Perspectives on the changing Auto Industry, from Industry expert Chris Pauly.
Updated: Aug 24
Mobility, Autonomous & Connected Vehicle Executive and Entrepreneur, Chris Pauly shares insights from a decade-long career participating in the front lines of the industry transformation, first helping the then-nascent electric vehicle and charging infrastructure market develop standards and bring products to market, and later leading the implementation of some of the first autonomous shuttles and public transportation projects.
Below are the highlights of an interview conducted September 26th in Chicago:
Tradespace: How do you perceive the general attitude towards intellectual property in the mobility market?
CP: I think IP is extremely valuable in the mobility market. Protecting innovation is obviously essential but the very process of patenting also contributes to a harmonization of the industry's practices by creating some transparency.
Tesla famously "open-sourced" their IP and yet I'd argue it remains one of the reason for its strong position. Regardless of the particular approach one takes towards protecting it, IP may be what distinguishes those companies that become successful and those that crash and burn.
Tradespace: Compared to other industries, how would you describe the rate of innovation in the automotive and mobility world?
CP: I think compared to the electronics industry, often the easiest comparison, the rate of innovation is slow, but compared to other industries, food, apparel, etc. the pace is fast. The safety considerations, while perhaps not as critical as that of the medical field, do mean that the rate of innovation is restrained as compared to other industries.
That said, the benefits that new mobility technologies can deliver, on emissions reductions as well as safety and even in pure economic terms, are a strong driver for industry players and regulators alike to always seek the fine line that would allow for a faster go to market path. What's in the labs of OEMs and startups is just as innovative as any other industry, we just need to find the appropriate safeguards and pacing to unleash them on the streets.
Tradespace: In your opinion, what is the next big breakthrough or technology platform that propels the industry forward?
CP: The roll-out of 5G should be a leading catalyst to moving the industry towards an autonomous future. It's a lot more than infotainment, it can deliver computing power as infrastructure, reducing the technology strain (and cost) on each individual vehicle, making compliance, orchestration of fleets, and a host of other problems significantly easier to solve.
That is not just a nice to have, it is absolutely needed for the mobility industry to reach its full potential.
Tradespace: What segment of the market do you see has being most evolving and changing?
CP: Infotainment will be most impacted by the change to autonomous and connected vehicles. It may not be the higher order answer about changing society but it's an undeniable truth. All passengers will then be able to participate in whatever medium is playing, including the ones that would have been drivers in the past.
It won't simply change the quality of the journeys themselves, but also what types of journeys may be acceptable. Coupled with autonomy, it could challenge air travel for short trips, public transportation for daily commutes, and actually revitalize some areas. Few people want to live an hour drive away from work, but perhaps many wouldn't mind an hour long journey if it can be productive, reducing the effective workload upon arrival, or entertaining, reducing the commuter fatigue.
Tradespace: Where do you find information to keep up with what other companies or universities are doing, and what are your blind spots you'd like more visibility into?
CP: I try and read as many articles as I can, (WSJ/TechCrunch/Wired), trade publications and other publications but there is not enough time in the day.
With many specialized media sources and different formats (blogs, podcasts, youtube channels) it takes effort to curate your news intake, but it's absolutely necessary given the rate of change not just in our industry, but also in all the markets that influence it. I don't need to be an expert on 5G or new materials for example, but I can't afford to ignore big development and innovations in these sectors either.
Tradespace: You recently announced big projects (including a massive transit implementation in Chengdu China) in a lot of varied fields (EV, autonomy, transit), can you share some insights into how you blend the various competing technologies of Mobility for a cohesive client offering.
CP: At HDR, as a company, we are technology and provider agnostic. We work collaboratively with our clients and after careful analysis, we provide them with the various options (technologies) for them to choose from based on the goals of the project. In that regard we're privileged that we can always offer the best solution rather than have a portfolio or toolkit with weak spots.
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