Our Wright Brothers Moment - The Road To Autonomy

Our Wright Brothers Moment

Gil West, Chief Operating Officer, Cruise joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy podcast to discuss commercializing Cruise and why it’s their Wright Brothers moment.

The conversation begins with Gil discussing Cruise’s road to commercialization.

At a high level, we are making the pivot from an R&D company to commercial operations.

– Gil West

With a background as the former COO of Delta Airlines, Gil knows how to scale complex commercial operations while ensuring world-class customer service for customers.

If you are able to run great operations, it is a real springboard for the customer experience.

– Gil West

Great customer service becomes fuel for a business and this is the path that Cruise is on as the company shifts its focus to commercializing its service. This is exactly what Delta did when the company purchased an oil refinery, introduced employee profit-sharing, stock options, and merged with Northwest Airlines.

Over time you just have to drive the results to back up your vision and that was the approach.

– Gil West

Comparing and contrasting the airline business to the autonomous vehicle business, Gil and Grayson break down the airline industry and what the autonomous vehicle industry can learn from 100+ years of operations experience.

The Cruise Origin vehicle will operate in a similar to Boeing or Airbus planes on fixed maintenance and upgrade schedules. Each Origin’s lifespan will be a million miles and after its service, the Origin will be recycled.

It was only 93 years ago that Delta operated its first commercial flight. 93 years later, Cruise autonomous vehicles are now driving around the streets of San Fransico with no driver behind the wheel. Technology has come a long way during this time and has forever changed the world.

Gil reflects on history and offers the following powerful statement:

This is our Wright Brothers moment.

– Gil West

As autonomous vehicles operations scale, the economic benefits will have a profound effect on the global economy.

I am old enough to remember the advent of personal computers. It was kind of the same thing there as people would look at it and go what does this mean, what does it mean to me, even my job. And then you realize, It’s a tool and it just drives additional productivity and I think that’s ultimately how autonomous will emerge. It just creates time advantages and productivity advantages that give us all another leg up in society.

– Gil West

When Cruise expands to new cities and scales, the company has to ensure the reliability of its service. Cruise is able to do this because of the amount of data the vehicles gather. The data gathered is used to develop extremely accurate predictive maintenance models by using machine learning.

As reliable as the airlines were, we have a chance actually to be even more reliable because of the data that we have and our ability to use it.

– Gil West

Wrapping up the conversation, Gil discusses growing up in his father’s auto parts store and what he learned during that time. Bringing the conversation full circle, Gil shares insights into what is next for Cruise.

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Recorded on Thursday, March 10, 2022