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Locomotion Video Transcript

Annc2

It’s Finch Fulton, he’s Vice President Policy and Strategy of Locomation. This is a man concerned about safety and making sure autonomous vehicles are launched the right way. And due to that I think you’ve just been named to the pave board. So speaking of cowbells, let me give you a couple of those. Fulton thanks for coming to the show.

Finch Fulton

Thanks, happy to be here. I’m from Alabama so using the cowbell worries me. We play Mississippi State this weekend. But so this last week, I did just join the Partnership for Automated Vehicle Education board and the point of this group is that you got to get the key messaging. People need to understand what is real and what is marketing with automated vehicles. You got to help people understand the actual capabilities and the actual limitations of where AVs are today and what we see is companies that promote themselves as full self-driving now that aren’t hurting everybody and they’re putting people at risk because people over rely on these systems that aren’t intended to do the driving themselves. So it’s all about helping the public understand and helping the regulators understand what is going on in reality with automated vehicles. And you know what we see is people don’t trust what they haven’t seen or experienced. Skepticism comes from this lack of knowledge and exposure, most people haven’t seen an AV but the people that have had a chance to interact with actual AVs in Pittsburgh, for example where you can see them all over the place. They have a much higher opinion of them, they understand them better. So what we got to do is we got to make sure people can interact with these vehicles, see demonstrations and even write in an av so they can feel more comfortable and understand what they’re dealing with.

Annc2

Yeah, it’s interesting, it’s interesting that you mentioned that because a big storyline that was going on over the past couple weeks was the Tesla FSD right? People like going on Youtube and almost gamifying their own driver base as these sort of beta testers on roads and I think it creates a pretty huge safety concern. Are situations like that a negative for the industry in your opinion?

Finch Fulton

Oh yeah it makes everybody feel more concerned about what the technology is. And I should clarify that those Tesla users doing that are just engaging in illegal activity and posting it online. So that’s already illegal. They can’t do that, but you know if you talk about the way people see their perceptions impacted by you know companies like that doing that. You know 53% of people feel less safe sharing the road with the self-driving semi truck, only 11% feel safer right now. Which is concerning, but what we also know is a different study shows that 60% of people are worried about sharing the road with trucks today, conventionally driven trucks. So people are afraid of trucks. You can make the argument that people are more afraid of trucks than they are self-driving trucks. It just depends on how you ask them. But people you know, people are more afraid of trucks because of their size and having to share the road with them then they are of the technology. You know, and anecdotally people feel more comfortable driving near an automated driving system or an automated vehicle than they do near a teenager, somebody very clearly texting, or like a very senior citizen. I mean it’s not hard to think about the people you’ve seen on the roads. that you would rather that person be replaced with an automated vehicle.

Annc1

Yeah Finch, I would argue that there’s a good, healthy amount of fear that needs to be there right? Because then you don’t gamify things like they’re doing with that Tesla stuff but I also get what you guys are doing they’re trying to kill that hype and create good expectations because you know Duna and I are still upset we don’t have flying cars yet because that’s what we were sold when we were kids. Right yeah, well I hope they do because I’ll be buying one that’d be very cool so how are you guys doing stripping down this hype but also maintaining the fact that this is a good thing moving forward right? So you got to strip down some of that the craziness that people think is going to actually happen but then also promote the fact that this is a really good thing moving forward and it brings some really exciting uh things to the future right? How do you balance those two things?

Finch Fulton

Yeah, so people don’t generally think about or realize how dangerous the roadways are. There’s nearly 40 000 fatalities every year on American roads and humans are the critical factor, the critical reason behind 94% of them. If you ask people how safe an AV should be they generally want to baseline it against humans, but they generally think humans are 85% percent more safe than they actually are in reality. So that’s of concern, it’s hard to have a baseline for how safe these vehicles need to be if people just assume humans are a lot safer than they are. But if we think about trucking, you know being a truck driver is the fourth most dangerous job in the US. Every year there’s about a hundred and ten thousand crashes where you have to have a car towed away. Sixty thousand large truck crashes that cause an injury and five thousand fatalities or five thousand trucks involved in a fatal crash. So obviously when a truck gets into a crash typically it’s the other people that die, but still 850 of these fatalities are the truck drivers themselves. And what we see is those numbers are only increasing with everything going on with Covid and the roadways and everything. So if you look at these crashes and if you look at the truck drivers that are dying out there you know three-fourths of these fatal truck crashes are caused by the other people on the roads. The other vehicles, people in the roads, animals in the roads, deer or things falling off another vehicle. Only the final fourth do you see can you start equating that to the trucker’s action and that makes sense because these are trained professionals that do this for a living and safety is their life, but in cases where the truck driver’s the critical factor. It’s speeding, it’s lack of sleep, it’s inattentiveness, or aggressive driving. So when you start looking at these automated vehicle technologies, first the best thing for a truck driver to be to automate the other vehicles on the road but as you as you start bringing in these safety technologies into trucking and if you have a human-centric approach like we do, it looks like studies have shown that you can get a 32% reduction in these truck crashes by automating the truck itself and that equates to real life saved. And I think if you can get that comfort if people understand the baseline for how dangerous it is out there and what actually causes those crashes they can understand that these technologies, even if they address speeding, even if they remove the incentives to speed, even if they help drivers get more sleep all of which locomation does with this two truck blink convoys you can increase safety while keeping the human in the loop to manage some of these things that you know; edge case situations where you know machines don’t know how to handle, machines are very good at paying attention to a roadway for hours and hours at a time. They’re not necessarily good at managing situations they’ve never seen before, that’s where humans really excel at managing situations that they’ve never seen before and using context to figure it out. So this is why I think an evolutionary approach that keep the drivers at the center really is going to be the stepping stone to improving safety for all on the roadways.

Annc2

So finch let me ask you this. Then those drivers, so I know a lot of drivers, there’s actually a driver coming on next and they look at these things with at the lower end a healthy bit of skepticism, on the more average end a lot of skepticism because they see it as like these are going to take our jobs, they’re going to reduce rates, they’re going to change the capacity, and the dynamics of the market. But you still rely on them to be safety drivers and all that so how do you get buy-in from a driver when they see this as a threat?

Finch Fulton

Yeah, no that absolutely makes sense. One they need to be able to experience and engage with the technology so they can understand how it improves their safety. Two if you look at the way the dynamics of the trucking sector are impacted no truck driver that’s driving today should worry about losing their jobs and the truck drivers of tomorrow will have a different sort of market they can engage in and as you know the average truck driver is 48, they choose truck driving as a second occupation generally speaking and so when you’re talking about tomorrow’s truck drivers they will have a different market that they can choose to be trained for, bringing in, be trained for some of these premium jobs. Where you can have these trucks that generate twice the revenue and they can take advantage of this technology, whether it’s a human-centric approach or not we know that the machines are not capable of doing all the things a human can do. We can use it, we can work with truck drivers so that this technology can work for them not instead of them.

Annc1

Yeah, yeah, excellence stuff. I mean, so what do you say to the timeline of what’s going on here? Because some of the arguments against you know the drivers that are scared about this or fear for their jobs, is that we’re short of drivers, this isn’t going to fix the driver shortage in any near term correct?

Finch Fulton

Not in the near term. You know even if everyone was ready to produce all the self-driving trucks that were solo driverless with no drivers in there it would still take nine years for the entire fleet to turn over and that technology is not ready yet. You know most companies are looking at production value in numbers around 2027 where you’re going to hit it up. Where you have numbers that actually start to impact it. And even then most of the trucking companies have indicated they wouldn’t be ready so you’re going to see this becoming a rolling effect. Where as more and more companies get experience with the “show the benefits of it, improve the value” that’s when you’ll start seeing those numbers pick up and that kicks that number out many years and so truck drivers should understand that this is going to be a long slope and they’ll be able to work with this technology and if they do it right they can take advantage of it to make their lives better in the process.

Annc2

Finch, hey thank you, for putting the message out there. One thing I really appreciate about you is when you come on here you’re not like a hype man for the technology. You’re being realistic with the hurdles that you have to go through, both with people, both with regulatory, both with the participants and stakeholders in the supply chain like drivers. So you know, it seems like automation’s coming one way or another and it seems like it’s in good hands with you directing some of it now that you’re on that PAVE board so thanks for joining us on the show and giving us a little bit clarity on what direction that this technology is going in

Finch Fulton

Yeah thanks for having me and roll tide

Annc2

Man he had to jump that in right at the end.

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