Transportation Tech Trends: 3 Perspectives on the Future Direction of Mobility

Transportation Tech Trends: 3 Perspectives on the Future Direction of Mobility

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DEVIN GLADDEN: Hello, everyone.  Welcome to the first episode of   transportation tech talk. I'm very  happy and excited to be able to share   some really interesting insights with  you all on a variety of tech topics   that my cohost and I believe will shape the future  direction of mobility. And we're excited to share  

our perspective with you and to get more thoughts  out there and to get the conversation going as   mobility is a topic that impacts us all.  We all have many thoughts around how do we   get from Point A to Point B, and how do we get  goods from Point A to Point B as well. And so,   we all have to agree that transportation  plays a really important role in making sure   that we see the movement of people and goods  across this country, across the globe, and we   understand the huge social, economic, political  impact that transportation and infrastructure   and the investments and the politics and the  policy, and I can't wait to dig in to all of that. One quite note before we start: All  of the opinions represented here   are from the hosts. Although we work for  and have worked for a number of institutions   in the transportation space, today we're  representing ourselves and sharing a   little bit around how we think these topics and  technologies might unfold in the coming years. And so with that, I'm Devin Gladden. I should have  started with that when I started [laughter], but  

I'm a technology and public purpose  fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School   in the Belfer Center, which is a think  tank where, for this particular fellowship,   seven folks have come together for the full  academic year on a range of technology topics,   really to push the envelope, to ask in-depth  questions, to make deeper connections within   the industry, and to really help to  move the needle to ensure that when   technologies are deployed that we  maximize benefits and minimize the harms. And I'm excited to be joined by my two cohosts  who are illustrious in their careers and have done   and will continue to do some really  incredible things. And I look forward   to hearing their insights. And so  with that, I'll turn it over to Agata.

AGATA CIESIELSKI: Hello, folks. My name is  Agata. I am a presidential innovation fellow,   and we're a group of movers and shakers brought  in to bring in innovation into the government.   However, that's not who I was in my past life.  This is just who I am, part of who I am now.   I am actually a trained roboticist and  AI researcher. I am on leave actually  

from Johns Hopkins University to help  out the US Department of Transportation   bring AI into our next generation of  infrastructure for transportation. So with that said, why am I here? [laughter] And  to be honest, transportation is just one of the   most exciting things. It doesn't sound exciting  maybe when you think about it at first glance,   but then you start to realize transportation is  vehicles, it's quad copters, it's robots, it's   how we get those packages and our gifts. It's  what makes our world run. It's so interesting,  

diverse, with so many different problems  to solve to make our space a better place. So with that, I'll hand it over to Kamya. KAMYA JAGADISH: Thank you. Hi, all. I'm  Kamya. And similar to Agata, I am also a   presidential innovation fellow also serving the  Department of Transportation. In my former life,  

before being a presidential innovation fellow,  I was a data scientist in product management at   various technology companies, including Lime, the  electric scooter company. So transportation has   been very interesting to me for a long time.  And I think part of the reason I was drawn to   transportation earlier on in life is just from  some of the personal stories that I had in terms   of the independence that I was able to feel when I  could get around the city by myself as a teenager,   or when I would be in a new country and I  was able to feel safe getting somewhere,   even though I didn't really understand the  terrain. And I think that sort of independence  

as an individual is something that everyone should  be able to have whenever they're getting anywhere,   and is a huge reason why I'm excited to  be working in the transportation field.   And will hopefully continue to do so for a while. DEVIN GLADDEN:   Great. I'm so excited to be joined by Agata and  Kamya. So today we're going to start our talk   with mobility on demand. It's a relatively  new technology process intervention in the   tech transportation space. So Kamya, what is it?  Talk to us a little bit about the features of it.

KAMYA JAGADISH: Absolutely. So mobility on  demand, or MoD is the acronym that you might   see floating around the Web, definitely has a few  different definitions, depending on which research   institute you might refer to. But overall,  I think what mobility on demand really is,   is a model of transportation that leverages  innovative technologies to actually help   people get from Point A to Point B, regardless  of it being a route that might be low density   or at a time that's sort of off-peak. And  so, I think it's this really dynamic way   for people and for goods to actually  seamlessly get where they need to go. Now, isn't that sort of like the vision of  transportation in general? I would say yes.   So personally, I think that mobility on demand  is really just the future of transportation.  

Public transit can't serve all needs because, as  I said, there are these sort of like edge cases   of off-peak or low density routes, and we  still want to be able to serve those people   and help them actually end up at their destination  of desire. And so, that's where mobility on demand   can really come in to play, really being able  to call a car at that first last-mile gap that   you need to be able to close, or see a bike  share station there that'll help you get there. And so, I think that's sort of the vision of  mobility on demand, is really thinking about   how to use innovative technologies and solutions  to sort of complete that whole trip for someone. DEVIN GLADDEN: It's interesting now that  we're focused on trips. Understanding   that for a lot of people there might be  various modes of transportation included   in one trip. I think about before the  pandemic, when I was traveling a lot more,  

sometimes you might fly into a city and  then if you don't have a rental car,   then you go on an app, you get a ride. Then you  get to your destination and then maybe if you're   in a dense city, you might consider taking a bike  to do a day trip or a rail system. And so, it's   thing, I'm really curious, in all those different  modes, we've got so many different stakeholders,   so many different agencies involved.  How is that coordination working? KAMYA JAGADISH: That is a great question. So I  think there's actually two things there. One is   the technology integration and one is the sort  of like stakeholder partnership integration.  

And so, the technology integration  is trying to think through,   how can you actually, as a user of transit,   take that plane and that train and the bike  and the bus and actually be able to seamlessly   be able to understand which mode to use when and  maybe have an integrated payment system as well.   So I'm always just sort of able to use the same  fare pass essentially. So that's one piece of it. But I think the piece you're asking about  is what I find super interesting, and it's   actually the partnership piece. Transportation  in general engages public and private partners,   but I think mobility on demand especially engages  private partners because a lot of these solutions,   like TNCs like Uber and Lyft, kind  of serving potentially that last mile   in public transit routes, or scooter or bike  share companies, a lot of times those are   those private companies and they're having to  build in relationships with the public sector. But then on top of that, you layer the fact  you have local transit at the city level,   and then you also have the federal  level. And so, trying to think through   what role should the federal government play,  what role should local play is pretty interesting.

And so, in harkening back to my previous  response, I think federal and local need to care,   right? This is a way to actually get people places  and so they want to be bought in to this idea. And   I think if you think about what's actually like  a DoT's mission, it's to achieve this vision of   safe, efficient and modern transportation,  and that to me really is mobility on demand. But when you think about what the role should  really be, at the federal level I think   they're really well suited to help guide local  cities actually implement these technologies.   There are so many different technologies  coming out of so many different fields from   different private companies, to academic  institutions, and they might be seeing   different cities implementing different solutions,  and it's really hard to navigate so many different   technologies and solutions and partnership  models. And the federal government can really be   of aid in here in just sort of helping these local  transit agencies, which are often underresourced,   actually navigate the sort of decision process  and implementation and adoption process.

So I really think that's one  area that federal government   can be super helpful in achieving these sort  of mobility on demand dreams that we have. One thing that I think at the local  level they're really well suited to do   is ensure there is an emphasis on equity and  actually meeting needs of underserved communities,   because it's sometimes harder to actually see  if that's happening at the federal level. So as   an example, the Federal Transit Authority, or  FTA, had a mobility on demand grant that they   awarded a few years, I believe in 2016, called the  Mobility on Demand Sandbox. And they were awarded   a few different grants. Los Angeles and Puget  Sound got two of the larger grant amounts.   And they were basically implementing some  creative mobility on demand solutions.

Eno Transportation did sort of an analysis to  understand how well it worked, and it seems like   showing that technological integration of actually  combining private and public transportation   methods technologically, it can work. Which is  pretty exciting to see. The partnership also can   work; there's obviously improvements to be made.  But one of the things that is still sort of an   area to be worked on is understanding how to make  sure that the people who need these sort of extra   modes of transportation most – maybe they're lower  income or they live sort of on the fringes of the   city, for example, and don't have ways of getting  there, or maybe they're disabled and they live in   a rural community, and so it's harder to be able  to take just normal public transportation or they   can't drive their own car – how are we making sure  that we're also using this to meet those needs? That's something that we didn't see as much of,  or I didn't see as much of in the FTA awards, and   so I think that's one area that local governments  can really play a big role in shaping sort of how   we're ensuring we address equity standards while  we're implementing mobility on demand solutions. DEVIN   GLADDEN: That's an awesome understanding of how  complex the ecosystem is and where we might be   going. And in some ways, to your point about  the federal government, because we have so   many different governmental jurisdictions that are  going to be involved with managing and overseeing   the development and deployment of these programs,  the federal government does have a unique role to   be able to see everything, but you can't act  on everything, but you're funding a whole lot   and you can certainly look at how you can get  certain objectives achieved at a local level   through funding. But a lot of it will  be up to the local decision-makers,   those who are using the system day in and day out.

Your point about the federal government being  able to provide guidance will be really critical   because the federal government's looking  across and they're coming in contact with   all these cities and states that are doing  all these different things and they can apply   best practices and to help avoid  some of the worst practices, too. I agree, I think there's an important  role for the federal government there. KAMYA JAGADISH: One more thing on that note,  is I think that there's the opportunity also   just to share knowledge between cities. It's  this transferability of what we're learning,   right? Mobility on demand is, in my opinion, very  likely going to happen. It's already happening in  

a lot of cities. And we want to do it well and  we want to do it efficiently and effectively.   And there's so many cities across the country  that are already trying to do these things,   and will continue to. And so, let's not waste  time and waste resources by trying the same   solution everywhere. Let's really transfer  that knowledge. And I think, again, federal   government can help in sort of shining that light  and trying to make sure that there's an ability to   crosspollinate and crosscommunicate in a  way that will hopefully be really effective.

This can obviously happen grassroots up with  cities just naturally talking to each other. But   it can be so much more centralized and sort   of structured and efficient if  it's also structured top-down. DEVIN GLADDEN: Agreed. I'm thinking, too, this  is an interesting area where data will be very   important because you're working with so many  different stakeholders and institutions who   are all trying to implement their piece of the  journey and trips. And so, I'm really curious,  

how does data play in to this? And Agata, this  might be an area for your expertise as well. AGATA CIESIELSKI: Sure. So for  starters, Kamya, thanks for introducing   us to that. I cannot say how excited I am  to honestly not have five gazillion apps   just to get 30 minutes away from my house. But that being said, data is everything. As you  all know, we are in the digital age and it is   an amazing and beautiful thing. Data is really,  it can be scary, but it can also make our world  

totally and amazingly efficient. And we can  really kind of get back to being human and   having our technology really work for us  instead of us working for our technology. So data has actually been identified by the  federal government as a strategic asset,   which means that in the federal space we're  going to be seeing a lot more emphasis on data.   And not only is there going to be a lot more data,   we're trying to facilitate this culture that  values data and promotes its public use. So we're going to start to see data be a  lot more open source. We can already see   it with the Department of Transportation; we have, which is connected into, where you can get tons of public data  sets. And when we have data, we can start to have   this amazing grassroots approach to innovation.  We can have not only companies who are developing   these newest, coolest hovercrafts that will  get integrated into mobility on demand,   or solve our annoying problems, like why are  there five gazillion scooters when I've got   three trucks over there? And it's going to help  just make our world feel a lot more seamless,   and we'll be able to have everybody across the  US and abroad innovating for our own spaces which   is an amazing and powerful thing. And we're  going to be able to do that through data. KAMYA JAGADISH: I fully support everything  Agata's saying. I totally agree,   data is everything. It's the way to power the  visions that we want to have. And so, we want  

to have, or I want to have this mobility on demand  vision. It will solve a lot of people's problems,   but from an equity standpoint, just from an  efficiency standing, a safety standpoint.   And I think the technology that'll  actually get us to that point,   it's not going to be, in my opinion, it's not like  autonomous vehicles are going to help us complete   our mobility on demand vision. I think that the  technology is not the flashiest thing; I think  

the technology is going to be data infrastructure,  how are we actually taking in the data from the   private partners, the public partners, of which  there are so many, and integrating all of that   data and processing that data. And then putting  that business logic layer on top and actually   making decisions with that data and making  it palatable in a user interface for people. I think those are the actual technologies  that are going to get us to this   next version of our transportation future.

DEVIN GLADDEN: You all are making some interesting  arguments, particularly in favor of more data   extraction from the public and more open and  transparency around it. But I also think about   the real concerns, particularly around privacy  that people have around data and the desire to   be able to, particularly in the transportation  sector, to move freely and to be able to have,   if you so choose, to have a certain level  of anonymity. But I wonder, as we move   to more of a mobility on demand era, where  all of this will be coalescing around one app   or one approach to all of your trips, I'm really  wondering, how are you all thinking around privacy   and ensuring that, as consumers give more data up  to bring the vision of mobility of on demand to   life, how do you ensure that they're still able  to feel protected in the ways that they like? AGATA CIESIELSKI: I'll jump  in on this. For starters, we   are all very concerned and value the privacy of  our data. But that being said, we have to remember   that culture and ethics and all of these  litigations, they're all fluid. They all  

change from day to day. What is okay today  might not be okay tomorrow. And vice versa. So what we're really, really trying to do is to  make sure that we have this infrastructure that   allows for the changes. So for example, I think  if we decide that we don't want cameras to be   helping guide some of our traffic systems in the  cities, there are so many different ways to solve   these problems, which is why transportation is  so exciting. But then what we can do is we make  

sure that our systems are flexible enough so that  we can take these sensors down and make sure that   we're– again, the goal is to make our technology  work for us and not us for the technology.   We want to be making sure that this is bringing  value and goodness in our lives and it's not going   to be if we feel like we're being surveilled  by our next-door neighbor or Big Brother. So with that, I'll pass it to Kamya  because I'm sure she's got some thoughts. KAMYA JAGADISH: Absolutely. I think that  what you said makes a lot of sense to me.   And I really love the point about actually also  showing people what we're doing with the data.  

I think that's key in terms of transparency,  but also just in terms of showing the value.   I don't think we should be collecting data that  we're not using and just sitting on it because,   of course, it's going to foster feelings  of mistrust and also just confusion. And so, I think it's important to also ensure  that if we are using data for putting sensors   or cameras out there, making it really  clear that we are using that data and how.  

And then, as you said, if it's not working or  if it's wrong, or if we decide it's ethically   bad to do, we should have a way of reversing  it and taking it down in a quick manner. And so I think that's a really  important point that you highlighted. DEVIN GLADDEN: As I think about another big  technology being used in transportation space,   artificial intelligence, it is so data-intensive.  Partially because you've got to train the models   in order to make predictions and to give  you insight. It's got to have something that  

it's rooted in and information. And so, there's a  lot of data training that happens. And so, Agata,   I know this is your area of expertise, so I'm  really curious, how do you see AI playing out   in the transportation space over the coming  years? And what role will data play in that? AGATA CIESIELSKI: Well, as you just mentioned,  AI is driven by data. However, like I said,   and I keep harping on this, this is going to be  innovation that is for us as the American people.  

And so, I think a lot of the things that we're  going to start seeing are actually going to be   a lot more invisible than you would expect. We're  going to start to see, for example, AI being used   to do things like inspect our roads so that we  don't have to be hitting five gazillion potholes   on our way home. It's already being integrated  in things like traffic management systems so that   we can have cleaner, not to mention more flowed  traffic so that you're not stopping and going   20 gazillion times on the way home. And then  in other places, you'll also see it in safety,   so we can do predictions on where  accidents are going to happen   based on weather conditions, and then we  can quickly deploy emergency services. So I think there's so much space for AI in  transportation in places that you wouldn't   even really think of as a daily consumer,  just kind of going through your world. But  

it's going to happen and that's where we're  trying to take AI in transportation next. DEVIN GLADDEN: I know a part of your work  has been a federal data strategic plan,   and I'm really curious, how is that fitting  in to your work? And where transportation fall   in all the different aspects  that we're seeing data apply? AGATA CIESIELSKI: So as I mentioned before, a few  years ago there was a federal strategic data plan   that came out, a mandatorium[?] that came  out which said that data is an asset.   And within that strategic plan, it's actually  highlighted that we want to promote open data   and sharing and reusability. Because  frankly, it's early expensive  

to generate data, to generate  good, clean data that can actually   create the solutions that we want to be creating.  So the strategic value is just infinite. And how it's going to be used, it's going to be  used in so many different ways. You can imagine,   for example, having weather data being used  along with transportation data, being used   with our schedules to help promote more efficient  transportation. And this is going to happen  

through these more co-innovative solutions  that are going to be happening across   places that you might not even expect.  Which I think is vastly, vastly exciting. Did I get what you were getting at? Do you  want me to dive in to it a little bit more? DEVIN GLADDEN: I mean, listen, we've got time,  so yes, let's make it for data. [laughter] KAMYA JAGADISH: Agata, I'm curious your  thoughts, in the next decade or so,   how do you imagine this innovation and  obviously with data as a huge piece of it   how do you imagine it's going to drive the  deployment of new on-road technologies? AGATA CIESIELSKI: Great question. So I think  we've seen that this space is changing so   quickly. It was only, it's only really been  ten years since we've seen the first major  

neural nets show some great promise, and  now we're seeing it almost everywhere.   So that being said, it's still a really expensive  and difficult technology to deploy. But I think   that when we start to have innovations in the  methodologies of scaling, we're going to really   start to see crazy and fun and new things be  deployed. And that's going to come from, there's   going to be advances in computing. There's going  to be decrease in costs. We can have small sensors   and computers deployed to advance and put AI in  spaces that we didn't think was possible before.

And with all that investment into this new digital  infrastructure, we're going to be able to have   this space that allows innovation  from everywhere. And to add to that,   we've now had ten years of a workforce  that has been building with AI knowledge.   And it's only going to get faster. I think we're  going to start to see amazing solutions that  

will make our future just look like something out  of sci-fi. I'm picturing personally the Jetsons.   I want to see to see a Rosie Robot, and  I want to have my little flying car.   Personally, I think that would be amazing.  But really, the limits are boundless.

DEVIN GLADDEN: That's a really excellent point,  particularly when you look at how complex the   challenges that we are dealing with in society  and what we're hoping to achieve through our new   vision from mobility. And one of those things  I'm most interested in and honestly this is why   I'm focused on the transportation space, and I've  dedicated my career to understanding how can we   reduce climate emission from the transportation  sector? I think this will be, to your point,   Agata, around the breakthroughs that we're  going to see. I think in the coming decade,   climate change will be one of  those issues where we'll see   new insights gained from AI applications and new  solutions because we might learn a couple things   from our robot friends about what it means to  be human and to protect our planet. And I'm   excited about that because I think it will  bring about a better future because we'll be   able to actually solve the problems that  we have; climate change in particular.

AGATA CIESIELSKI: Well, to jump on that, it's  actually a priority for this administration   right now, which has been pretty exciting. We  actually have the climate change center that   just has been launched out of the US DoT. And I  think you're going to see some really exciting   work. Personally what I want to see, again,  just my own bias, I want to see places like NOAA   working together with DoT, working together with  Department of Energy and EPA to test out all the   innovations that are coming out with clean energy  and more efficient driving. And then we can see  

how they impact our climate models and make sure  that they're really being deployed in a safe way. And like I said, I love this idea of  co-innovation and I want us all to work together   to get this utopia that we all, come on, let's  just admit it, we all want it! [laughter] So I'm going to pass it back to you, Devin. DEVIN GLADDEN: I actually, before we move to the  next topic, I actually have one more question   because you brought up a really  good point about the co-innovation,   and that makes me think about the consumers. As  we all appreciate in the transportation space, if  

you build it and they don't come, you don't have  anything. [laughter] So I'm really curious how you   are thinking around what considerations consumers  should be thinking around as they experience   and test out and adopt these new and emerging  technologies. What should they be thinking about? AGATA CIESIELSKI: Let's start out by saying  that we should all choose the technology   that we are most comfortable with. But all of  that being said, I think a lot of these things,   as I mentioned before, they're going to be pretty  invisible. We want to add AI to make our everyday  

lives just feel more seamless. So I think as a  consumer, I think we're going to start to see   things jump in that I hope that we're all looking  for. Some of these things are perhaps night vision   to have AI systems that work better at night,  which right now, to be honest, is a struggle.   To have things like pedestrian detection, to  make sure that our vehicles are treating the   pedestrians that are walking around safely. We  can have things like traffic sign recognition. So essentially I think there's going to be a  lot of capabilities that are coming in to the   personal space, as well as those invisible things  that you're seeing. And then finally, I think  

we're going to start to see technology that can  come in to the areas that we don't expect it.   Which I'm really excited to see because I'm  here in West Virginia, which is a far cry   from where a lot of these  technologies are developed,   and I want to be able to see some  of these technologies hit this area   where people really aren't really thinking  about us all the time, to be frank. But yes, as a consumer, I think you're going to  start to see things come in to make your life a   lot safer, a lot more seamless. But again, choose  the technologies that you feel comfortable with. DEVIN GLADDEN:   I think that a really great point about  choosing appropriate technologies.   I think that's a great segue to our next topic on  autonomous vehicles because my work has shown me   that the deployment of these vehicles will very  much depend on the use case. And as you noted,   being in a rural community versus an urban  community, needing an AV for a last-mile ride   from a train station, to delivering lunch, these  are all different use cases that I think as we see   the industry continue to mature and develop, we're  seeing more of that being built out. And that  

is leading to some interesting partnerships  and acquisitions. I think about just today,   it was announced that Lyft's AV division will be  acquired by Toyota. I think some people will find   that information a little bit surprising because  Lyft, and Uber before it sold its unit to Aurora   recently, they had really been real champions in  the space of the technology because there had been   a lot of discussion around, will these vehicles be  able to reduce the labor cost of having a driver,   so much so that you could end up with a  dollar-per-mile-per-ride, which opens a whole   new equity conversation when you start to make  transportation options more affordable to people,   particularly if they're in an area or community  that has poor transportation infrastructure   and a car can, when you're able to  figure out what's the best use case.

AGATA CIESIELSKI: I want to flip the last  question that you asked me straight back at you.   So what do you think? AVs, honestly, when  people think of AI in transportation,   they think autonomous vehicles. So what do  you think? Which are the consumer applications   that are likely for AVs in the  coming years? What do you think? DEVIN GLADDEN: To start, I hope that one key  takeaway from this talk that people take is that   AI will not only be applied in AVs, and actually  the more transformational applications, which,   Agata, I agree which will be traffic management,   are much bigger applications that the  public should be following, just as much   as they're following Teslas and the comings  and goings of AV acquisitions in the industry.

But to your question more pointedly about where  we see these things going in the applications,   I actually think in the short term, we'll  likely see long-distance and short-distance   deliveries be sort of the first deployments.  Because one, I just think you actually,   in the trucking industry in particular, you're  dealing with severe labor and driver shortages.   And some people have also been looking  at the fact that because of the pandemic,   that we've really given rise to the delivery  economy; everything can be delivered.   You can even get a car delivered now.  [laughter] Which I find hilarious. But in some ways, it's this need to be able  to have goods really delivered all places,   at any time of the day. You have to be  able to facilitate that. And I think   that's a really interesting application for AVs.

I do think though the larger question around  whether or not we're going to see delivery bots   everywhere will really be how drivers really  acclimate to this new road user, where in some   ways– you know, we've never really dealt with  robot drivers before. Very few places in society.   But it will raise really interesting questions  because in some ways looking at new road users and   understanding that humans have developed  all sorts of unwritten/written rules   around the road and you've got actual legal  requirements, federal, state and local. I mean,   this makes me think about our earlier conversation  about mobility on demand where you've got   so many different organizations layered all  in trying to make the whole system safe. And   that's exactly what you have when you look  at regulations between the driver, which   most people get their driver's license from their  state, and your state regulates you as a driver,   but in AVs, who's the driver? Is it the  robot? Is it the automaker? Who is it? So there are still lingering questions in the  regulatory space that I think will need to be   answered that will support whether or not we  see greater adoption and use of these vehicles.

KAMYA JAGADISH: I think that really touches on  a lot of the things that I am most curious about   when I think about AVs and delivery vehicles.  And so, I'm so curious, in your perspective,   what do you see as the steps we need  to take to be able to start addressing   those kinds of concerns of those other  road users? And how do we even try to start   mitigating between industry and regulators? I  realize that there's no perfect answer to this,   but I'm just curious to know  what your take on that is. DEVIN GLADDEN: Thank you for the question  because this actually touches on a really   important aspect of my research this year, which  focused on what I'm calling four elements of   public acceptance. So these are four critical  areas that any government, both state, federal,   everybody involved with regulating AVs, but we  all need to be considering and actively address   because these are items that the public needs if  you're using the roads just like anybody else,   these are four elements that people  really do need answered before they   feel comfortable driving alongside  a robot. And so those elements are: The first one is that AVs demonstrate safe  and predictable behavior. So this gets to the   first point that I was making about the rules and  regulations, unspoken and the formal regulations,   but really ensuring that AVs can follow  those rules and that they can be a reliable,   trustworthy road user. Until folks understand that  AVs have those capabilities and are trustworthy,  

it's going to be very unlikely that  they're going to feel comfortable   driving alongside a vehicle. And that kind  of tension and anxiety can create stress,   which is– I have to remind people sometimes, but  driving is still one of the deadliest forms of   transportation. A whole lot of people die every  year driving on roads, and so you have to imagine   if people are already in a situation that makes  them a little precarious or tense on a highway,   and then now they realize, Okay,  there's actually not a human diving   that vehicle and now I'm a little concerned. How  do I communicate with it? Do I just go around it?  

People's behavior might start changing. And  our research showed that people have questions,   and there's this preexisting anxiety  that regulators really need to address. The second key issue is that the technology  actually works. I think about Agata's point   earlier about pedestrian detection. We've seen  studies that show that these technologies don't  

operate as they are designed. And so, I'm a  '90s kid; I remember having to blow into a Super   Nintendo cartridge to get it to work. I'm not sure  people are willing to troubleshoot on the road   when they've got a car full of people and  they're concerned about this robot next to them.   And that will be a key industry perspective  because they're going to be responsible;   it's their technology on the roads. And  regulators need to be able to strike the   balance to be able to kick the wheels on  it, ask all sorts of interesting questions   about the software – how does it make decisions?  How are you defining redundancy in the hardware   so that a car just doesn't stall out?  That will be a key consideration.

The third element is that road users really  have a key understanding around liability   for accidents. And I think because  we're still in this nebulous pilot   phase where there's a whole lot of pilots around  the country in different parts, but some people   have not seen them, and so there's still an open  question around what happens with liability.   And I'll be honest, I think the insurance  industry has been kind of tiptoeing around this,   state regulators, where insurance is regulated in  this country, they've been tiptoeing around this.   I actually have a different approach because  I do believe that if industry is willing to   put all of these investment dollars into these  vehicles to bring them to life, I think that means   that they should take on the liability, at least  for a short amount of time. So in some states,  

I think that for a set amount of time they should  consider placing liability solely on the entities   testing the vehicles. I think that would give  road users a sense of confidence, at least in   this interim phase, when our public roads are  being used as an experiment, and to some extent   we're seeing the impact of that with, unrelated  to my research, but we're seeing that with ADAS   technologies. I mean, Tesla crashes generate a  whole lot of media and public interest, and it's   one of those areas that I think about where, if we  can't manage ADAS right and we can't show people   that we're going to be responsible developers  and assessors of this technology, how can we ever   believe they will give us their full trust in a  fully autonomous vehicle. We're not there yet.

And so, I think liability will be a key  consideration. And hey, it feels like   every other day the industry is willing to throw  around another multibillion-dollar evaluation,   so let's think about that in the liability  sense and let's have this public testing really   create a safety net so that we can get the  full benefits of it and minimize the harms. And then the last element is making AVs  recognizable instantly. I don't know if it's   a marquee on top of the vehicle like you have  with cabs. Is it some sticker, like when you   have student drivers, they've got a little bumper  sticker. But something that just immediately gives  

folks, other road users a signal that  the car in operation or the vehicle,   the semi truck, is not being operated by a  human, and it may not have a human inside of it.   I've had conversations with professionals  and I've seen inside of AV shuttles. Never   driven alongside one. And it's interesting, I've  talked to folks who have deep, deep AI expertise   and they still say, "I'm not sure what I will  do when I pull up next to an AV for the first   time. I'm not sure how I'm going to react. I'm not  sure, am I going to have different expectations?"   And I think all road users are going to have  [laughter] that first kind of "huh" moment. And I think that's where I want to be able to  step in with some advice, some information,   giving people a clear sense of what the  capabilities and limitations are of the   technology. This is getting into Consumer  Education 2.0 for me because we talk a lot  

about– in the industry there's a lot of talk  around, okay, well, if we just educate consumers,   that will help. But I'm always like, what  are you talking to them about? And I think   this is kind of a key area to start with, like  how to drive alongside an AV. And I wonder, these   testing scenarios, there's a lot of openness there  for people. And I think we can do some good work,   but it also opens the door for a lot  of damage if we don't manage it well.

AGATA CIESIELSKI: So Devin, I'll chime in  with a funny story. When I was in graduate   school at the University of Pennsylvania, we  had access to– we were fortunate enough to   participate in the DARPA grand challenge, which,  for those of you who don't know, is a challenge   that was hosted close to ten years ago to  develop a fully autonomous vehicle that could go   from Point A to Point B, to nearly  around 100 miles fully autonomously. So after the program finished, the challenge  finished, we had access to this vehicle. And  

we were doing some research at the GRASP  Lab at Penn, and we got some city permits   to go in downtown Philadelphia and we  were testing actually how pedestrians   were going to be interacting with our autonomous  vehicles. And so, we were so ready to have people   looking backward and for our  algorithms to not work properly,   and much to our sadness and dismay,  no one even noticed we were out there.   [laughter] We were so disappointed. But that being said, I think  you raise a really great point.   It's not about finding the right solutions  always; it's about how you present the solutions.  

And I don't know what that's going to be. When  you first said that, I imagined vehicles with this   crazy bubble [laughter] or like big bumper car  style. But of course, I think we're going to have   to think of the best way to do this and hopefully  pull from innovators from industry and academia to   come up with those best ways of what should these  vehicles look like when they're actually deployed. DEVIN GLADDEN: Yeah, and you make a good point  about vehicle design because I'm expecting–   you might see all sorts of new vehicle designs  come out, especially if– I think automakers   are really keen on trying to promote alternative  seating arrangements and activities in vehicles.  

So if you think about now, in your hour-and-a-half  long commute home from work, maybe you'll be able   to sleep now. There are some interesting safety  questions that you ask now, like, is it safe to   have people lay down in cars? But this is where,  to me this is where– actually vehicle design   is a key area where we should have greater  collaboration between the federal government   and industry. And we will need that greater  collaboration just to ensure that everything we're   putting on the road is safe. And that will be a  big question, a big public conversation constantly   around what is safe? Is it unsafe? Who is it safe  for? Why is it safe for them and not for others? We see some of this already when we are  actively engaged with auto regulations.   But I think we're going to see more of a  public conversation around it just because of   the real hype and mystery around these vehicles  and what people think that they will be able to   achieve and what they want them to be able  to achieve for them to be real in real life.

KAMYA JAGADISH: Yeah, absolutely. I think that  you both are making really great points around   the public trust aspect of it, which  I think just can't be underemphasized.   Sitting between of you in this Zoom room, I have  not ever been in an autonomous vehicle before,   and this is something that I know Agata has  really talked about passionately before. But there   are so many people who are in the rooms making  decisions about autonomous vehicles and who are in   the transportation space, such as myself, who  know some stuff about autonomous vehicles,   but I've never actually sat in one. And  so, definitely it's going to be harder for   even myself who, I would say I'm data-driven,  science-driven, et cetera, to really feel fully   trustworthy of the decisions that are coming  out of the industry/government in this regard. So I think that, yeah, you make a  really good point in terms of making   sure that we're really emphasizing  the fact that we need to be talking   with the people and having this public  conversation and bringing people into it.

DEVIN GLADDEN: Kamya, that's an excellent  point. And I think that brings us to   our final segment for this episode, which I'm very  excited about because it gives the audience more   understanding into how we intend to use our  fellowship experiences and the insight we've   gained. And for me, I think the biggest insight  I've gained about this sector from my fellowship,   actually we touched on it earlier, but it's about  how energy and data-intensive AI technologies are.   And in some ways, I think as we, as humans, become  better stewards of the planet and we make larger,   more inclusive goals for the transportation system  in our country and globally, I really do think we   will have to really, really investigate and manage  the expectations around energy in particular   and data because these systems are very, very  intensive. And I do think because they require   just so much, there will always be a public  conversation about, are the tradeoffs worth it.

And I think it will be up to people like us, who  are in the industry, who are using our careers   to impact the deployment and trajectory of these  technologies, to make sure that we're being honest   with folks and saying the truth, being  truthtellers. Because I'll be honest,   I think the public is skeptical of industry and  what its motivations are. And to be honest, people   are also skeptical of the government at any level,   and what's its motivation and why does  it care and what actions will it take? And I think the more we as professionals can help  to steer that conversation, to guide and make sure   that the correct information is out there, that  we're asking the right questions, that we're   thinking about the needs for everyone, I think  we'll be in a really great position to do some   great work. And I think this will be the first  of many conversations between us on these topics. AGATA CIESIELSKI:   I suppose I'll jump in after you. So  what have I gained out of my fellowship?  

I will say one of the most surprising things  for me is learning how much I actually like   civic tech. It is one of the most powerful  and exciting concepts, to be able to come up   with ideas and solutions that actually impact me  and everyone around me in an everyday basis. And   I think the most amazing and pleasant surprise  is that as I'm navigating through these spaces   and working through these different agencies,  there is so much excitement internally as well.

And I think there's a real desire to drive  some change and to really bring innovation   into our spaces, to do it from  a grassroots or a ground-up   way of thinking. And so, whether or not I decide  to stay in the federal government, I think one   of the most important lessons that I've learned  is, hey, I love working on big, really difficult   problems. And I just love making an impact. And  I hope that one of these days we'll be able to   see the fruition, and all come together and look  around and say, hey, look, we built this together.

KAMYA JAGADISH: Following on to Agata's big  ideas comment, I totally second that this is   such an interesting space to be in because it's  so complicated. It touches everybody as humans.   So many different industries and public sector at  every level and academia, et cetera, are involved.   And so it's really complicated. And I  think that's what makes it super exciting.

And something that I maybe naively have  thought in my past when I looked to a   problem that involves public and private sector,  I haven't understood why it's so complicated.   It's so easy to be a human just consumer of  transportation, for example, and just say,   Well, why can't we just bring out autonomous  vehicles and make that be more ubiquitous and,   I don't know, make it safe in the next ten  years? Maybe that just seems simple to some   people because you don't have all of the knowledge  about how complicated things like this really are   and all these partnership models are. And so  I think that's something that I've really been   learning a lot over the past number of years, but  especially working in the federal government and   understanding the federal perspective on how these  things work. It's just been super interesting.

And so, one of the things that I just feel  really strongly opinionated about is just the   idea that you always need to keep trying and  iterating on your approaches, not just to   technology development. I'm coming from a private  tech background so I know that with technology   development you're always talking about  iteration and learning and in Av testing and   retrying again. But you need to do that also  just at a larger level with how you're thinking   about a partnership model, how you're thinking  about a large overall strategy for a department.   It's not just about the technical product. And I  think that's something that that both Devin and   Agata have sort of mentioned in their responses to  other questions earlier today, whether it's about   testing out autonomous vehicles and seeing what  types of solutions actually work, or whether   it was Agata who I think said this really nice  phrase about innovation methodologies to scaling,   which is another thing – how are we scaling these  technologies? We need to think innovatively. We   have to have co-innovation across cities and see  what works and what doesn't. And learn from it.

And I think that applies to mobility  on demand, obviously, as well.   Really just thinking about how do we actually  want public institutions to partner with private   institutions. We're not going to get it  right; we need to keep trying different   procurement methodologies. And I think it's  sort the sandbox approach that we want to take  

to everything we're doing in these big, complex  problems, not just the technology itself. DEVIN GLADDEN: I agree, Kamya. And I think that's  the one takeaway that I think we can all agree on,   is that human use and adoption of the  technology will be critical here. And   we have an important role to play  in guiding it. And so, I'm excited. And thank you so much for this great talk.  I'm so happy that we were able to just share  

some insight on some other technology topics  that I think we'll be certainly hearing more   about in the coming years. And people will  be seeing and experiencing on the roads.   And that's when the rubber will hit  and we'll figure it out along the way. So with that, thank you so much,  everyone. And until next time [waves]. KAMYA JAGADISH: Thank you.


2021-05-21 01:23

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