Meet Victor Hwang, Ike’s Automation Lead

Ike
Ike
Sep 25, 2019 · 4 min read
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Victor joined Ike in 2018 and is our Automation Lead on our Software team.

Victor, tell us about the path that led you to Ike.

I have worked on robotics and automated vehicles (AV) for some time. The problems are fun, the technology is fun, and it was this work that brought me together with a few members of Ike’s founding leadership team. After my work on passenger vehicles, I still saw many open problems on the path to creating a product. So there were two things that brought me to Ike. In my own technical opinion, working on automation technology for trucks was the best way to bring something into the real world in the most reasonable amount of time. And second was the team. When I was deciding whether to join Ike, I tried to think of what the ideal team would look like that could both ship a product and also have a lot of fun while doing it. The folks at Ike fit that bill.

What’s the most common question you get about your job?

Do you feel bad that you’re putting truck drivers out of work?

How do you respond?

It’s more nuanced than that. I usually bring up the example of an ATM and ask the question — did the ATM put bank tellers out of work? It’s possible to build technology that enables people and helps change the nature and quality of their work. Bank tellers are doing more highly skilled work now and their jobs are more valuable. It’s true with so many new technologies that people were terrified about: cars, phones. It’s an understandable fear, but not what’s going to happen.

What’s the most common question you get about automated trucks?

How does the truck know what to do?

I’ll walk people through a yellow light example. Let’s say you’re driving at the speed limit and the light changes yellow in front of you. How do you decide what to do? You have two options: go through the light or stop. When making that decision you’re thinking about how far you are from the intersection, how fast you’re going, how long it will take to stop. You can enumerate all of the things you have to think about and can probably articulate to me why you’re thinking about those things. It’s the same set of decisions we have to help the truck make.

What will be different about the trucking industry in 10 years as a result of the work we’re doing at Ike?

I hope we will see that our work has an impact on the trucking economy itself — increasing the throughput of shipping and increasing the number of drivers. Ideally, more people will become truck drivers because the job and quality of life have become more enticing to people. There’s a stark statistic that the number of drivers per year is decreasing and if we could have a positive impact on that and improve the quality of their lives, that would be amazing.

Why should people be interested in working towards the future of automated trucks?

Robotics that can be seen by the general public has only recently become a more active area of development in industry. That means, there’s a lot of unexplored grounds with ample space for new ideas. Even though many areas of robotics have been really well researched, stringing these things together into a successful product is an exciting problem.

What would you be doing if you didn’t work at Ike?

I would still probably be building robots. I like thinking about agriculture and food so maybe something in farming. If I couldn’t be an engineer, I’d do food science. Working somewhere like Tillamook or anything in dairy. There’s so much science in there — what makes food taste good, can you automate the growing and harvesting, how do you maintain food in an efficient way?

What’s something you love doing outside of work?

Circus training.

My joke was always — if automated vehicles don’t work out I’m going to run away and join the circus.

What would you be in the circus?

The hand balancing person. Most people aren’t aware there are circus training schools like this. For me, it’s my form of meditation.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Usually look at the overnight simulations because I’m excited to see if things passed or not or if anything broke. After that I usually make some coffee.

And, what’s the last thing you do before going to bed?

A handstand, usually. Two one-minute handstands.

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