CE 190

This fall Jack will be teaching Electric Vehicle technology at UC Berkeley again. The course is a comprehensive technical breakdown of the physics of electric vehicles.

Future of Mobility Podcast Interview: Innovation, Electrified Vehicles, Virtual Reality & More with Jack McCauley

I enjoyed talking with Brandon Bartneck of Future of Mobility. The following is an excerpt from my interview and to hear the full episode visit here. Encouraging Innovation Encouraging innovation in young children is incredibly important. Take me, for example. I never considered myself to be a “star” student. I spent my time doing other creative things like building models, working on eclectic trains, building, drawing, and making music. I even got a scholarship at 9 years old from Tinker Toys. If you find that you have a propensity for those things, or you have a child who does, it is important to foster that creative spirit. Academics will develop eventually, but creativity and innovation are equally as important.  Biggest Opportunities for Improvements in Electric Vehicles There is a ton of innovation happening in electric vehicles right now. Just about every automaker is coming out with a similar electric vehicle. I see the main opportunities for EVs being solid state batteries. Batteries wear out and diminish in their capacity to deliver electrons. There is now an emphasis on using solid lithium batteries rather than lead acid batteries. Solid state batteries do not have as many issues as the others and have more potential to have longer battery lives. Energy management in electric vehicles is an area with significant room for improvement. Smaller EVs are less able to cool themselves down than larger vehicles. For example, the Chevy Volt versus an electric scooter. If we can figure out a way to keep the batteries at a cooler temperature, it would be a better way to manage the power content of the engine and batteries.  Many places are making efforts to eventually have “EV-only” cities, as a way to become more environmentally friendly. Manufacturers need to have enough vehicles for that level of electric vehicle demand. In these “EV-only” cities, you will have the flexibility to drive further with smaller battery packs, which is more sustainable in the long run. One of the biggest advantages of an electric vehicle is that it has an ability to generate power. There is a reversible chemical reaction that occurs in an EV and can actually generate energy through the braking force of the electric motors. With my own electric vehicle, it costs me $6 to charge my battery from dead and I can travel 250 miles, more than I could in a gas engine and for less money. That is the biggest advantage I am seeing. Something I, and My Students, Have Learned While Building and Improving Their Own Electric And Hybrid Vehicles While building electric vehicles with my students, we have come to learn several things. One challenge we tackled was figuring out how we could make the hybrid vehicles more efficient. Our hybrid model has a small gas engine, which we have only charged twice. That engine cannot power the entire vehicle, but it is enough that when you park it, the braking force tops the battery off. In hybrid vehicles, if you have a battery that takes the energy from braking and a battery from propulsion, when you stop, it tops off the propulsion battery from the braking. We tried to separate the two to control how much the battery is being used, so we can control the temperature.  Our EV has no brakes, just all regenerative braking. If you have an electric vehicle that is at the top of a hill with fully charged batteries, and you want to go down hill, you can’t use the brakes because there is nowhere for the regenerative energy to go. If you had two motors, one in regen mode and the other in braking mode, the braking force would not regenerate power and would just have a braking force without using the battery. Valuable Career Advice for my Students If a student wants to make an impact, I would tell them three things.  First, maintaining relationships and staying in touch with people is critical. It can be as simple as calling them up just to say hello. Throughout my career, I have stayed in touch with past coworkers even from my very first jobs, and it has paid off.  The second thing is, it is great if people remember you, but you should also make a great effort to do the job well. Be honest and easy to work with, do your best to get along with people. Last, do something you love and that you won’t be miserable doing. Feeling a greater sense of purpose will make you happier in your career.  Overall, I want to set my students up for success in their lives. Every semester, I hope they’ll walk out of the class and know how an electric vehicle works, their ins and outs, and why they are used. 

A Glimpse into the Future of Shared Vehicles, EVs, and Solid State Batteries (Part 2)

The following (part 2) is based on a conversation I had with Roger Atkins,  EV Specialist and Founder at Electric Vehicles Outlook Ltd, who has been highly engaged with all aspects of the electric vehicle journey for the past 15 years. In this post you’ll find insights related to keys to career success, the future of solid state batteries, advantages and disadvantages with AI, and of course, electric vehicles. You can hear the full conversation on his podcast, Electric & Eclectic with Roger Atkins.  Roger: Let’s get back to electric vehicles now. There’s an acronym, which you’ll be familiar with called CASE, “connected, autonomous, shared, electric vehicles.” I think the two really exciting bits of that acronym are “shared” because society needs to shift to be less selfish, and “autonomous.” So, what would your sense be, Jack, on the timeline of us having fully autonomous vehicles that can take you anywhere and do profound things, because it can. Can you give us a little feel for that because you know this stuff? Jack: To your point, I have an EV that sits in the sun 12 hrs a day and is not driven. I pay $30-40k for it to just sit there. It is a resource that you use a few hours out of the day and then it just sits there. No other resource is like that. What if you own part of it? Say, 10% of it if 10 others own it too. You hail it and get in it; you sit in the back seat on your phone and do your email, then it drops you off and splits and does something else. You can’t pay a staffer to sit and drive people around as that’s expensive, but that’s the model for autonomy. You still own the vehicle, but you only use it for transportation. It’s much like a Venn diagram of Uber and your own personal vehicle.  People choose cars based on the way they look. You wouldn’t buy an EV with 10 horsepower that looks like a Ferrari because it doesn’t go fast, so it has to look good. It’s the buyer’s market so the style and design is important. You would choose what pool of cars you want to be in based on the kind of cars you’d like to be seen in. I really like British cars, I’ve got a LOLAT70 and I drive it on the street. I love the way they look, they’re light. I love Bentleys and Rolls and all that stuff. I think the autonomous model that will come is something car manufacturers are going to have to deal with. They are used to selling you something that they know is going to sit, and EVs potentially last 400,000 miles and aren’t worn out yet. One of the things I talked to Henrik Fisker about was what do you do with a viable power train and an outdated body style? Could it be that you take the car in and you get a new body put on it to freshen up its look? It would still be viable, still be yours, and cheaper than buying a new one. This was not my idea. This was Henrik’s thing he was thinking about.   Roger: I can sense that we are like minded on this madness of owning cars. I made a little presentation and delivered it a few times, which is called “Mass adoption of electric vehicles would be a big mistake.” It would be madness and we will have achieved nothing if we build 70 million cars a year like we do today. There is no need, the most inefficient part is not the motor, engine, battery, or fuel tank, it’s the utilization and ownership. I am completely with you on this and I am extremely passionate about understanding how we can get there. Do you believe with the work that you’ve done we can ever get to a point where artificial intelligence has sentience or an independent intelligence and capabilities? Jack: It’s interesting that art and technology follow hand in hand. The Italian movie poster for 2001 Space Odyssey has a guy holding a tablet computer in his hand and looking at it, and that’s how far ahead these are. It’s like who came first, art or tech? I always liked that movie, that’s my favorite movie. I saw it too when I was a kid, but I really didn’t really understand it.  The other dystopian movie I like is THX1138, George Lucas’s first big budget feature film. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. The center feature of that is the LOLA T70, exactly what I have. When I saw that movie I said, “Someday I’m going to own that car.”  Roger: Do you think, given your fascination with dystopian science fiction, that this could be a scenario where the only way we are saved from utter destruction is to cede responsibility to artificial intelligence?  Jack: What artificial intelligence does well, particularly neural nets is.. first of all let me back up. I don’t personally believe they’ll ever have human consciousness. I don’t think it can do that. If you ever look at a neural net, it’s a really simple little thing. It’s an array of software things that get reinforced by training. So the only training into a neural net is what we put into it. It’s good at pattern recognition because this array of things can get impressed with regions of the face that have a certain color or shape or something, and then reinforce on that. A neural net is blank and all of a sudden the software comes in and lays down what the neural net is supposed to have in each node. Then that gets used to do pattern recognition and if that doesn’t work, it lays in a new neural net. It is impressed with what is already known about it, so it previously knows something. If you know that about the

A Glimpse into the Future of Shared Vehicles, EVs, and Solid State Batteries (Part 1)

The following is based on a conversation I had with Roger Atkins,  EV Specialist and Founder at Electric Vehicles Outlook Ltd, who has been highly engaged with all aspects of the electric vehicle journey for the past 15 years. In this post you’ll find insights related to keys to career success, the future of solid state batteries, advantages and disadvantages with AI, and of course, electric vehicles. You can hear the full conversation on his podcast, Electric & Eclectic with Roger Atkins.  Roger: How is Jack McCauley the guy you are today from everything that’s happened in all those previous days in your life? Jack: I couldn’t have been successful without the support and mentoring I received from people I’ve come to know throughout my career. I’ve made it a habit of staying in touch with folks I’ve worked with over the past 35-40 years. For instance, the guy I worked for at Kodak Research, one of my first jobs – he and I worked on entertainment and a sound system. Long story short, I stayed in touch with him until he passed away in 2019, and I made a habit of doing that. Another example is the guy I worked for who got me the gig at Activision on Guitar Hero, for which I was the design engineer. He now shares a workspace with me here at my R&D facility and hardware incubator because he wants to build a startup and he needs a place to do it. I have all the tools, the facility, and I owe him, and so he’s here.  I am a very persistent person and I’m the type of person who doesn’t give up very easily. If I run into a problem I keep attacking it until I get it, but I’m where I am now, in large part due to the fact that I relied on other people, and got a really good education for a middle-class guy. Truly, the gift that I got from my education is the primary motivator for where I am today.  Now on the art part. I especially like dystopian science fiction. Things of that nature, things that get blown up. And so I’m kind of a natural in video games. I always like to throw a little bit of art into my coding. For example, I’ll put names of characters in games from movies to see if anyone catches it. I kind of like that stuff. So, all of that combined with great parenting is part of who I am today. I would get hired, gig after gig because they knew I would do the work and get along with folks to make stuff happen. And of course, there comes a time when things are so far behind, you have to crack the whip, and I can do that too. I used to work for Lee Iacocca in the 90s. Roger: Oh, that’s fantastic! Jack:  I built an electric bicycle for him. He loved Chrysler, had a start-up company and they were making electric bicycles and the company is still around though of course  Lee has passed. I watched guys like him very carefully to see how they interacted with people. And I would say of all the people that I’ve worked with, he is the most talented.  There’s another guy I work with who is good at getting people running and motivated. He’s like a football coach. He’s a tough guy too, he didn’t put up with much. I just watched those guys and I just copied what they did and it kind of worked. I don’t have any great gift in management, I just watch what works with people and what doesn’t.  In a creative environment, particularly in video games, it’s more or less a thing of getting people into the right position that they’re supposed to be in and letting them work together and interact, and then moving the team around a little bit to get things to go the way you want them to go. And also being a little bit of a whip cracker when you need to be. These are things I learned just by watching people. At Oculus we had a first-rate CEO. He was able to convince Mark Zuckerberg to buy our business. This guy could sell water to the ocean, he was that good at it. He was so good with people and could just read every twitch on your face, and then structure his pitch to make it appeal to you. I also know the CEO of Ferrari, Benedetto Vigna as well and I worked pretty closely with them, on various ventures like Guitar Hero and Oculus. It’s all about people skills and getting a giant group of people to follow your lead.  Roger: That’s a lovely journey. I sold some advertising space over the telephone to Lee Iococca once and it gave me the biggest thrill in the world because I’d rung up the company early in the morning. He picked up the phone straight off, there was no one else in. He listened to my pitch kind of halfway through and he said, “Look, Roger, I’m really busy. We’re gonna take a page in color, speak to this guy when he comes in, and tell him Lee said we’re taking a page.” And he said, “Roger, early bird gets the worm, remember that.” And I kind of thought, in just a few minute conversation with somebody I vaguely knew who was a bit of a superstar, it must have impacted my life. When I reflect on it now, so much more than I realized then, because, you know, get up early, get on with it. Don’t fear, going for all of those things. So for you to have worked with him, I’m fascinated.  Roger: Jack, you are one of the most successful, profound and super smart technologists, talking about people and human skills, character, personality and relationships. And I think a lot of people

Car Innovation: What Needs to Happen to Make EVs More Practical and AI’s Role

The following conversation is with Todd Lassa, Detroit Bureau Chief, Automobile Magazine, and Formula 1 enthusiast who researches, reports, and writes about emerging auto technologies for the publication. In this post you’ll learn about battery technology complexities, when EVs could overtake combustion engines, what the future may hold for autonomous vehicles, and AI’s role. Jack: How did you get into merging your interest in autos and writing?  Todd: I’m a journalist by trade and come from a hard news background. However, I didn’t get into car magazines until well into my 30’s. I worked for a newsletter company in D.C. covering advanced nursing issues, Capitol Hill and health reform, then began working for AutoWeek in 1996. My core reading audience changed from female to male readers and even having always been a car guy, I had no engineering skills to speak of. Through this transition, I realized that writing and reporting for a living is what I wanted to do. I think I started out wanting to write for a car magazine and then it actually happened by accident. A former co-worker passed my resume to the former Editor of AutoWeek and I got the job where I worked for them for four years, then Motor Trend for 12 years and now write for Automobile writing car reviews and breaking news.  Jack: Have you driven many electric vehicles? Todd: Yes, quite a few. The MINI Cooper electric vehicle was one of the first I drove in 2007 or so, which probably barely had a 100-mile range. Fortunately, EVs have changed quite a bit. I have driven Teslas including the Model S which we previously voted in as car of year in Motor Trend. We also named the Chevy Volt car of the year when I was at Motor Trend in 2011. I’ve driven a few Nissan LEAFs and had the convenience of plugging them in here at work. Jack: When I turn off the car heater in my EV, it impacts the car. I think it has to do with the chemistry of the battery. What do you think? Todd: Yes, I agree. Jack: I own an EV, but EVs are more expensive than similarly equipped gasoline powered cars. At what point do you see the cost equation working for EVs so that they overtake internal combustion cars? Todd: When cost, range, and the speed in recharging the EV all improve, that will be the ticket. Recently GM previewed their EVs; they’re building 20 between now and 2023 and some are additions to their announcement a few years ago. One was badged an Escalade and could supplement or eventually replace the ICE-powered Escalade just redesigned for 2021. I think gas and diesel engines will carry them forward for the next decade or so and that they’ll “ramp down” combustion engines as new EVs replace ICE models. GM says this new battery design comes in stacks of 6, 8, 10, and 12 and can be double stacked for bigger cars like Hummers. They are working to get the cost down from $145 per kW hour to less than $100 per kW hour. GM claims once below $100, they’ll be able to make more of a profit on EVs. I’ve also spoken to Toyota who says at this point if you’re selling an EV for less than $50k you’re not making money. They’re looking beyond battery electric. They’re very interested in hydrogen fuel cells, which are represented in their first and second generation Mirai. It looks like a Lexus, but they’re badging it as a Toyota. All of these vehicles are reducing the cost of the battery, which is one of the major goals – to make money on those cars and trucks and to get them up to a 400-mile range.  Also important is to be able to add 100 miles on a level two charge. That’s the good news. The flip side is the Chevy Bolt, and such are affordable for EVs but there is a huge shift in the auto industry that is getting away from affordable new cars. I think that brand new cars, whether a Cadillac, BMW or VW for instance are no longer attainable for the working class. Now a $35k range is affordable in the middle class, like Nissan LEAF for instance, is in the low $30k range. I see the entire industry: diesel, gas, EV, all moving on to more premium cost cars.  Jack: There has to be a financing program. 30k is a lot for a middle-class person. Manufacturers are going to have to do a resale program or something of the like to make it affordable. Todd: They’re looking at car subscriptions or car sharing. Even those are huge shifts in the transportation systems. At a global level, people are moving closer to big cities, even more so than 60 years ago. Then the question is, do you want a car in a big city? Manhattan is looking at parts of the city without personal cars. One area in San Francisco just went carless and bike lanes are increasing. Cities are moving away from designing streets around cars, moving to designing around public transit, pedestrians and cyclists. Paris and London are looking at EVs only or banning gas cars completely. Auto makers are trying to figure out car sharing. For instance, maybe an autonomous vehicle drives a 9am commuter to work, and then goes to another customer and takes him or her to work. One car can serve many people in a day. This is very pie in the sky, but the amount of money spent on autonomous vehicles is like an EV and the technology is advancing quickly.  All that said, the COVID-19 pandemic may change all of the above, we’ll have to wait and see. Jack: Seems like EV range is an issue with EVs. I get about a 300-mile range out of a full charge on my Chevy Bolt. When it gets down to less than 100 miles, I have to think ahead. Should I plug it

In the Fast Lane: EV and the Industrial Revolution

The following conversation is with Mike “Mouse” McCoy, CEO and Co-Founder of Hackrod Inc., Founder and former CEO of Bandito Brothers, an award-winning entertainment studio that architected a #1 box office feature film, Act of Valor, which McCoy produced and directed. In this post you’ll learn how speed and creativity can propel innovation to the next level, from the future of electric vehicles (EV) to design manufacturing. So buckle your seatbelt and prepare to find out how constant evaluation and redirection can shape the future of technology. Jack: Are you currently focused on developing action movies? Mouse: No, that was just one project but action has been a big part of my life. In fact, it was my trajectory into the movie business. I started racing motorcycles when I was four years old, was little and pretty quick and got the nickname Mouse. The name stuck and I went on to have a really good career as a professional motorcycle racer, including winning the Baja 1000 and 500 a number of times, as well as other records. Jack: What was conditioning like for that career?  Mouse: I’d be on the bike for hours in the mountains and it was training my brain to get really mentally comfortable with going fast alone and taking risks alone. If you crash in the desert, you’re a long way away from any help. Motorcycles are physically demanding; you’re dealing with rough terrain, your body gets destroyed, so keeping a sharp mind when you get physically whooped is important. You need to adapt and optimize for your specific discipline. There’s no one right way to train. Jack: Right, exactly. It’s just like if you’re a runner you’re not going to be in the pool, you’re going to be running. How did you go from motorcycle racing to the movie business? Mouse: Since I had been a stunt man, a lot of my life was spent in production and I wanted to make a movie about it so that people could visualize how wild and crazy it is. People thought it was impossible; to run cameras spread out across the desert was a tough order. It came to life starting out as a documentary and then became this really cinematic, deeply narrative movie that I starred in and produced, Dust of Glory. Jack: You’ve since moved on to a new realm. I’ve been to your studio which is very impressive. Your industrial warehouse is in a funky beach town and inside the building are vehicles, memorabilia from your career, and a torn-apart Prius car as you’re working on an autonomous vehicle. Tell us more about that. Mouse: Coming off of Dust of Glory, I said, why don’t we keep doing this? I got injured at 35 in a stunt job in Canada. I flipped an ATV off the mountain, destroyed myself and was in the hospital for five months. When I got out, I redirected myself. I went on to direct commercials and founded the movie studio, Bandito Brothers. We partnered with Navy SEALs to tell their stories and it developed into a top Hollywood movie, Act of Valor. Next came a call from Hot Wheels (famous makers of toy cars), who wanted to invigorate the brand visually. We then helped bring “Hot Wheels for Real” to fruition: real car-sized Hot Wheels with huge ramps were built and they made three auto world records within 18 months. Along the way, we started to recognize our process, which was wildly successful and won awards.  While we went out to create entertainment, it turned into rapid prototyping, and opened our eyes. Our tech was old school so we launched a research project. Kids were in their bedrooms dreaming their dreams, which would include building a custom car or motorcycle. We looked at the hot rod movement as inspiration, and created a new company, Hackrod Inc. We focused on where advanced manufacturing was going; the tech that would drive a new industrial revolution. It’s interesting because in entertainment we work in 3D design all the time, and it is fast. We started Hackrod to blend 3D design entertainment and industrial 3D design and chased that dream. Jack: What do you think of the current state of electric vehicles? And do you see EV demand in the hot rod market? Mouse: I think it’s an unstoppable movement overall. I credit Tesla for proving the market for it. Now market data is unequivocal and we need to address the carbon situation. I’m excited about the next revolution of battery tech and moving the chains for it. The genie is out of the bottle. Most of the major players are not tooled up for the production need, so that will be interesting to see how they handle it. Jack: How about the future? For example, do you think people will be putting EV powertrains into hot rods instead of the traditional muscle car powertrains? (Spoiler alert: I’m looking forward to working with Mouse on this.) Mouse: I look at it as being more than just a car. The hot rod is state of mind and the hot rod guy or gal is always looking for what’s new and fresh. I see hot rod EVs taking off wildly as the ability to rebuild and recycle is hot. The question is, what will be the new design and will be cool from a design perspective?  Jack: The speed and performance and amount of torque from an EV is astounding. There is the economic argument with climate change factor and the big cost advantage too. It only costs $6 to go 200 miles or so – amazing. Mouse: I agree! There’s the old school gear and combustion engine that’s getting smoked now. The pursuit of speed is the style – what hot rod is all about, and we’re going to see new styles emerge. Jack: I have a car shop like yours. I’m building an EV at a quarter scale and then will go

The Future of Automotive Technology

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Trevor Neumann, Vice President of Business Development, Automotive, Jabil, about the future of automotive technology.  Jabil (NYSE: JBL) is a manufacturing solutions provider that delivers comprehensive design, manufacturing, supply chain and product management services. Leveraging the power of over 200,000 people across 100 sites strategically located around the world, Jabil simplifies complexity and delivers value in a broad range of industries, enabling innovation, growth and customer success.  I had the pleasure of working with Jabil when I was with Oculus and was interested in hearing Trevor’s perspective on an industry in which I’ve become increasingly involved over the past few years. I hope you find this conversation as fascinating as I did. Attending CES? I invite you to attend the “Connecting with One Voice” session, a panel I’m on as part of the Connect2Car conference sessions on Tuesday, January 7. The panel will be addressing many of the issues that Trevor and I discuss in this post. More details here. Jack: How has Jabil’s business increased over the past 7 years concerning auto tech? Trevor: In Jabil’s 50-plus year history, we’ve seen considerable evolution in the electronics and technology needed to run all types of vehicles. Looking further back, we saw a big change when many simple mechanical systems changed to electrical systems, such as unlocking cars, opening windows, positioning seats, etc. But in recent years, the evolution has been much faster and more sophisticated. Jabil now supports our customers in bringing a much broader range of products to market –from the more common, such as navigation and infotainment, to enabling more advanced technologies such as critical safety systems. Probably the most significant area of evolution in the automotive industry impacting Jabil today, is in the increasing electrification of the powertrain. The electronics required to support HEV’s, PHEV’s and EV’s are so much larger and more sophisticated than traditional internal combustion engines. This has provided Jabil an opportunity to leverage our history in contract manufacturing with our experience of working in the automotive industry, supporting our customers in bringing to market automotive-grade technology that improves vehicle connectivity, energy-efficiency and safety. Jack: Have you seen an increase in auto tech complexity? Trevor: Yes, I think an interesting example of how the industry has changed is the work Tesla has done in bringing a pure-play electric vehicle to the mass-market. Their ability to build a computer network first and then a car has allowed them to leapfrog the industry with delivering certain technologies very efficiently, such as over-the-air (OTA) updates. The more traditional automotive companies have such a deep history and expertise in combustion engine-based vehicles, this push helped energize a reexamining of their packaging and design philosophy, into planning how they need to move electronics and computer systems through their vehicles. Connectivity is a big area of change and opportunity. The OEM can now interface with the car and consumer in new and exciting ways to deliver changes or provide additional post-sale features. That’s a whole new industry and opportunity of which we are just scratching the surface on the benefits.  Then there’s autonomy. At some point in the future, we will not be driving anymore. Regulations will greatly dictate the parameters of autonomous driving, relating to liability and rules of the road.  It remains to be seen exactly how this will be managed.  The World Economic Forum is doing a lot of great work here to help us understand and lead us towards a positive outcome.  Everyone is predicting different timing for when autonomous vehicles will be mass adopted. We will see a lot of development here over the next 10 years. Year over year, we’ve seen the evolution of in-auto technology, the consolidation of components that used to be distributed or decentralized within the car as well as the addition of new technology. In particular, we’re seeing a lot of exciting work with cameras; for example, Jabil has been able to leverage our optics work in consumer industries and we are applying it to automotive ADAS technology. Jack: How does Jabil foresee their business model evolving over the next 10 years in terms of percentage of auto components/electronics? Trevor: One of the bigger changes we’ve started to see is that the transaction and supply chain model has moved from a traditional OEM to large tier one suppliers, to the increased use of contract manufacturers for select technologies. We’re vertically integrated, providing design engineering and manufacturing support, in addition to having one of the world’s largest supply chains. . We’re investing in these capabilities for a couple of reasons – firstly, we enable first-time manufacturable designs which accelerates speed-to-market, and secondly to ensure consistent, automotive-grade quality of new technology.  It is really difficult to predict the future with automotive having so many divergent changes; what is critical for Jabil is staying extremely close to our customers, continuing to learn what their needs are and pivoting quickly to meet these needs. That is, to me, a key benefit of our company: that we can onboard solutions to meet our customers’ needs with speed not typically found in the automotive industry. There is no doubt that increased connectivity, autonomy and electrification are part of the future of the automotive industry, and that we need to pay attention to the legal, insurance, and regulatory aspects of these innovations. Jack: What’s your view on the future of autonomous vehicles? Trevor: I’ve had the opportunity to participate in industry conferences at which there were interesting discussions about societal changes impacted by the adoption of autonomous vehicles. In short: how neighborhoods and cities would change as a result of full autonomy. Parking lots wouldn’t really exist anymore in cities, as cars could sit outside the city to be called in as needed. Visually, space is cleaned up, our ubiquitous traffic signs which guide people through their driving experiences – all that goes away. Roads would change – take a six-lane wide roadway, it wouldn’t have to be

A Conversation with Paul Jacobs on Education, Autonomous Driving, and More

Welcome to the first in a planned series of interviews with innovators, inventors and influencers, many of whom I’m fortunate to know personally, some of whom I’m speaking with in-depth for the first time. The following conversation is with Paul Jacobs, the former Executive Chairman of Qualcomm and current CEO of wireless technology start-up XCom Labs Inc. I have the privilege of being a colleague of Paul’s at the Jacobs Institute, whose mission “to educate students who understand both the under-the-hood details that make something work and the big-picture context that makes something matter” is part of what makes both Paul and I tick. Jack: You’re a donor to education as a part of your philanthropic efforts and the Jacobs Foundation. You’ve been generous in founding the Jacobs Institute serving as its Chairman. Can you tell us what motivated your generosity to Jacobs and the students it serves?  Paul: My parents taught me that it’s important to give back to the communities of which you’re a part; obviously, UC Berkeley was a huge part of my life, so when the opportunity arose, I seized it.  The Jacobs Institute was born from my interest in the convergence of design and engineering, and of the rise of engineering as a global profession, requiring the ability to work in interdisciplinary teams.  I also realized that a lot of kids went into engineering because of their interest in math and science but didn’t necessarily get the opportunity to build something and as a result, many were losing interest and dropping out. I have always felt pride when I built something, I found it motivating in my studies and in my career, and I was confident that the students would feel the same way. That was the real motivator of the founding of the Jacobs Institute: to provide students with an opportunity to build and by so doing, keep them in engineering.  Jack: You’re also a UC Berkeley Alumni MS EECS ’86, PHD ‘89 and you were the same class as I. I’m also an EECS completing my undergrad in ’86 although we didn’t know each other back then. Such people as Steve Wozniak were in my class at Berkeley. What about a Berkeley grad gives them career edge? Is it the rigorous academic program with quality grads? How does this dovetail with your donations there?   I can tell you Berkeley utterly changed my life.    Paul: I have a very strong point of view about Berkeley because I believe that it’s the combination of University of California at Berkeley and the People’s Republic of Berkeley, that that combination is what help changed my life too. I grew up in La Jolla, CA, which is a pretty homogeneous kind of environment and I really wanted something that would widen my perspective. When I came to Berkeley and walked down Telegraph Avenue I thought, oh my, I’m really in a different world here! I literally spend the first probably month and a half in culture shock. I think that that ability to have a wide world view and be accepting of diversity – both through experiencing the town and through the insights of the faculty and the UC Berkeley community – is crucial to becoming an independent thinker. And of course you know, it’s not like getting through Berkeley is that easy either. So it teaches you to be independent in a lot of aspects of your life.   Going back to the previous question. I didn’t help create the Institute just to make things; it had to be combined with the rigorous academic program, with the incredibly high quality people that are at Berkeley. The end result:  theory and practice together turn out great engineers.  Jack: Your son is a current Cal Berkeley engineering student. Cal has a tough program and it’s exclusive. From observations you’ve made of your son’s experience there, has Cal challenged him?  Paul: The program’s been tough and he’s had to learn that what was easy for him in high school wasn’t necessarily going to be as easy in college. He attended a good high school, but it’s just not the same level of competition. The sheer volume of information that students have to absorb and be able to demonstrate their ability to use is formidable. I would guess his experience was similar to most of every freshman class at Cal Berkeley, which after all, is filled with kids who were stellar students in high school: when he first arrived, college was much more challenging than he’d anticipated. Since he first arrived, he’s developed his understanding of what he needs to do for the grades he wants and is capable of; he’s enjoying it more and is now at the stage where he’s focusing in on a specific area for deeper study.  Jack: Your father, Irwin Jacobs, co-founded Qualcomm, of which you are also the former chairman. My reading indicates that Qualcomm’s secret sauce was the alterations to standard satellite communications. How did Qualcomm enter into the cellular market coming from satellite and what was Qualcomm’s secret sauce?  Paul: The previous company that my father founded was very much focused on using digital communication for applications in industries that could afford to do so, which at that time was primarily space and military, involving a lot of satellite work. The first project at Qualcomm to become a major commercial success was a satellite system for long haul trucks.  Driving home from a meeting to pitch a CDMA based satellite system, my father and a colleague spotted a cell tower by a freeway and thought, with some modifications, the technology they were considering for the satellite system could be used for digital cellular phones.  After that it was a matter of a whole lot of hard work. He and his colleagues had these great ideas and those great ideas were very attractive to a lot of engineering people, who just loved “the elegant solution” as we said back then.  The key to Qualcomm’s