Big Dreams, Big Idea: Zoox
Bert Kaufman, Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, Zoox joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy podcast to discuss big dreams, big ideas, and the role that policy plays in the future of autonomous vehicles.
The conversation begins with Bert discussing his experience serving as a Senior Advisor in Secretary Penny Pritzker’s Office of Business Liaison inside of the Department of Commerce during the Obama Administration.
Public service is really important. If people have the opportunity in their careers or lives to serve the public in shape or form, take it seriously, think about it, consider it. It can be incredibly rewarding.– Bert Kaufman
Bert served for a little over two-and-half years during the second term of the Obama Administration in the Department of Commerce. During his tenure in Government, he helped launch the Presidential Ambassadors Global Entrepreneurship program that exported innovation from Silicon Valley to the rest of the United States and the World.
It was during his time in Government that Bert took his first ride in a self-driving car when Google invited him to take a ride in one of their self-driving Lexus’ on a highway outside of Washington, D.C. in 2014. The ride in the self-driving Lexus would change Bert’s life and become a defining moment for him.
It was one of those moments where you are like, yeah, everything is going to change with this technology.– Bert Kaufman
In 2016, Bert left the Administration and moved out to Silicon Valley with the hope and dream of joining something early on that would solve bring problems for the world.
I am a problem solver. I am really really driven by helping to solve big problems for society.– Bert Kaufman
It was the big idea that is the Zoox vision and the idea that this vision could increase safety and have a positive impact on society is what ultimately attracted Bert to the company. The Zoox vision of developing technology for the right reasons is as strong today as it was when Bert first joined in 2016.
It’s not developing technology for technology’s sake. What is the reason why the technology is being developed? Who is it for? At Zoox the vision is for it is for everyone. It’s for the world.– Bert Kaufman
As Zoox prepares to deploy their beautifully designed purpose-built vehicles in cities around the world, policy moves to front and center in the conversation as currently there is no national autonomous vehicle framework in the United States.
With no national autonomous vehicle framework, the regulation of the industry is falling to the State and local level. Each State seemingly has a different policy and certain cities/counties are trying to enact their own policies to the detriment of their local constitutes. Still, the industry is progressing forward as autonomous technology will save lives and reduce crashes around the world, all the while having a positive impact on society.
One of the key differentiators of Zoox is the rider experience. The rider experience is prominently featured in Khalid’s New Normal music video. With the music industry embracing autonomous vehicles, Grayson and Bert discuss hip-hop culture and what the autonomous vehicle industry can learn from artists.
Wrapping up the conversation, Bert and Grayson discuss why electrification was core to the Zoox idea from day one and when Zoox will begin to commercialize their service.
Recorded on Thursday, August 12, 2021