New agile entrants are pushing the boundaries of how tomorrow’s cars will run (on their own), what they’ll do (everything), and what they’ll be (an iPhone with wheels?) From cars and buses to bikes and trains and everything in between, people and businesses need to be able to move. What does the intelligently interconnected urban transportation infrastructure look like? And what wonders will it enable?
Kirkpatrick: Andrew Keen, who’s moderating this next session is one of the great moderators. He’s got about as much energy as anybody you’re ever going to see on stage, which I love. You can’t always predict what he’s going to say, which I like. And I don’t agree with everything he says but I agree with his attitude and his spirit of inquiry tremendously. I do, that’s a serious point. Oh no, he’s energetic, he’s going to get a lot out of you.
Erica Klampfl, who is the global future mobility manager at Ford, she’s here to talk with Andrew about what’s really happening with cars and the future of transportation. It’s come up off and on throughout the day and I’d love to hear what’s next. So go right to it.
Keen: I warned you I was going to ask you this question first. You’re the mobility czarina at Ford, but why do we even have a word for mobility now, isn’t that everything?
Klampfl: So it does encompass a lot which is why it’s so challenging.
Keen: Which is why you have such an important job.
Klampfl: Yes, which is why I’m so busy. At Ford we announced earlier this year that we’re not going to be just a product company but a product and mobility company. And we recognize that there’s an inflection in the industry. There’s a lot of disruption around consumer preferences, especially in different regions—so this is a global initiative—around access versus ownership, different megatrends about people moving into urban areas, and people really just having challenges moving from A to B. And so at Ford, we’re really pivoting, we’re still going to have one foot focused on our core but we also want to focus on other mobility options and services to make sure that people have freedom of movement.
Keen: So I’m joking, but can a car company pivot or is there a motoring term for pivoting, because pivoting has become a cliché in Silicon Valley. What do car companies do when they reinvent themselves? A three-point turn?
Klampfl: So that’s a good question, I think we are a big company, so maybe pivot wasn’t the right word. I think enhance our value proposition.
Keen: So you’re becoming a technology company? Reid Hoffman, he probably said it at Techonomy or he said it to David or something, Reid Hoffman always says, and he’s one of the wise men of Silicon Valley, is, “Every company now is a technology company.” So when you say you’re ‘pivoting’ to become a mobility company, you’re really saying that Ford’s in the same business as Google and Microsoft and IBM and everyone else?
Klampfl: So, we’re going to be leveraging a lot of partners.
Keen: What does that mean?
Klampfl: So, we recognize that the automotive industry is changing. Our car is a part of the internet of things. It’s filled with technology.
Keen: So you are a tech company.
Klampfl: We are a tech company.
Keen: You’re not a manufacturing company anymore?
Klampfl: We are a manufacturing company.
Keen: So you’re both.
Klampfl: We’re both. We sure are.
Keen: And what’s the connection between one and the other and where’s the money?
Klampfl: So I think we need to be a manufacturing and a tech company. Our car is filled with technology. There’s money in both. We get a lot from our products, our core business. And that’s still important to us and that’s something that we’ll continue to focus on. But we recognize there are different mobility options that customers want that are enabled by technology.
Keen: So if you become a technology company you become a competitor—I mean, I know you’re talking about leveraging partnerships but in business competition’s also important. Do you compete now directly with companies like Google, especially as Google is investing so heavily in self-driving cars?
Klampfl: So I think some of our competitors will be partners in certain aspects.
Klampfl: Examples: So Google, they are working on an autonomous vehicle. Ford’s working on an autonomous vehicle. There are ways that we can work together with companies like that, by allowing Android Auto to come through our app link. So there are ways that we partner and leverage technology in the space but we are competitors as well. But that actually helps push forward autonomous technology faster by having competitors. So we don’t necessarily see that as a threat but a strength.
Keen: Doesn’t that make you nervous? There are all of these rumors that, again, Google in particular makes the car companies nervous, because they want to own this platform. They don’t want to share it.
Klampfl: If we were nervous about all of the news and all of the competition then we wouldn’t move forward.
Keen: Does that mean that you’re becoming a data company? Because after all Google is a data company and many of the Silicon Valley companies are in the business of giving their stuff away for free and then building businesses around data.
Klampfl: Data is extremely important to us. We announced earlier this year I believe we have a new chief analytics officer. And so that’s actually an important part of our business. We recognize that to provide customers value we need to leverage the data. We also have made a point that data—
Keen: Sorry to…
Klampfl: Yes, go ahead.
Keen: Leverage the data, what does that mean?
Klampfl: So, gain insights. So when you have data—
Keen: And you gain insights from my data?
Klampfl: I know you’re going to say, “What do you mean leverage insights?” So, when you have information about, say, how cars are moving in the city, you can help improve traffic. If you understand patterns of driving, you could help improve potentially people’s fuel economy by giving them insights into how they could improve their driving behavior.
Keen: So it’s always opt-in, though, right?
Klampfl: Yes. We have made a very strong commitment that we’re about data privacy and security and that we’re custodians of our customers’ data, meaning we provide value but we make sure it’s safe and secure.
Keen: Do you think traditional car companies are more—because everybody says that. No company’s ever going to say, “Oh, we’re going to sell your data and expose your privacy.” But do you think car companies are more trustworthy than big data companies when it comes to this sort of thing? Since you’ve been in a different kind of business, your traditional business is the sale of physical objects.
Klampfl: I think that, I can’t speak for other companies but we are actually very cautious around anything we launch, even in experimental mode as we’re looking at new business models and services. It is a top priority that anything we launch, we protect the data privacy and security and have opt-in.
Keen: Data is of course extremely sensitive for any consumer, understandably. The other thing that we’re all very sensitive about is network neutrality. It’s always assumed that you’re not supposed to have a fast lane on the internet and there’s been passionate debate about this. My understanding in Europe is that the German car companies in particular are very ambivalent about network neutrality because they want fast lanes to guarantee that their data is secure and maybe is able to work more efficiently. Does Ford or do the big companies have any position on network neutrality or is this an issue that you’re not really concerned with.
Klampfl: It’s not an issue that I’m focused on right now. There might be others at Ford that are looking into that.
Keen: Do you think it could become an issue as data becomes more and more central to your business?
Keen: The big question of course is the imminence of this mobile revolution. We’ve been hearing about the self-driving car, those of us from Silicon Valley have seen the Google self-driving car, but how close are we? Is it still science fiction?
Klampfl: No, I don’t believe it’s science fiction at all. We have an autonomous vehicle that’s on the roads today, a test vehicle. I think that we believe that autonomous vehicles could be on the road within five years as long as—
Keen: Could meaning probably or for sure?
Klampfl: They could technically be, they have the technical capability to be on the road in about five years but it really depends on the government and the environment.
Keen: Infrastructure, do we need new roads? I did one of these events with David Frigstad from Frost & Sullivan who said that the government needs another moonshot, that there needs to be hundreds of billions of dollars invested in infrastructure if this thing’s going to be a reality. Are we ready? Is the infrastructure ready or is it part of our crumbling infrastructure problem?
Klampfl: I think there does need to be investment in infrastructure. I think there are different ways that cities might go about it, geo-fencing certain regions where autonomous vehicles only could navigate. But it will require some infrastructuring commitment from governments.
Keen: Could Detroit play an important role in it, given its history of reinvention and the fact that whatever you call geo-fencing is something where there’s lots of open spaces for better or worse in Detroit. Could that become a laboratory for this geo-fencing?
Klampfl: I think definitely for sure. I mean, Detroit, we’re seeing a lot of activity in the mobility space with Techstars, for example, it’s an incubator for mobility startups. So I think Detroit definitely can make a play in this space.
Keen: Are you sure about autonomous vehicles? Is it like the Brazilian economy, always on the horizon? I mean, five years is a long time. Five years in Silicon Valley is five centuries. Are we really, are you sure this thing is going to happen?
Klampfl: I don’t have a crystal ball, so I’m not sure about anything.
Keen: Well, you’re supposed to, you’re head of mobility at Ford, you have more of a crystal ball than most of us.
Klampfl: But I’m not the head of autonomous vehicles at Ford.
Keen: But are you, what, 90% confident that in five to ten years you’ll be able to go and buy an autonomous car, a self-driving car?
Klampfl: I think that will depend on the region that you’re in, depending on regulations. So some cities potentially might not let you ride in your own autonomous vehicle.
Keen: So it’s a political issue, rather than a technological issue? The technology’s there.
Klampfl: I think the technology, I mean, there are still advancements that need to be made in the algorithms around the technology. A lot of work has been done to date. It’s not like it’s all solved now. But I think in five years a lot of the technology issues could be solved. But I don’t have a crystal ball.
Keen: No, I know that. You should have one though.
Klampfl: I would like one.
Keen: Well David has a crystal ball, Techonomy has a crystal ball. The two areas—as some of you know, I’ve been critical of technology sometime in the past—but the two areas of self-driving cars which clearly have massive upside are safety and the environment. Do you want to say something about that, about how it can solve so many of our environmental problem and of course avoid the tragedy of so many deaths on the road.
Klampfl: Yes, I think that safety is a big key reason why autonomy is important for the future, to drive toward zero accidents. When cars can talk to each other, they can communicate and avoid collisions. That also impacts traffic flow, which helps movement in the city, it helps reduce a lot of the traffic congestion that leads to pollution.
Keen: So government should be—this is by definition for better or worse a political issue. The upsides for governments are enormous here. In cities like Sao Paolo and many of these megacities, this issue of traffic is catastrophic in economic terms.
So what could government be doing? What are they not doing that they should be doing to guarantee that really that that five-year horizon is a real one rather than a science fiction one?
Klampfl: Well they need to start putting plans in place for what it means to their own city, what it means to their infrastructure and their budget. So while there are huge benefits for congestion and pollution and safety, there is a big investment. And so that has to be balanced in a plan of how they can actually get there and what makes sense for their city.
Keen: And finally, and then we’ll take some questions, I don’t know how much time we have, are we out of time?
Klampfl: Three minutes.
Keen: Three minutes. Finally, what could Ford do that they’re not doing at the moment?
Klampfl: One of the things that we’re working on doing is moving faster. This space is moving very fast and for any large company it can sometimes be difficult to accelerate. So that’s one of the things that we’re working on is how we can move quickly in this space.
Keen: Blowing the company up in other words. Questions for Erica?
Faught: Thank you, I’m Rhonda Faught, I am the former cabinet secretary for the Department of Transportation in New Mexico and so I have a lot of, obviously, infrastructure issues. What types of infrastructure are you thinking needs to be in place for an autonomous vehicle, number one. And then the other thing, you said you’re not just in the product industry but you’re in the mobility industry and I want to know a little bit more about the mobility industry.
Klampfl: Okay, so two questions. The first one—and autonomous vehicles is not what I lead at Ford, so I might not be giving you the best answers. But we do need the ability for the vehicles to talk to the infrastructure. One of the ways that it’s being enable in the U.S.—and it’s different in different regions—is through DSRC. And so there needs to be some emphasis on putting that technology in place and that can impact the lights, the traffic lights, that sort of infrastructure.
Keen: Smart roads, in other words.
Keen: And smart traffic lights. If you’re going to have an internet of things, it’s not enough just to have smart cars.
Klampfl: Right. Cities need to be mapped so that the autonomous vehicles can compare and know where they are on the road and so those are just a couple of examples. So your next question about being a mobility company, so cars and trucks are still really core to our business. But as I mentioned, we recognize that people want to get from A to B in very different ways these days and it doesn’t always include a car, or it could include a car for a part of the journey. So as a company we want to help people on their multimodal journey provide services and solutions. And so that’s what we mean by being a mobility company as well, helping in the journey even when it doesn’t involve a car.
Keen: So you might start an Uber-like service?
Klampfl: You never know.
Keen: Other questions? Last question because I think we’re out of time.
Klampfl: Twenty-one seconds.
Keen: Better be a good question.
Humphrey: Thank you for being here, Andrew Humphery, WDIV and “Tech Time with Andrew Humphrey. Regarding security, this is about data because data is security. Can you speak more on maybe data security and also information systems security? If the car, if vehicles are going to talk to infrastructure, is that another gateway for hackers to access public infrastructure systems and are there any implications?
Keen: Easy question, Erica, to end on.
Klampfl: Seven seconds I can only talk for—oh, I’m minus ten. I think there are always issues and that’s why it’s always important to be diligent and work together in consortiums with other OEMs, also with governments. So yes, it’s an issue but it’s one that we take very seriously in all of the things that we do around mobility, autonomous vehicles, and connectivity. We have a cyber security team. It’s something that we’re working on. I think most auto makers are very concerned and proactive in this space.
Keen: Erica, we’re going to do this in five years when we both can be driven in our self-driving cars. Thank you so much, excellent job.