It’s easy to imagine a world filled with autonomous vehicles: we’ve seen it in movies like Minority Report. But what’s hard to imagine is the road we have to travel to reach that point.
Marlo Anderson, the CEO of Zoovio and host of the Tech Ranch, is heavily involved with the Central North American Trade Corridor Association (CNATCA). In fact, he’s made it his mission to help reform policy and inform civilians about the benefits of autonomous vehicles both on land and in the air.
And while his work is only in its initial startup phase, Anderson has been able to take some big steps toward shifting perhaps one of the biggest paradigms of our culture. I was able to catch up to him and get a deeper look at what he’s doing and why it’s so important.
Tech Cocktail: Why did you get involved with this?
Marlo Anderson: I was affiliated with CNATCA, which has been around since the early 90s. Their premise is to help with the ease of commerce moving up and down the highways in America.
When the US was formed, things moved from East to West across the country and there weren’t a lot of North and South routes. It’s a big deal now because North Dakota has been a big oil producer and moving that product North and South is hard.
About 5 or 6 months ago we were at one of our meetings and the drone delivery discussion caught my eye. The FAA keeps shutting these organizations down, but we thought that if we could give the FAA and the states some physical area where it’s legal to play with this new tech and do commerce it could be a footprint moving forward.
Tech Cocktail: So how might something like this work?
Anderson: We thought we’d follow the corridor where drones can deliver goods, pickup goods, move things back and forth, and then have ground vehicles with the same ability. We could create a series of land ports where they can stop in, fuel up, get services, and load cargo whether their air- or ground-based.
Tech Cocktail: How might you anticipate trust issues people could have with this technology?
Anderson: I had the opportunity at CES to ride in the BMW autonomous vehicle. You get into the car and it asks you where you want to go, and of course I’m in the back and nobody is in the front: it was weird. I’m an early integrator with all this stuff and I had a small problem with it, so how might other people react?
I totally agree that it can be an issue of trust, but that’s why our focus on the physical corridor space is so important. We’re going to attempt to move cargo first, and not people. You’ll see flatbeds without semis attached to the front of them, and eventually people will get used to seeing driverless vehicles.
If you go back 100 years, the debate was the exact same between horses and cars, with 1914 being the first year that there were more people using motorized vehicles than horses. It’s probably going to be a 20-year process, and there will be a time when we tell our grandkids that we used to drive these things.
Tech Cocktail: Can you offer any advice to entrepreneurs tackling seemingly overwhelming challenges?
Anderson: I think what a person has to do is think about the vision they have. If it’s something that could cause a major paradigm shift of how we see the future you have to integrate into current technologies. If there’s a way to do that then you can make that change.
It’s all about iteration and taking baby steps. Eventually you can get people to start changing their thought process. Granted, most businesses don’t go after 100 percent market segments, but you can have substantial goals regardless. There will always be early integrators who will help people adapt.