Mobility Moments Podcast: Samit Ghosh, P3

Driven - Mobility Moments: Samit Ghosh, P3

Watch out everyone, because mobility threatens to make your life…easier! So, what big changes can you expect to see within the next five years or so?

One of the biggest changes will be how consumers pay, not only for autonomous, but for, I think, mobility in general.

That was Samit Ghosh. President and CEO of P3 North America. Want to know exactly what he was talking about? You're in the right place, because Samit is my guest for this episode of Driven's Mobility Moments podcast. Stay tuned.

Detroit is the region leading the world in next generation mobility, and I'm your host Claire Charlton.

Samit Ghosh, thank you so much for joining me today for Mobility Moments podcast.

Hello Claire, thank you for having me.

I'm very excited to talk with you.

So am I. Looking forward to all your questions that you have.

Oh, good! P3, it's a global company, and it provides consulting and engineering expertise to clients. Not only in the automotive sector, but also in aerospace and telecommunications and energy.

Yes, that is totally right.

P3, itself is headquartered in Germany, but there is a substantial presence here in Detroit, and in fact, your office is right here in Southfield. What is the focus of the work that you do here in Detroit?

So, maybe if you look at it from a holistic perspective, we provide management consulting and innovative engineering solutions and we basically help our clients to accelerate the development of mobility products, services. And what's important is, we combine technical business and market knowledge, and that is how we differentiate from our competition. And so, our clients work with us not only in other places, in Germany, as you mentioned, but specifically here in Detroit, and use us as a one stop shop. They get the consulting angle, strategy, product portfolio, technology roadmap. What changes do they need to make in the organization, together with a strong implementation team, and engineering solution that rages from us looking at the system requirements definition for mobility solutions being a system integrator, building prototypes, and often testing validation services.

And we focus especially here in the North American region on autonomous, on connectivity and electric mobility. As well as new mobility services and digital transformation. We do this will approximately 300 consultants and engineers, and a little over half the team is out of the Southfield office.

Okay, and so you made a conscious decision to set up shop here in Detroit. What can you do here in Detroit that you can't do anywhere else in the United States?

We found that in the Detroit metro area, there is a great ecosystem that is influencing the global mobility landscape, and we were first established in Michigan due to our proximity to our clients for our very first project. And this is part of our DNA, we are very customer-oriented, and if our clients go somewhere, we go with them, and that's the same strategy here in the US. So being close as we are here now, to the big three auto-makers, and other offices of OEMs and Tier 1s, that allows us to establish the personal and long-term relationships that our clients value.

And. in addition, our focus on technology and the implementation, all the areas of mobility, requires that we have access to incredible talent, which we find here in the Detroit area. And, whether we're looking for an experienced candidate or someone that wants to just get started in their career, we can find these folks here and we can attract them to Michigan, especially if you look at the lower cost of living compared to some  higher-priced areas in the United States.

Okay. Well that's great. So let's talk about the recent event that P3 and your Detroit office here hosted, an Accelerating Mobility Solutions event, and some of your talent talked about a variety of different things, and you also showcased a special P3 test vehicle that I found to be really interesting. Can you describe that vehicle, and tell me about how it's used?

Yes, we showed our P3 ADAPT vehicle, and it's a complete system validation platform for autonomous, electric, and connected mobility features. ADAPT stands for autonomous, data and analytics platform for testing. And what this platform does is it support sensor benchmarking, connectivity testing, user experience testing, as well as algorithm testing. And when you test autonomous features, all sensor data can be monitored inside the vehicle in real time for immediate assessment of sensors and algorithm behavior, and typically, when you have test vehicles, they are modified and instrumented for a very small range of tests, let's say for a single development group, and then, typically what we see, and our clients have experienced, is that these modifications would damage the vehicle, or they only have it set up for this one particular test, very specific.

So our platform is built with modularity in mind, and can support endless configurations, and we can evaluate a variety of autonomous, electric, and connected mobility systems and services, and, as a whole we offer those custom vehicle retrofitting testing services and also running entire vehicle fleets for our clients as one of our services, part of our practice.

P3's ADAPT vehicle is customizable for various connected and autonomous features.

Okay, wow, okay. So let's talk a little about some ground breaking things that are happening and being tested I real time with mobility right now. So, thinking about Cadillac's Super Cruise technology, for example. It allows people to real time, right now, under a certain set of conditions use mobility on an expressway, where they can have hands off and feet off, and let the car do its thing, so what's the next big thing that you think we will see that will advance us further along in that self-driving vehicle spectrum?

You mentioned the cruise technology, or the Super Cruise technology, and I think when we talk about autonomous, everybody expects all the vehicles being on public roads, but I think in our experience, what we see, is the next step will actually be low speed electric vehicles that are autonomous on a closed environment, kind of a campus environment, where they would run. Whether it's for universities in a very inner-urban area that is geographically limited. The reason why we believe this will be one of the steps that we see, is because it allows people to experience the concept of autonomous driving at a lower speed, and that breaks down the barriers of the acceptance for such a technology to create some more trust.

It's one building block on the way that eventually, in the future, we'll all sit in vehicles that travel up to 70 miles an hour, or a little more at highway speeds, fully autonomous. Or move around at 35 miles an hour or 45 miles an hour in a city environment. So, we believe that this low speed application is the next step, and we know that a lot of companies are out there, whether they are startups, or even like more established companies that are investigating, because they also want to learn through those vehicles how the autonomous technology is developing.

So how soon do you think we'll see these low speed electric vehicles on the roads?

You have the first pilots in downtown Detroit already. There's one example with May Mobility, just to name one company there, but we know that in other places of the United States, other companies are working on this as well, they're building shuttles of a similar type that sometimes use existing platforms to drive it, but then they are autonomous technology too.

And so, what about in the next five years or so? What do you picture with the expertise that you have, what do you picture we will be coming accustomed to with regard to autonomous vehicle technology?

One of the biggest changes will be how probably consumers pay, not only for autonomous, but for I think, mobility in general. You currently have this very disconnected, you have to pay for your vehicle, and you have to pay for your parking, and you have to pay for using a toll road, etc., and then you have the different app for ride sharing, etc., etc. But it's not a good user experience that is integrated, and I think that is really an area for improvement, where these multimodal transportation options are having also a streamlined user experience that is fully integrated. One good example is how you pay for it.

Okay, so what you're describing is just basically you're paying one price to get from point A to point B, and you don't have to worry about all of the particulars, necessarily. It's a full mobility solution.

Yeah, it's like a cell phone data plan, if you will, right?

Wow, okay. And so today, when people think about self-driving vehicles as part of mobility, some people are really excited about it, and some people really aren't excited about it. What does P3's research reveal about customer acceptance right now?

We conducted research earlier this year around the Detroit Auto Show, and I made it clear that the end consumers are not yet fully comfortable with the idea of giving up control to a machine in such a dynamic environment. Eighty percent of our surveyed consumers wanted some level of override in a fully autonomous vehicle, and I thought it was interesting, because the general assumption is that if we get this technology developed to the desired level of maturity, the technology is actually safer than the human interaction, so why would you then allow a human to actually interact and override what the vehicle wants to do?

So there is, I think, a lot of work in this area that is needed. Another insight from our survey was that consumers in general, are very frustrated with the performance of technology in their vehicles. This is nothing to do with autonomous, but we found out, they say that the technology in the vehicle is not so intuitive, it's much more intuitive on my phone, why is the level of ease of use on my phone not being replicated in the car?

And I think this is an interesting correlation, because it points both into the direction of acceptance for new technology, if it's easy to use, you accept it much faster, but if it's not easy to use, and it's completely new, there's some level of, 'Hey, I want to control this a little more myself. I don't fully trust this yet.' So one level for this trust element is what we talked earlier, the low speed autonomous vehicle applications, because they're a lower speed, you feel more comfortable, and you can experience it in a way that it gains more trust.

The question, how does my car feel more like my phone? That is an interesting question, because at the end of the day, the challenge behind it is that car makers, or car manufacturers would have to do double duty, right? They have to develop and manufacture a vehicle as well as being a phone maker, if you will. Developing the same ease of use, so it needs a lot of software understanding, a completely different mindset of user experience and HMI, machine interface, as well as a completely different way of understanding the system and features around it, and if you peel the onion back, that means you probably need different people on your team and you might even have to consider different organizational structures in order to be able to accomplish something, right? So it's a very complex challenge for the auto makers to get better in that area.

So it's a diversity of mindsets and a diversity of talent that need to come together to create the big mobility solution, or the autonomous vehicle that people will want to ride in and will want to trust.

Yeah. And the auto industry is over 100 years old, and has been traditionally a very mechanically engineering dominated industry. So what needs to happen now, is you bring other disciplines into the fold, like much more electrical engineers, computer engineers. User experience focus experts, et cetera. And that is, of course, a challenge for an existing or to absorb these people and to accept that they might come with a different way of approaching a problem or challenge them coming up with a different solution, so a lot of change that basically needs to get managed, which helps P3, right? We benefit from the current situation in the industry, because it's not only that there's a technical solution that's needed, which our engineering teams can do, but there's also, as I said earlier, a solution needed in terms of, how do I change my organization? And that's where our consulting teams come in and can help with that transition and implement it and drive that change on process level, on organization level, et cetera, through the organization.

So what else is P3 in Detroit learning about mobility that you're sharing with your P3 peers across the globe?

We have globally, 42 locations, with about 4,000 plus consultants and engineers worldwide. It's not only automotive, but we also, as you said, do aerospace, telecommunication, and the energy industry. Consumers around the world are very different, and companies need to focus on the regional needs, and of course the desires of consumers to be successful, so even if you develop a global solution, you need to cater to, in your application of it, to the different markets. You want to sell that product. At our North American operations here, many of our clients are looking for our analysis and for all our recommendations for their products, and services as they apply it to the different region's consumers, so we get involved at a very early stage and help define new products and services. Specifically here for the North American market, but then we can also bring those back to our colleagues that work, let's say with European or even Asian manufacturers, and let them know what preferences are of consumers in the North American market. So we basically have a very good understanding of the local market here that we can then give to our colleagues globally. And we also benefit from their insight, that we basically bring back to our clients here.

And what about the future for P3 here in the Detroit region? What do you have on the horizon?

We've been here in Michigan the longest from our US setup. It's been 13 years now, and our mobility innovation center in Southfield is only a little over two years old. We moved into this facility from Troy, and we thought this is going to be plenty big for the next stage in our company history, but we're already finding out that there's a lot of work that we have, and we're building up more and more capabilities. So we're currently considering our footprint, and whether we would like to expand in the Detroit area, which is one of the topics that are on the table, but we are also looking onto out-of-state options.

If we decide on Michigan, I don't think it's going to be very long until you see an increased footprint of P3 here in the Michigan area. Definitely our future is to stay here and to continue to serve our clients as they are the whole ecosystem of mobility.

Excellent. It's been so wonderful to talk with you, Samit. I appreciate you taking the time.

Yeah, thank you so much. It was very interesting.

Thanks for joining me for this episode of Driven's Mobility Moments podcast, where we discuss the Detroit region leading the world in next generation mobility. I'm your host Claire Charlton. Tell us what you think. Rate and review this podcast on iTunes. Find more episodes, and a lot of great stuff to read, at Subscribe to our newsletter while you're there. Mobility Moments podcast is produced and edited by Issue Media Group for Driven.


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