a lot of the discussion about this mobility mesh, or mobility as a service, as Jeff pointed out has tremendous implications for land use, and how we access cities, how do we redesign the urban fabric. I was curious if anybody has any thoughts about how that will actually occur. Or, you know, is this going to be good for cities, or will we see further dispersal. This is a debate we’re having at NYU right now, about whether the autonomous car will be very good for dense cities, or lead to incredible exurban sprawl, because now you can sleep during your commute. So, I don’t know, I guess my question is, what is this scenario—you know, one of—I should just know here that at NYU, we’re finishing up these scenarios, and we imagine a sort of LA of 2025 where if you have all sorts of incompatible autonomous car operating systems, you end up with hellacious gridlock, where people basically get home at 10:00 at night and leave their kids sleeping in the backseat before they start their commute at 4:00 AM. You end up with Lagos, if you do it wrong. But I was hoping, perhaps you could talk a bit about, what is an imagined scenario for Detroit in, say, 2020, where we have some autonomous cars, where we have a bike-sharing network. Does anyone want to talk about what sort of neighborhoods would benefit from this the most, what sort of urban environments would benefit from this the most?
Olson: I’d be happy to start with that. I think that we’re seeing some really innovative urban formwork happening all over the world, right now. The idea of urban greenways is something that the idea has been around for a long time, but it’s happening at a rapidly increasing rate, the idea that these natural corridors, that have mobility in them, primarily for human power, are becoming integrated into neighborhood design and redevelopment projects. Detroit has a fantastic Southeast Michigan greenways program. If you’re not familiar with it, it was one of our favorites, thanks to the many people here who are making that happen. And that brings about a very significant change, the idea that what we consider the built environment, cities, and what we consider nature start to become connected in ways that, you know, maybe the best models in the past were things like Central Park, or urban parkways, and that land form is something that really is kind of unique, and that’s happening globally right now. So, that’s one example where how we use the public space that exists in cities, much of which is used for storing vehicles, or moving them, is now shifting to very different kinds of purposes. And that ties to that more optimistic view of the future, right? And I think if we don’t have that—if you’ve seen the movie “Wall-E,” then we’re going to end up in these recliner chairs with Slurpee drinks, and our health is going to decline, and our safety is going to decline, then we’re not heading in that positive direction. I’m an optimist, I believe the glass is half full, and it’s half full of something we really like to drink, so.
Butler: I can imagine a scenario in the not too distant future with the M1 rail project, and being able to link things up along with—one of our challenges, in the Detroit area as I’ve looked at it, is that we have these kind of pockets of goodness, but they’re disconnected, right? You have the cultural center here around Wayne State, you have the Fox Theater district, and the stadiums, and then you’ve got downtown along Jefferson, but it’s—you know, people would come and come to one area and then just leave. So, if there’s an ability to, for instance, bring my electric vehicle to the M1 rail station and plug it in, and it’s being charged, and I know on my app that the rail station is going to be running for this amount of time, and so I visit here initially, but then I go to the Fox Theater district, and then I go all the way down to the Riverfront, and then I go back to my vehicle. I think that it will be a huge benefit and a huge boom from an economic standpoint. I think there will be, you know, this opportunity for people to get to enjoy a city that is living and breathing and alive, as opposed to just coming to one spot and then leaving again and not really getting a total picture. That’s in the not too distant future, four or five years from now.
Lindsay: Great, all right. One more question, and then we’re going to open it up to the audience here, because I want you—I’m sure you have all sorts of questions as well, but I want to come back to Shiva and Zia for a moment here, considering that you both work closely with cities in your work. One of the interesting things about this, about how this sort of new mobility will happen, is will it be publicly led or privately led? So, for example, I think of Helsinki right now as, of course, trying to build exactly this sort of mesh, and the city is taking the lead in this. They want to build their own app, and their own service, and Seoul has banned Uber, for example, and they want to build their own app as well. But I think it’s interesting, here in the United States, that public transit is something led by the cities, and parking is something provisioned by the cities, but, you know, the most success we’ve sort of had in ridesharing has been led by private companies, Uber kicking in regulatory doors. So, I’m curious for the two of you—and I hope you guys will jump in as, you know—do you think this is going to be a publicly led revolution of a privately led revolution? How do you think this will shake out, in terms of how we’ll use this? Is it a public good, or is it a private, member’s only service?
Yusuf: It’s a very simple answer, actually: it’s a combination. There’s no other answer to that. And it will—I think the most interesting level of government where innovation is happening—I would hate to be President, I would love to be a city mayor, today.
Lindsay: I think you still probably have a better role, in most cases.
Yusuf: But it’s the amount, the opportunity to change people’s lives with at the city level today, with all the technology that’s available. Not just in transportation, but in the other areas, is pretty tremendous. In the work that we do—I mean, the cities aren’t going to go build these technologies and these apps. They own the spaces, they own the streets. For us, the biggest hope is to find heads of transportation, mayors, city managers that are innovative, that are looking at things differently, that are not wedded to the status quo. So, as long as we have a partner on the other side—and we do it in Los Angeles, in Boston, in Indianapolis, and so on. It makes for—I think you can create incredible value, but for the public sector side as well as the private side. So, it has to be a combination, and even in the case of Uber, I mean ultimately it’s a negotiation between the city and Uber, and they come to an agreement. So, it has to be taken from there.
Shivakumar: Yeah, I mostly agree with what Zia was saying. I mean, fundamentally, cities want to be more sustainable, and they want to be more attractive for people to move in, and so a lot of the folks that we’ve been interacting with had exactly the same goals, right? So, they are very strong on the policy side, have a really good sense of what the pulse of the local population looks like. What we offer is on the technology side, so, when there’s huge amount of disparate data sources, the challenge of putting the jigsaw puzzle together is a big one, so that’s how we play into this. And our excitement is, can we offer the best quality tools so that they can make these decisions about how to improve their own commuter lives next week, next year, and 20 years from that.
Audience 1: I work with Plante Moran, which is a local accounting and consulting firm, and I’m really excited about a lot of the driverless vehicles. Certainly it’s a boon for commerce, but, as probably one of the older people, I’m looking forward to the day that I don’t have to worry about my kids taking my car keys away. I will have a driverless vehicle. But, I think Jeff, you might have mentioned it—someone mentioned the idea of interoperability, and we in the United States don’t really have a great track record of playing together well, as somebody from the cellular industry. You know, we have A and B carriers, and we’re so much further behind than Europe. What should we be doing now to start to head off the problems that we could face with interoperability, and these issues?
Butler: One of the ways that we’re addressing it from a Ford standpoint is through leveraging an open-source technology that we call smart device link, and that’s a way of connecting with and interacting with information on the vehicle, and controls on the vehicle. In fact, it’s interesting, you talk about LA, we recently had a, very first actually, automotive developer’s conference. We brought together a number of developers, and provided them with access to vehicle data. The city of Los Angeles also graciously supplied a huge data set that consisted of things like traffic flow patterns, construction planning, urban transit kinds of data sets as well. And the idea’s just to mash all that together to develop solutions that we couldn’t think of before, and so—but the way that that was enabled was through this open platform called smart device link, and being able to access the data that’s on the vehicle. So, one of the ways that we need to do it is, again, as I talked about it before, ways of facilitating and exchanging data through APIs and frameworks that make sense and can cross boundaries.
Shivakumar: If I may jump in, I think that this is a fascinating question, and in my house I have a lot of iOS devices, so it’s very hard to introduce an Android device into the mix. So now, I’m actually worried about the day when I have to worry if I’m buying an Android car or an iOS car, even just from playing my music and videos. So, I think the connectedness issue across these multiple OSs as they evolve is going to be pretty fascinating.
Heine: Hi, Chris Heine, SmithGroupJJR. There’s a lack of transportation, public transportation, in this city that we’ve talked about, and I think there’s a big perception that the big three killed mass transit in Detroit. Now that we’re moving past that, how can we mend fences to look at public transportation not as competition but to work collaboratively with the auto industry?
Butler: If I can jump in there, not having been personally offended because I wasn’t around. In fact, we are very much supporters and sponsors of the M1 rail project, for instance, and we view public transportation as one of those modes that absolutely needs to be developed, and it needs to be developed in Detroit, and we view the automobile as part of the solution. Again, there will be people that will want to own a vehicle for the pleasure of what that means, and for the symbolism of what it means, and as we go forward in the future there will be people who want a time slice of a particular vehicle for a particular moment in time, and then they’re going to go to a bike, or they’re going to go to a bus. So, we’re going to be part of that ecosystem, and part of that fabric, definitely.
Baldesancho: Hi, my name is Judy Baldesancho, I am a physical therapist by profession. This is going to be my 24th year. When I founded my company—it’s called Health and Ideas—I originally would just be teaching, because that’s my forte, right? But I am very interested in public health, so I ended up going to the world confederation of physical therapy in Amsterdam three years ago, and they do have a lot of—I’m very social, so I do have a lot of architects, or whatever. I became very interested in green technology. Dan Gilbert, last year, had this program—”Redesigning Detroit.” I ended up joining that thing. I’m on the 20th percentile, but nothing—well, I know any change will come in so many years…
Lindsay: Your question, please.
Baldesancho: Okay, I’m sorry. I’m glad that you guys are really collaborating, and I know that M1 rail is happening. What is the immediate timetable for this to take place, though? Like, in five years, in three years? Because we talked about 2020, or 2050, but a lot of times, if people don’t see change, they don’t buy into it. They’re like, “Hooray!” And then nothing happens, and then people retreat back. So, are there any more concrete plans?
Lindsay: I would like to hear an answer that’s from Jeff, because it strikes me that with the M1, this is where bike-sharing stations all along the route could really extend its impact tremendously. That’s my own thought, but…
Olson: I had a sign in my office that said “It’s cheap, it’s easy and it works.” One of the things that mayors and leaders in communities have seen, about not just bike share, but also pedestrian, bike and urban trail infrastructure, it’s pretty quick to do on the big scheme of things. It’s a lot easier than putting in a big light rail line, or building bridges and tunnels, and it is the kind of work that, you know, with the right team of people in a community, can be made to happen fairly quickly. So, I think, to answer the question that was just asked, these are things we can get down in a single mayor’s term, within a corporate leader’s role in office, within a university campus or other sites. If there’s the willingness to do it, the resources to get it done, and it’s one of these 1% investments that yields 10% results, so that’s the popularity of it, is largely being driven by—of all the things that we have had to do in a very tough economy in the last several years, we’ve been able to get this done in so many places because it is cheap, it’s easy and it works.
Koosman: Yeah, my name is Aaron Koosman, I work for IHS Automotive, and actually my question kind of dovetails with the last answer. I’m seeing large mobility projects in a lot of cities around the country, and to me as a Midwestern guy, it seems like it’s easier to finance and mobilize these projects in places like Boston and Portland. It’s harder to conceptualize these things happening in places like Dallas and Phoenix, and I’m wondering if there are different political and public support models and approaches being used in different cities, because I’m thinking it’s a harder sell in places like Dallas and Phoenix and those types of political environments.
Shivakumar: I wonder if universities in some of these places might be the catalyst for growing smarter mobility solutions in those areas. I mean, I hear that they say in Detroit that the Ann Arbor campus actually has really good transportation, so people actually end up driving there, and then, in the last few miles, it’s really good transportation. So, I’m wondering—and this is true of many other universities across the U.S. as well. So, I’m wondering, in places like Phoenix or Dallas, if the local universities might be the hotspots from which you can start growing out these solutions.
Lindsay: Does that answer your question?
Koosman: Yeah, it’s—one answer I got, talking amongst my colleagues, was Phoenix wants high-speed rail because they’re growing quickly and they’re in a basin, like LA is, and their only way to grow is to solve a transportation problem, but still it’s a politically conservative place that minimizes the role of government, so I’m just not sure how they frame that public/private partnership. It’s just a very curious issue of how that’s sold culturally.
Yusuf: This is not going to answer your question, but what the hell. I think one of the interesting things to look at is, is building infrastructure the right answer to solving transportation problems? In some cases, it clearly is, in the case of the public. But in other cases, you know, in my business, and what Uber is doing, for example, it’s an information gap, it’s not an infrastructure gap. And, if you look at parking—when people say, “Oh my god, there’s no parking, let’s build a new parking lot.” It’s because, you know, they went to an intersection and they took a left instead of a right. If they had taken a right, they would have found parking. And so, it’s clearly not the answer for everything, but I think there is a way in which information and data can help solve people’s individual transportation problems, and of course physical infrastructure is part of that. But I don’t think it’s every answer.
Koosman: I’m sure the conversation’s going to be going around when we speak, next year.