Project Management Institute

Transforming Transportation

Transcript

NARRATOR

The world is changing fast. And every day, project professionals are turning ideas into reality—delivering value to their organizations and society as a whole. On Projectified®, we’ll help you stay on top of the trends and see what’s ahead for The Project Economy—and your career.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

This is Projectified®. I’m Steve Hendershot.

Considering that the transportation industry is all about movement, I suppose it’s appropriate that the sector seems to be moving at full speed in every possible direction. There’s all kinds of action in micromobility, for example, as e-scooters lay claim to sidewalks around the world.

Then there’s mobility on a grand scale, like the 5G-equipped, driverless bullet train that opened in December 2019 connecting Beijing with Zhangjiakou, one of the host cities for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

There’s also innovation overhead: the flying taxi. This concept, which seemed like Uber’s sci-fi pipe dream just a couple years ago, is now charging forward as the ride-sharing company last month announced a partnership with South Korean manufacturer Hyundai to build air taxis. Boeing and Airbus are also experimenting, as is Toyota, which just pumped nearly $400 million into a Silicon Valley air taxi startup.

Or if you prefer subterranean transportation, there’s this: Elon Musk predicted in December that the first commercial application of his underground tunneling operation and autonomous pod line, under construction in Las Vegas, would be complete sometime in 2020.

We’re going to spend time later this episode talking about General Motors’ autonomous vehicles program. We’ll also give you the details on how you can apply to become a speaker at the TED@PMI event that’s going to be part of the PMI Global Conference in 2020.

But first, let’s bring in Margaret Poe, who helped report this episode.

MARGARET POE

Hey Steve, how’s it going?

STEVE HENDERSHOT

One of the themes with mobility seems to be interdependence. That what’s happening isn’t just coming from within transportation, but you’ve got telecom weighing in, new batteries. How are all of these forces combining to shape our transportation future?

MARGARET POE

Yeah, that’s such a good point. I think with transportation and mobility right now, it is the fact that there are huge macro trends going on, there are so many developments in technology happening, consumer expectations are changing. All of these things are happening at the same time, and it’s that interplay which is really super fascinating.

In my research I found that the big global trends are super interesting to think about as they trickle down into, you know, the technologies that we see on the roads. So urbanization, as we’ve talked about a lot, more and more people are moving to cities. That’s putting pressure on those transit networks and forcing innovation there. There’s climate change, which is affecting the way people are looking for energy-efficient solutions. I’m from Iowa, which is a fairly rural state in the U.S., and at the local grocery store there is a huge bank of Tesla charging stations. We always laugh because only two people in the town maybe have a Tesla, and there’s like 10 charging stations. But it’s interesting to see it as someone has a vision that this is going to be the future, and people passing through, because this is, you know, in the middle of the country, are going to need this. So I think it’s things like that where you’re seeing right now we’re laying the groundwork for a lot of future technologies that are all going to come to play in the future.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

So, the real innovation here is the idea of the world’s first aspirational fueling station.

MARGARET POE

That’s basically what I’m saying, yeah.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

So if you had to pick one trend that will have a singular or the most pronounced impact on transportation over the next couple of years, what would it be?

MARGARET POE

To me, it’s the mobility-as-a-service, which sounds super wonky, but once you think about it and talk about it, you realize oh, this is a trend that we’re all experiencing. And the general idea, I know you’re familiar, but the general idea is that we’re moving from having a transportation mode owned privately by a person to a transportation network that is shared. It’s more efficient. It’s faster, easier, better for the environment, better for people. So that’s going from owning a private car to using Uber in combination with maybe public transportation.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

So, I still have a car, mostly on account of the two car seats in the back. But you are one of these urban denizens who has forsaken all of that for a life of ride-sharing. How’s that working out for you?

MARGARET POE

It is working out for me. I haven’t had a car in like seven years. I obviously live in a relatively big city, so that makes it possible. But mostly it’s possible because of these mobility-as-a-service platforms. You can find a way to just get a ride within two minutes instead of having to worry about parking and you know, finding, paying for parking, finding parking, all of that business.

STEVE HENDERSHOT

So that’s your consumer experience. Reporting this episode, you also spoke with lots of experts. What did they have to say?

MARGARET POE

Yeah, one of those experts was a thought leader in this space from Europe.

FRANÇOIS-JOSEPH VAN AUDENHOVE

So, my name is François-Joseph Van Audenhove. I am a partner at Arthur D. Little strategy consultancy. I’m based in Brussels and working worldwide in the area of mobility.

MARGARET POE

He’s also head of the firm’s Future of Mobility Lab. So that’s where we started—what is the future of mobility?

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FRANÇOIS-JOSEPH VAN AUDENHOVE

As you may know, the global demand for passenger mobility in urban area is set to double by 2050, and so the number of individual journey that are taken on a daily basis has grown massively over the past year, which is putting pressure on mobility systems.

And also, even larger growth is actually expected in the field of goods mobility, because we always speak about people mobility, but goods mobility is actually expected to triple, if you compare between 2015 and 2050. That is really a huge impact because the demand for mobility is increasing.

MARGARET POE

Yeah, when you’re talking demand that’s doubling and tripling, you really get a sense of the scale we’re talking about here. What are some of the other factors that you’re tracking?

FRANÇOIS-JOSEPH VAN AUDENHOVE

If you look at social and behavioral trends, what we see is that customers’ expectation for fast, reliable and convenient mobility solutions are rising really quickly, and people mobility habits are evolving dramatically over the past year. This is driven by a number of trends.

One of the most important one is the shared economy. People are slowly progressing from a mindset where they consider mobility in the sense of ownership, people were owning a car, and they are slowly progressing towards the logic of usage, so using mobility-as-a-service.

MARGARET POE

I’d also love to talk with you about self-driving cars. What is your take on the future of this technology?

FRANÇOIS-JOSEPH VAN AUDENHOVE

There’s been a lot that has been written about the subject of how self-driving technology has the potential to influence mobility systems. I mean, typically there’s a lot of study, which are talking about how great it would be if all our cars will be autonomous. We speak about increased transport efficiency, we speak about pollution, we speak about reduced parking space, decreased cost of mobility, improved road safety, we speak about accessibility, because autonomous car, ultimately, will actually be accessible for elderly people, for younger people without a driving license. So, there’s lots of great potential from self-driving vehicle. But however, there’s also a lot of detrimental effects if this is not properly framed and deployed; traffic congestion, decreasing level of safety, cybersecurity attacks, urban flow, I mean, there’s lots of issues as well.

MARGARET POE

Yeah, despite all of these concerns that you’re talking about, I think there’s still just so much excitement about the prospect of self-driving cars. When do you expect that we’ll start seeing them on the road?

FRANÇOIS-JOSEPH VAN AUDENHOVE

So, if you want to summarize this whole question of self-driving vehicles, first of all, this is not going to be for tomorrow; this will be coming progressively—that is the first conclusion to take. Number two, a lot more focus has to be set, including by the regulators, on how we will manage the transition, because it will not be that in one day, we will switch from the current situation towards an autonomous city.

And even further, after the transition, I think that most likely there will still be a combination of autonomous mode and non-autonomous mode, because I think in the future, if you protect yourself, would you like to live in a city that is completely autonomous? I think you’d still want to be able to walk, you’d still want to be able to bicycle, or you still want to use an e-scooter. And we can see that, I mean, when you see the success over the past months on the e-scooter, for instance, there is really a demand from people to have these types of transportation. So that means that, I think, technology is going to evolve over the coming years, and I think the evolution of artificial intelligence will probably allow us to get self-driving vehicles, which will be more and more smart, making better and better choices, which will solve part of the issue. But also we need to find ways for mixed traffic, so to combine autonomous and traditional mode of transportation. If you want to have mobility systems that will usually have more performance, but also more reliable.

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STEVE HENDERSHOT

One company at the center of the current transportation revolution is General Motors, the Detroit automaker that has weathered its share of past industry upheavals—the company’s founder, after all, made horse-drawn carriages prior to starting GM in 1908.

In 2020, it’s GM’s autonomous and electric vehicle efforts that are making headlines: In late January, the company announced a $2.2 billion initiative to retrofit an existing Michigan factory to focus exclusively on autonomous and electric vehicles. Also, GM’s Cruise subsidiary debuted a self-driving car with no steering wheel or pedals, called the Origin, that’s aimed at the ride-share market and is slated for a production run at that same facility within the next couple of years.

Projectified®’s Hannah Schmidt spoke with Mike Goodrich, who led the electric and autonomous vehicle programs at GM for several years. He talked about the unique challenges and opportunities related to leading successful next-gen transportation projects.

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HANNAH SCHMIDT

What’re you seeing in the AV market today?

MIKE GOODRICH

There’s a lot of interest in autonomous vehicles right now. There’s a real potential for them to change how people live day to day, and that draws the attention, right? There’s an allure there. There are so many market studies globally that identify that what we call or what’s generally called megacities will grow substantially in the next 10 to 12 years. There’s projected to be 39 megacities. Now, those are cities with 10 million or more inhabitants by 2030. That trend of dense, populated cities will draw congestion, which will affect people’s daily lives. The autonomous vehicle should and will help their lives and reduce that congestion for people.

HANNAH SCHMIDT

We’ve never seen a project before like autonomous vehicles. So, what are some of the challenges that teams face, and how do you overcome them?

MIKE GOODRICH

This is, yeah, there’s not a lot of challenges like AV, right? This is a generational challenge. It’s one of the most exciting times in the automotive industry to be a part of this. It is the engineering challenge of the generation. So the obstacles is ensuring that we have aligned a unifying vision across all parties that are working on this. We solve hundreds of problems of completely new, complex challenges along the way in developing this vehicle. And the key to solve new challenging obstacles is to make sure that the teams are together; they’re moving fast but with accountability. And really for us, if you think about the development of a vehicle, it’s no one single function. It is a compilation of many cross-functional partners who bring their expertise together. And to do that and to be effective and quick and allow the collaboration, is we moved to an open office environment, as an example, where we have no cubes, no offices, everyone works at open desktops, all functions intermingled together, and that has facilitated the collaboration that we need. And we’ve got engineering, we’ve got systems, integration, purchasing, HR, program management all in one area working on the problems and the challenges together.

HANNAH SCHMIDT

I would think people need specific skills to work on autonomous vehicles. So what sort of skills do people need to develop if they want to work on those kind of projects?

MIKE GOODRICH

You know, it’s interesting, I get that question somewhat regularly, and I’m not sure that a person working on an AV project team has necessarily unique skills. I’ve spent a lot of my career working on more traditional product programs, and the skill sets required to be successful are very similar in that there is a cross-functional collaboration and a drive for results that unites the team. Within the AV space, though, you’re right, there is some newness here in that there’s more ambiguity and requirements for creative problem solving or solution development. That would be probably the most differentiated the autonomous team would be from a traditional team, is just being able to take our traditional processes, understanding the core reason for the process, and being able to adapt them to the collaborative style.

And if I could, I’ll just give you a quick example in that, when developing our first three generation of test vehicles, in a traditional approach, we would use a linear development process that would lead us to years of development to launch three different test vehicles for our use in autonomous mode. In the autonomous team, we’ve taken that linear approach and we’ve put it into three parallel paths, which allowed us to launch those three vehicles in 14 months. So that’s just an example of taking the intent of the work that we do, understanding the process, and finding creative ways to apply those to go quicker, faster while keeping safety at the forefront.

HANNAH SCHMIDT

So you talked about creative problem solving. How would you advise project managers to develop those kind of skills?

MIKE GOODRICH

First, I would say you have to have an open mind, right? Being open-minded and being willing to challenge yourself and understanding that doing things different can work. Going back to my original example, when you run three parallel paths, it requires additional iteration than what you’re used to doing in the past, because we’re running processes instead of linear learning moving forward. We’re running them at the same time. It’s being able to be a bit more open-minded to understanding that while you’re doing everything as best as you see fit, it will require a bit more iteration for you than you originally intended.

HANNAH SCHMIDT

So once the vehicles are ready, how do you get the market to buy in?

MIKE GOODRICH

You know, from a customer perspective, the biggest hurdle has to be skepticism. Whenever you look to change people’s daily operations that significantly, it comes with a healthy level of skepticism. At General Motors, safety is our gating metric for this technology or any technology that we deploy. And we’re not just focused on the tech race, but we’re focused on the trust race, and if we can get customers to trust our technology, it will help them adopt the vehicle, which will lead to the mass adoption that you asked about. And for us, we view the best way to do that is in a ride share environment. This allows the customer to have a short 10-to-15-minute experience with an autonomous vehicle, learn the comfort level they’ll gain with that, which will then eventually lead to mass adoption.

HANNAH SCHMIDT

Your company’s investing a lot in autonomous vehicles. What role do you see GM playing in the market?

MIKE GOODRICH

You know, at General Motors, we believe autonomous vehicles will play a key role in our vision of a world, a future world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. This technology has an enormous potential, potential benefits in the forms of increased safety and access to transportation for those who don’t have that access today. And we think we’re in a unique leadership position with everything from design, engineering, validation, testing, manufacturing, all in one location to deliver on that.

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STEVE HENDERSHOT

With all respect to emerging tech—looking at you, air taxis—it’s especially cool to watch the evolution of electric and autonomous vehicles, because their advance has played out before our eyes over the last two decades. We’ve seen the iterative progress, sensed the challenges—technical, regulatory, consumer perception—and watched as project teams have adapted and innovated again and again to the point where now you really get the sense that the once-unimaginable future is close at hand. Besides, with transportation, there’s another side benefit we can all enjoy. I have a hunch that the burden of providing elite project leadership will be somewhat easier to bear once we’re able to commute in subterranean bullet pods, self-driving cars and air taxis.

Thanks for listening to Projectified®.

One more thing: You’ve got a few more days to apply for a speaking slot at the PMI Global Conference, which takes place this year in Seattle, Washington, USA. It’s not just any speaking slot: It’s a TED Talk. PMI is partnering with TED for a special TED@PMI event that’s part of the conference, and if you’re one of the 15 chosen speakers, not only do you get to give your own TED Talk, but you’ll be trained to do so by a TED speaker coach. So please, apply now at PMI.org. You’ve got until 19 February 2020.

NARRATOR

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