GM’s Former CTO for Connected Cars Joins The DAV Foundation’s Advisory Board
By Bradley Berman — Lead Editor
The approaching new era of transportation represents a massive convergence of emerging technologies, from advanced automotive powertrains to artificial intelligence. The change is immense and fast, so it’s not entirely apparent how the producers of these mobility technologies will take on new roles and employ novel business models.
During these early days for autonomous vehicles, we need to take a step back to see the big picture — so we can better understand how other once-in-a-generation transitions played out. That’s why we at the DAV Foundation are so excited to announce that Dr. Alan Messer joined our advisory board this week.
Messer is a technologist with deep expertise in big data analytics, machine learning, and distributed platforms and systems — many of the requisite technologies that will combine into the so-called Internet of Transportation. Moreover, he’s led efforts for the creation of the first digital televisions (at Sony), the first cloud-computing systems (at HP), and the first IoT devices (at Samsung). Most recently, he bridged the world of software and cars when he served as the Chief Technology Officer for Global Connected Consumer Experience at General Motors.
That’s a lot of firsts — each one revealing how a major high-tech transition can best serve consumers. It also gives Messer the ability to see the gaps between today’s mobility innovations.
Messer had a front-row seat as the market for phones and television hardware (and related digital media) grew from a handful of products serving a few early adopters to a vast selection of services available to countless millions. “It’s the same for mobility services. The mobility space can grow from just getting a ride from Uber and Lyft to offering a nearly infinite number of ways to move people and goods,” he said. “DAV could provide the infrastructure to enable that.”
Messer believes robo-taxis and last-mile delivery scenarios are imminently doable — especially in large metro areas. But having participated in these transitions before, he also knows to temper his enthusiasm with realistic expectations about the time it takes. “A lot of people expect a Jetson-esque future. They are expecting fully autonomous vehicles to come quicker than they really are,” he said. “Meanwhile, some people believe that it will never happen. The truth is something in between.”
According to Messer, an open, decentralized framework using blockchain — as DAV is building — allows any kind of provider to add services to the transportation network. “There’s no centralized clearing house, so it’s possible to offer your private self-driving car for peer-to-peer ridesharing or your drone for package deployment,” he said. “They all operate together for end-to-end transportation.”
With the decentralized autonomous vehicle framework envisioned by the DAV Foundation, he expects a future trip from Silicon Valley, where he lives, to San Francisco, as a single, seamless experience made possible by many different businesses. “My trip to the city might cost five bucks, but during that journey, I will receive services from a taxi provider, a municipality, a charging station, and a public transit authority. It’ll only take a phone in my pocket, and one price and I’m done,” he said. “That would be true for a commute in the Bay Area or anywhere else in the world that you travel.”