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It’s been a while since we dropped an episode and suffice it to say, a lot has changed in the world. Hear what resident skeptic Alex Roy has been up to since March, why he and Bryan started the podcast in the first place, and what they’ve learned so far. And if you’re new to No Parking, this is the perfect episode to get the low-down on Alex’s favorites from Season 1.

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Episode Transcript

Alex Roy

Hey, folks. Welcome back to the No Parking Podcast, the show that cuts through the hype around AI and self-driving cars. I’m Alex Roy. Now, it’s been a while, and a lot has changed. And we’ll get to that soon, but first I just want to say how excited my co-host Bryan Salesky and I are to get back to recording.

Now, I spent a lot of time during the lockdowns listening and learning, something I should do more of. It’s actually something a lot of people should do more of. And now that Season 2 is about to drop, I just want to remind everyone why we launched the No Parking Podcast. Now, I’m a news junkie, and I always find myself reading multiple things about the same topic, trying to get a clearer picture of what the truth actually is.

And when it comes to self-driving cars, I mean, going back to when they first were announced, I guess five, six years ago, every story was like, “These could never work,” or “They’ll be here tomorrow. They’re right around the corner.” But the truth is never that obvious, never that simple.

The bottom line is that progress is inevitable, but sometimes it’s hard to see exactly what progress is as it’s happening. Now, in the context of artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, the biggest questions everybody asks, “When will they be safe? When will they arrive? And can I trust them?” Now, my theory about trust and safety is that people don’t just trust numbers. People trust people—even strangers—for reasons they often can’t articulate.

So, on this show, we talk to people working on AI and autonomous vehicles and technology to try to get every side to the story and get closer to the truth as it’s happening. And that means talking to everyone working on autonomous vehicles and AI, and often just the way we get around. Policy, law—whatever it is, I want to learn more about it.

So, if you’re just finding us now, if you’re a new fan, please check out some of my favorite episodes from Season 1. I loved the one with Hannah Beachler. She worked on Wakanda and and (the film) “Black Panther.” She was the production designer on many amazing films, and she’s got a real vision for what the future of transportation should look like in a perfect city. But in real life, she owns a Porsche 911, and that dichotomy—it says everything about the future of transportation.

I also loved the episode with Andre Ramdhanny, so on the surface, the message is that you don’t need to be a PhD to work in a high-tech field. But the real message is that self-driving cars and robots need people to keep them running. So, people like Andre, who comes from a professional racing background—he was a street racer—are totally essential to deploy technology like AI and autonomous vehicles. Such a great episode.

Phil Koopman and Mark Rosekind, wow. Rosekind was the head of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. And Koopman is one of the world’s leading experts on safety. And these episodes really struck me, because they said basically the same thing from different sides. There is no one number that defines safety. There never has been.

Another really awesome one was with Barak Moffitt. Barak is the head of Content and Strategy for the Universal Music Group. And it’s about all the businesses and content and ways we consume music and how that might change when autonomous vehicles arrive. So cool.

One of the best was Red Whittaker. Before Chernobyl, there was a thing called Three Mile Island. A lot of people don’t remember it. I do. I was a kid, and Three Mile Island could have cost millions of lives. And Red Whittaker was the guy who built the robots that saved them. A real hero, and not someone who ever sought publicity.

There’s also an episode with a guy named Josh McManus, who’s kind of like a real-life philosopher. It’s all over the place sometimes, like I am, and that’s exactly why I loved this so much. We talked about capitalism and autonomy and thinking deeply about the world around us. And McManus turned me onto a couple of books about electricity and what’s called The Current War, which took place between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse back in the late 1880s.

And the conversation we had after the episode about the battle between these two hero inventors gets us to exactly the same debate people are having today about AI and autonomous vehicles. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s happening as it’s happening, and that’s exactly where we’re gonna go in Season 2.

It’s true in life, and it’s true in tech. Real development takes time. And sometimes, the most interesting things get taken for granted because they don’t seem sexy. Because there isn’t a real-life Tony Stark, hero inventor figure to worship. So if you think about the things that we take for granted that don’t have, like, an ambassador, and yet these things are totally essential to us. Things like elevators and supply chains and air traffic control. Things like machine vision.

If they don’t sound interesting, it’s because I didn’t attach, like, hype titles: “How to Survive a Falling Elevator,” or “Why You Can’t Find Toilet Paper,” or “Why Plane Crashes Don’t Happen,” or “How Arnold Schwarzenegger Beat the Predator.” Those are the topics, with a different framing device.

And every single one of these is related to artificial intelligence, autonomy, robots, and how our lives are going to change in the future. If only we understand more clearly, exactly how these technologies have developed and how they’re going to be deployed.

We’ve got some surprise guests, so join us. Keep us in your feed. We’ll be back with fresh episodes of the No Parking podcast in a couple of days. 

I’m Alex Roy. Talk to you soon.