“Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that,” wrote Kalanick to his staff.
Musk faced a barrage of similar criticism, with some saying he’s a crony capitalist and others claiming to have cancelled their orders for Tesla Model 3.
Last week, I joined the BBC’s Fergus Nicholl on the BBC World Service program, Business Matters. We discussed Silicon Valley tech’s furious reaction to the Trump travel ban and Elon Musk’s high pressure predicament.
Listen to the podcast excerpt below (it includes commentary from the always provocative Lucy Kellaway):
Here’s a transcript of our conversation (edited for length and clarity):
Fergus Nicoll: Elon Musk has run into Twitter trouble…when he spoke to Mr. Trump in person and when he was seen having a drink with Steve Bannon in the White House, a lot of people said: “What on earth are you thinking?” And he came up with a fairly strong defense…
Alison van Diggelen: His key message is: “Activists should be pushing for more moderates like him, to advise the president not fewer.” And he asks, “How could having only extremists advise him possibly be good?”
Alison van Diggelen: He’s faced a lot of criticism, people even saying they’re cancelling their orders for the next generation of cars, the Tesla Model 3. He is under this pressure, but he is a powerful influencer, a poster child for Donald Trump’s manufacturing jobs being in the U.S. Musk is an idealist, he wants to save the planet. He’s bringing his message of climate change and green jobs, almost as a Trojan horse, into Trump’s meeting rooms. I think a lot of people who think about this deeply deeply, are not having this knee jerk reaction and saying don’t associate with Trump. Instead they’re saying this might be a good conduit for Trump hearing this green point of view.
Here is some of the pushback Elon Musk received on Twitter and his responses:
Will the fatal Tesla crash slow or even derail the development of self-driving cars? That was the topic we discussed on this week’s BBC World Service program, Click.
Despite complaints by consumer advocates that Tesla should disable its autopilot feature and not beta test “an unproven technology” on the public, Tesla is standing by its strategy. Today the BBC’s Dave Lee reported from the Gigafactory that Elon Musk has no regrets about how Tesla rolled out the autopilot.
“We have the internal data to know that we improved people’s safety, not just in fatalities but in injuries.” Elon Musk, CEO Tesla at Gigafactory, July 26 2016.
Remarkably, federal regulators at the Department of Transport (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) appear to be siding with Tesla and urging a “full-steam ahead” approach. They’re focused on self-driving technology’s potential to save lives.
“No one incident will derail the DOT and NHTSA on its mission to improve safety on the roads by pursuing new life saving technologies. We…can’t stand idly by while we wait for the ‘perfect.’ We lost 35,200 lives on our roads last year. We’re in a bad place and we should be desperate for new tools that will help us save lives. How many lives might we be losing if we wait?” Mark Rosekind, Head of the NHTSA at the Automated Vehicles Symposium, July 20 2016.
The NHTSA is expected to release its new guidelines for self-driving (autonomous) cars any day now. I’ll post a link to them here as soon as they’re available.
Listen to our Tesla autopilot discussion below or at the BBC Click Podcast. The first broadcast aired on the BBC World Service at 2:30pm PST on July 26th.
Here’s a transcript of our discussion (a shorter version aired on the BBC).
BBC Click Presenter, Gareth Mitchell: Now the first death of a Tesla driver on autopilot earlier this year was bound to overshadow the recent Automated Vehicle Symposium in San Francisco last week. But those at the meeting were also looking forward, at the latest innovations in driverless cars. BBC contributor, Alison van Diggelen was there for us, and she’s been telling me a bit more about what was being discussed.
Alison van Diggelen: The 3-day symposium assembled some of the top government authorities, academics and tech experts in the field of automated vehicles. The main topics included: the promise and challenges of automated vehicles; the federal guidance about to be released; and whether the Tesla crash will derail the development of automated vehicle technology. Mark Rosekind Head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“Nitsa”) spoke about all three topics and emphasized the technology’s potential to save lives.
Mark Rosekind: We’re not in a good place that we’re trying to make better. We lost 35,200 lives on our roads last year. We’re in a bad place and we should be desperate for new tools that will help us save lives. How many lives might we be losing if we wait? We have to do everything we can to make sure the new technology doesn’t introduce new safety risks, but we also can’t stand idly by while we wait for the “perfect.”
Reports around the country seem to be sounding the alarm: they are shocked, shocked (!) to discover there’s vehicle automation that’s already here…they’re demanding to know: where was the government to stop this?
We know there will be incidents that occur with highly automated vehicles and NHTSA will always be ready to use its authority to investigate and take whatever action is necessary
New highly automated vehicles offer enormous opportunities for learning…When something goes wrong,…that data can be taken, analyzed and the lessons can be shared with all automated vehicles.
No one incident will derail the DOT and NHTSA on its mission to improve safety on the roads by pursuing new life saving technologies.
We’re writing the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. It’s the first step that will lay the road map to the next generation of vehicle technology – a harmonized approach not just across states but perhaps even internationally. It’s an approach that’ll provide certainty to manufacturers, to make sure you’re focused on safety in the right ways.
We see a future where disabled people can reclaim independence and freedom in a personal vehicle. We even see a future when a fully automated car can relieve the occupants of all driving responsibilities, leave them free to read a book, make a phone call and yes, catch a few more Pokemon.
Gareth Mitchell: There was also talk of innovation, refining the technology and one UK voice in particular. Who was this, Alison?
Alison van Diggelen:Ian Forbes is head of the Center for Connected & Automated Cars, a joint policy unit of the UK government. I chatted to him briefly after his presentation, where he gave a flavor of the opportunities and challenges ahead. Forbes played a short video that showed a junction in a UK city. The simulation showed that connected & autonomous vehicles bunch closer together when they approach the red light. This means that when the light turns green, more cars can go through, making that junction more efficient. He says it was a result they weren’t expecting…and they expect further simulations will help predict other benefits of self-driving cars. He also talked about the importance of public perceptions and behavior. They’re starting a 3 year study…
Ian Forbes: In the UK we share a problem with everyone in this room. Like everyone here, we can see the potential benefits: fewer crashes, more efficient transport, new high value jobs. It’s also likely we face the same challenges: how do you design a regulatory framework when so much of the future technology is uncertain? How do you get maximum value for your research so that it delivers something new? One tool in our toolbox is Micro-simulation using agent based models to understand the impact of different transport scenarios to inform our future transport traffic predictions.
Gareth Mitchell: Finally Alison, the meeting was overshadowed by the tragic death of a driver in autopilot mode in a Tesla. What kind of reflections were there about how that leaves the whole driverless project?
Alison van Diggelen: I spoke with a number of conference attendees from the academic and tech worlds, including Bob Denaro, a member of United States’ Transport Research Board (TRB) and venture capitalist advisor to Motus Ventures. He reframed the the Tesla crash in its historical context, talking about the Wright brothers and one of their early passenger deaths, during a demo for the U.S. army. So I think that gives the Tesla crash an interesting historical context. He and a lot of people said, this seems a disaster short term but in the long term, it’s going to be a small bump in the road.
Bob Denaro: If we look at early days of aviation – the Wright brothers killed (one of) the first passengers….Frankly I’ve been surprised that the public reaction has been more muted than I feared it would be…I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an impediment to our progress and the speed of our progress.
The traditional automotive approach is: let’s test exhaustively over years and then put it on the market. Sometimes we make mistakes…maybe there are fatalities, recalls…The approach that Tesla is taking is: let’s put it out there early, before it’s completely done – let’s learn quickly, and because of the software updates over the air, let’s make changes…They may be on to something there.
My advice to Elon Musk would be: yes, be careful, make sure you test it, understand the results…But this approach – as different as it is to the traditional approach – just may be a better approach to minimizing the accidents we have to have along the way before we get close to perfection.
Ian Forbes shared a video that didn’t make the final cut. With a little help from Queen Elizabeth and a humorous Tweet, he sent ripples of laughter throughout the global audience. Here’s the transcript (it’s a wee bit awkward).
The Queen (via video): My ministers will ensure the United Kingdom is at the forefront of the technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles.
Ian Forbes: That was the Queen, in the UK, back in May setting out the future legislative program of the UK government. My favorite response was on Twitter: Ah Britain – the only parliament in the world where someone turns up in by horse drawn carriage to promise everyone else driverless cars.
California’s worse drought in decades has spurred everyone to pay close attention to their water use. Farmers are especially thirsty for water saving ideas, so it’s a sector ripe for innovative Ag Tech solutions. On July 10th, I joined Fergus Nicoll of the BBC’s Business Matters to discuss the challenges and opportunities the drought has created. The program also featured an interview I did with California State Water Resources Control Board member Dorene D’Adamo.
Check out the extended transcript of our interview below, in which D’Adamo shares some tips for Ag Tech entrepreneurs. Number one: Get your hands dirty on the farm, talk to farmers…
Photo caption (above): Alison van Diggelen interviews avocado farmer and drone entrepreneur Jon Tull of Farm Solutions at the Silicon Valley AgTech Conference, May 2015)
Fergus Nicoll: Let’s talk about drought. We’re what…three years now into this prolonged drought in California, Alison?
Alison van Diggelen: This is the 4th year now.
Fergus Nicholl: So what are new incentives that (CA Governor) Jerry Brown has come up with?
Alison van Diggelen: Last April, Jerry Brown made his historic executive order. He mandated a reduction for residential consumers: they have to reduce on average 25% of their water use. He’s carrying a big stick on this. He has the ability to fine water districts up to $10,000 a day and allow water districts to charge surcharges for people who’re not reducing. It really is biting…
Fergus Nicholl: This is being measured presumably?
Alison van Diggelen: This is being measured and in May, Californians were patting themselves on the back…it was just released a couple of weeks ago that in May we actually reduced on average, 29%. So we’re getting there, but depending on which city you look at, some are reducing by up to 40% and some are not doing their fair share, so there is still some rankling.
Fergus Nicholl: So what happens with that? Is it public naming and shaming if you don’t get to 25%?
Alison van Diggelen: Absolutely. Drought shaming is going on and basically, they’re using the price mechanism. People are going to see it on their monthly or bi-monthly water bills and they’re going to feel the pain of using too much water.
Fergus Nicholl: I told you about Alison’s interviews on Fresh Dialogues… Let’s hear from the California State Water Resources Control Board. This board reports directly to the Governor and we’re going to hear from (board member) Dorene D’Adamo.
WHY THIS DROUGHT IS DIFFERENT
Dorene D’Adamo: We’re currently in our third year of drought and it is a very serious situation. We’ve had back to back dry years and of course the soil in many areas of the state is very dry and in addition, we’ve had a very low, dismal snow pack. In fact less than 5% (of the average) snowpack.
We also have a different situation than last time we had a serious drought, which was 1977. Our State has grown in population significantly. We also have a hardened demand (for water) because we have a lot of permanent crops that have been planted (e.g. fruit and nut trees). We also have a healthy respect for the environment, so we have redirected some of our supplies to environmental protection, to protect fish and wildlife.
Alison van Diggelen: What do you say to people who complain – urban dwellers – who complain that farmers are using 80% of the (State’s) water…we’re having to cut back and not water our lawns etc.?
Dorene D’Adamo: Well, we all need to be part of the solution and without a doubt, agriculture has vastly improved its irrigation efficiency over the last decades but it’s possible for them to do more and it’s also possible for the urban sector to do more. This 80% of agriculture supply…others will say it’s 40%. The number is probably not as important as is the fact that we all have to do our fair share. Agriculture and urban dwellers can do more which is why we recently called up on implementing the Governor’s Executive Order that Californians state-wide reduce their use by 25% for urban uses.
ADVICE FOR ENTREPRENEURS
Alison van Diggelen: We’re here in Silicon Valley, and of course it’s full of entrepreneurs with lots of hot tech ideas. Are there any particular tech ideas you’ve seen today…and can you comment on drones?
Dorene D’Adamo: Now that we have this new groundwater legislation in California, local entities will be called upon to put together a groundwater sustainability plan…to determine how much is being taken out of their aquifers, going into their aquifers. The question I have for this (AgTech) group is this: What technology…satellite or drone technology can be used?
Alison van Diggelen: Were there any other technologies you saw here that you feel have potential?
Dorene D’Adamo: What we’re looking for is assistance with monitoring…groundwater, contaminants, and also monitoring (water) use. There’s so much the Silicon Valley has to offer not just in terms of monitoring but data…putting together the data and the analysis. And I would encourage this industry to be looking at water supply and water quality much in the way they have in the energy sector. We have gone a long way addressing the greenhouse gas emission targets in California, in large part because of the innovative ideas that have come from Silicon Valley. This (water) area is ripe for investment and if we saw the investment in water quality and supply that we have did in the air quality and energy sector, in years to come, we’d see a huge improvement in both areas.
Alison van Diggelen: For young entrepreneurs who have ideas…what advice would you give them for making their idea a reality?
Dorene D’Adamo: Get out on the farm, get your hands dirty…go out and meet with farmers; learn from them directly as to the challenges they face. Even when there are these smart systems (soil probes, precision irrigation etc) implemented on farms, sometimes they’re not used properly, so I think the tech industry needs to better understand the needs of the farmer and that would help them put systems in place that would be used effectively.
In this exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor of California and new father, explains why the U.S. requires a national carbon tax. Newsom was attending the NY Times Global Forum in San Francisco, June 20, and shared his views on climate change, oil companies and his dream of being Governor of California one day.
Newsom, whose wife Jennifer Siebel, just gave birth to their third child on July 3rd, frames the argument in a way that even a five-year old can understand.
“You wanna move the mouse, you gotta move the cheese,” says Newsom, who describes other measures to combat climate change, such as composting, green building, plastic bag bans etc., as “playing a bit in the margins.”
Newsom argues that putting a price on carbon is the real macro solution to climate change. Nevertheless, he praises the entrepreneurial spirit of many city mayors who have proved that you can grow your economy and reduce your Green House Gas emissions. Local case in point: San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s Green Vision
Here are some highlights of our conversation
On Oil Companies and Interesting Bed Fellows
Newsom: “Some of the big oil companies are talking about a carbon tax as they’re more and more concerned about cap and trade…especially in California with AB 32. Now they’re saying, ‘now wait…a carbon tax may make sense.’ Interesting bedfellows now. I think there’s a different dialogue that could potentially be held. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Chevron is saying ‘time for a carbon tax’ but in the private conversations that I’ve had with a lot of these big energy producers, you don’t have that negative reaction that we had four or five years ago…”
Fresh Dialogues: What’s in it for the oil companies?
Newsom: “I don’t want to put words in their mouth. The bottom line is: what most of these big producers want is consistency across jurisdictions.”
On Leaning In to Green Growth
“I want to see a standard that could bring this country back to international prominence in terms of leaning into a low carbon green growth strategy, so that we can dramatically change the way we produce and consume energy and lead the world as a pace setter in terms of efforts to reduce Green House Gas emissions and radically reorient our economy in a 21st Century manner that could produce jobs and address stresses on the economy: inequality, lack of middle income…and create sustainable opportunities.”
On Being Governor of California
“No one knows what the future holds politically speaking. I have got an entrepreneurial energy. I like doing, not just being. I’ve long talked about the position as governor, as a platform to really engage in bottom up thinking and go local in terms of economic development strategies, workforce development strategies and find substantive solutions to deal with the issue of climate change. So inverting the pyramid, but being there in Sacramento to begin to scale those best practices is something I’ve long wanted to do.”
See more videos and stories on energy policy and join the conversation at our Fresh Dialogues Facebook Page
This exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview was recorded at the New York Times Global Forum in San Francisco, June 20, 2013. The forum organizers provided the painful background music, which sadly couldn’t be removed from the audio track.
A frisson of excitement swept through the crowd as ABC’s Cheryl Jennings introduced Silicon Valley’s most famous woman. It was definitely a “rock star” moment for many of the four thousand women attending San Francisco’s Moscone Center May 23.
Jaws dropped, eyes shone, and the applause was deafening. Cheers and whoops rang out as Sheryl Sandberg strolled across the stage and did her thing. With a remarkable nonchalance, she managed to engage every person in the room by asking them to do something for her. “Put your hands up if you’ve ever said, I’m going to be CEO of this company.”
In her best selling book “Lean In” and in dozens of interviews, Sandberg has been coy about using certain terms. She calls her book “a sort of feminist manifesto” and in her interview with Google’s Eric Schmidt, she talked about “unleashing a movement,” but on Thursday, she was feeling the women power. Referring to the handful of men present, she said, “You’ll get a pass when the inevitable revolution happens.”
Here are highlights of her speech. Check back soon for video highlights with Sheryl Sandberg and Congresswoman Jackie Speier.
“The rate of change for women in getting top jobs in corporate America has stalled out in the last 10 years. It’s been flat at 14%. Women are held back by sexism, discrimination, bad corporate policy, bad public policy and a leadership ambition gap.” Sheryl Sandberg
“I believe that a world where more women were running organizations, where women ran half of companies and countries and men ran half of our homes, would be a better world.” Sheryl Sandberg
On Warren Buffett
“Warren Buffett said he was successful because he was only competing with half the population.” Sheryl Sandberg
The Economic Argument
“The laws of economics tell us that if more people compete, if you are sourcing talent from the full population you will get better outcomes.” Sheryl Sandberg
The Growth Opportunity
“In every industry, sector, government, we’re picking from roughly half the pople. If we source from the whole population our performance as companies, as countries will improve. This is not just about equality…this is about creating growth and opportunity.” Sheryl Sandberg
“In order to change…it’s going to change person by person, woman by woman.”
Find out more about the Lean In movement and Lean In circles for inspiring women.
And he’s got an historic precedent to back his case – from Medieval France no less.
“It’s a very powerful idea that could become something of great importance to California,” he said. “New ideas are never received as well as old ideas, but I think California is the one place where high speed rail can get its start for the United States.”
But with California’s budget in the red and more spending cuts on the table, can California afford to spend a penny on high speed rail?
The 74 year-old governor took a page from history and replied with a question: “How did the peasants of medieval France afford to build the cathedral of Chartres?”
He then enlightened Fresh Dialogues with this answer, “They did it slowly… they did it with community investment and a great belief in the future.”
This echoes Brown’s 2012 State of the State Speech in which he said, “”Those who believe that California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking…I understand that feeling, but I don’t share it because I know this state and the spirit of the people who choose to live here.”
Governor Brown is thinking very long term. In fact, the high gothic Chartres Cathedral, famous for its flying buttresses, took almost 60 years to build.
But it’s an unfortunate analogy. In the 13th Century, the cathedral’s “free trade zone” was also the cause of bloody riots between bishops and civic authorities over tax revenues. An ominous sign indeed for the Governor of California. Plus ca change…
Given Jerry Brown’s recent announcement that $120 M from a settlement with NRG Energy Inc. would be used to fund the provision of 200 public fast-charging stations for EVs in the Golden State (including some 5000 Nissan Leafs he confirmed have been sold to date), Fresh Dialogues also asked the governor if he drives an electric car. “Not yet,” he replied.
In earlier comments today, he referenced the new Tesla Model S, which will roll off production lines at Tesla’s Fremont Factory this summer. So is he considering a Tesla? He demurred. “I’m looking, looking, looking at it.”
Read transcripts, see photos and check out our Energy ARCHIVES featuring exclusive interviews with more green experts and visionaries…