AAIA Youth was honored to host a CVC Talk on March 22nd, 2022, at 9:00 PM EDT, featuring Dr. Bin Zhou, who is Principal at one of Silicon Valley’s premier corporate venture capital firms – Goodyear Ventures. The speaker shared opportunities and trends in the mobility area, such as in autonomous driving and electrification, as well as Goodyear Ventures’ portfolio in this area, such as Gatik, Revel, TuSimple, etc.

Guest Speaker Introduction

Dr. Bin Zhou has made investments in 18 promising technology companies, two of which went IPO, and three of which are valued at over $1 billion. Currently he manages a $100 million venture capital fund focused on cutting-edge technologies such as autonomous driving, electrification, connected vehicles, and semiconductor chips, and His educational background is in electrical engineering, and after graduating with a PhD in Electrical engineering, he settled in Silicon Valley. He has been working in Silicon Valley for a little over a decade now. At the beginning of his career, he was primarily involved with R&D in semiconductor companies. He later founded his own company. He joined the venture capital industry in 2015, where he leads investment in technology-driven startups globally.

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Goodyear Ventures Introduction

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was founded in 1898 and has over 120 years of history. Although the company has introduced many products, tires remain its core product. It is worth noting that Goodyear tires were used on Ford’s Model T car, and Goodyear tires were used on the moon probe that landed man on the moon. Goodyear is one of the largest tire manufacturers in the United States. Its headquarters are located in Akron, Ohio, in the United States, and it has more than 75,000 employees worldwide. The Asia Pacific headquarters in Shanghai is home to more than 2,000 employees. Goodyear is a multinational corporation. As part of its commitment to supporting start-ups, Goodyear operates four innovation labs worldwide, located in Akron, Luxembourg, Shanghai and San Francisco.

Goodyear Ventures is the investment arm of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, mainly focused on investing in technology start-up companies that will aid Goodyear’s strategic growth.

The Main Difference between Venture Capital (VC) Firms and Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) Firms

A venture capital firm is a firm that provides capital to companies with high growth potential in exchange for equity stakes. They are primarily concerned with investing in the right companies and receiving great financial returns.

A corporate venture capital firm, on the other hand, invests corporate funds directly into external startups. Corporate venture capital firms seek financial rewards. Moreover, they are also able to offer a range of other resources.

A common phrase is that money is a commodity, and CVCs have a lot of it. However, quality companies are scarce. In order to make money from money, it is crucial to know how to invest in potential companies. In addition to financial investments, many CVC firms also make strategic investments, such as investing in a company which the CVC can provide them with customers, sales, revenue, or helping with its globalization efforts. For example, in the Chinese innovation ecosystem, if the company is in the Internet field, it is very likely that it will receive capital from Tencent or Alibaba Group.

A more specific example is a company we have invested in – they are called AmpUp, and they are a software company and network provider for electric vehicles (EVs) that allows drivers, hosts, and fleets to charge their vehicles in an easy, efficient, and safe manner. Among Goodyear Ventures’ value added services is the installation of their app in thousands of Goodyear stores across North America for use by electric vehicles in the future for charging at tire shops while changing tires. In order to assist their company’s growth, Goodyear Ventures successfully introduced them to customers under Goodyear.

The amount of money that CVC firms invested from 2006 to 2021 has increased very rapidly over those years.

Goodyear Ventures Investment Thesis

Goodyear Ventures’ investment thesis aligns with the large area of Mobility, with the goal of making travel more convenient, more environmentally friendly, and more efficient. It is further divided into eight distinct categories:

  • Connected mobility
  • Autonomous
  • Electric
  • New materials
  • Aero
  • Mass transport
  • Infrastructure
  • Emerging technology

Mobility can be classified into many different categories. As an example, autonomous vehicles require different hardware and software for different parts. The “brain” of an autonomous vehicle consists of semiconductor chips and is controlled by cloud computing algorithms; to sense activity around the car, acting as its “eyes,” Lidar sensors, mmWave radar sensors, special cameras, and AI algorithms for car situation analysis apps, are employed.

Electronification is another field that is in demand. It can include electric vehicles, charging devices, and software for charging.

Telematics is another field that is connected to mobility. It requires all on-board devices on vehicles to provide different functional services in vehicle operation through wireless communication technology and effective utilization of all vehicle dynamic information in the information network platform. Cybersecurity solutions can also ensure the safety of a car by preventing unauthorized changes to information in data transferring, and making sure personal information is secure.

As a result of the large demand for vehicles for urban air mobility (air taxi), another trend that people are paying attention to is the growing potential for flying cars on the roads – eVTOL. An eVTOL aircraft hovers, takes off, and lands vertically using electric power.

History of Mobility

It is always worthwhile to consider the history of mobility before further exploring future mobility trends. Over the past 150 years, two large technological revolutions have taken place. Approximately 100 years ago, as a result of one of the major modes of transportation – travel by horse carriage – there was a great deal of horse excrement lying around on the streets of large cities, such as New York and London. Scientists predict that if they were to continue with such a trend, horse feces may reach a height of 2 meters by 1950. The solution to this problem did not lie in the invention of something that could remove horse poop very effectively, but in the invention of cars. This was not what was expected to transpire.

Often, humans are accustomed to a linear way of thinking. At the turning point in history, when horses were replaced by cars, the invention of the automobile was actually conceived in a nonlinear manner.

Currently, a second revolution is taking place. Electricity, intelligence and self-driving technology have all been superimposed together to create a powerful wave of technological change. This will create an industry opportunity valued at at least trillions of dollars.

What are the changes we observe between before and after a turning point if we think we are currently experiencing another turning point? The current revolution is that smart cars might replace gasoline and diesel vehicles. One way to look at the difference between gasoline vehicles and smart electronic autonomous vehicles is that it is similar to the

difference between an organism and an inorganic body. Autonomous vehicles possess the ability to evolve. A car that is autonomous may continue to improve itself while on the road, acquiring knowledge about the road and continuously collecting data as it passes different locations. It has the ability to evolve. A gasoline vehicle, on the other hand, is considered to be “dead” once it has been removed from the manufacturer’s line, since it cannot be enhanced or developed beyond the features that are already available on its own.

Where are We Now?

It is always worthwhile to consider the history of mobility before further exploring future mobility trends. Over the past 150 years, two large technological revolutions have taken place. Approximately 100 years ago, as a result of one of the major modes of transportation – travel by horse carriage – there was a great deal of horse excrement lying around on the streets of large cities, such as New York and London. Scientists predict that if they were to continue with such a trend, horse feces may reach a height of 2 meters by 1950. The solution to this problem did not lie in the invention of something that could remove horse poop very effectively, but in the invention of cars. This was not what was expected to transpire.

Often, humans are accustomed to a linear way of thinking. At the turning point in history, when horses were replaced by cars, the invention of the automobile was actually conceived in a nonlinear manner.

Currently, a second revolution is taking place. Electricity, intelligence and self-driving technology have all been superimposed together to create a powerful wave of technological change. This will create an industry opportunity valued at at least trillions of dollars.

What are the changes we observe between before and after a turning point if we think we are currently experiencing another turning point? The current revolution is that smart cars might replace gasoline and diesel vehicles. One way to look at the difference between gasoline vehicles and smart electronic autonomous vehicles is that it is similar to the difference between an organism and an inorganic body. Autonomous vehicles possess the ability to evolve. A car that is autonomous may continue to improve itself while on the road, acquiring knowledge about the road and continuously collecting data as it passes different locations. It has the ability to evolve. A gasoline vehicle, on the other hand, is considered to be “dead” once it has been removed from the manufacturer’s line, since it cannot be enhanced or developed beyond the features that are already available on its own.

Often, humans are accustomed to a linear way of thinking. At the turning point in history, when horses were replaced by cars, the invention of the automobile was actually conceived in a nonlinear manner.

Currently, a second revolution is taking place. Electricity, intelligence and self-driving technology have all been superimposed together to create a powerful wave of technological change. This will create an industry opportunity valued at at least trillions of dollars.

What are the changes we observe between before and after a turning point if we think we are currently experiencing another turning point? The current revolution is that smart cars might replace gasoline and diesel vehicles. One way to look at the difference between gasoline vehicles and smart electronic autonomous vehicles is that it is similar to the difference between an organism and an inorganic body. Autonomous vehicles possess the ability to evolve. A car that is autonomous may continue to improve itself while on the road, acquiring knowledge about the road and continuously collecting data as it passes different locations. It has the ability to evolve. A gasoline vehicle, on the other hand, is considered to be “dead” once it has been removed from the manufacturer’s line, since it cannot be enhanced or developed beyond the features that are already available on its own.

The First Half and Second Half of Autonomous Driving

The autonomous vehicle technology can be divided into two sections, the first half and the second half. To the left of the Trough of Disillusionment is the first half. The second half is the right side of the Trough of Disillusionment. Following a very challenging period, companies improve the technology while considering the possibility of commercialization. In fact, of the various companies, Google is a pioneer company that started in 2009 in the autonomous vehicle space. Waymo, Google’s autonomous driving technology development company, spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing self-driving taxis over the past several years. People have witnessed the development of the self-driving industry. After speaking with entrepreneurs in this field, they provided some feedback. In the first round of financing, oftentimes investors evaluate a company by the previous experiences of its team members to establish if they possess the expertise and leadership skills to run the company, with a financing of around $10M for this round; with the funding, they work on a prototype for one or two years before inviting investors to test and evaluate the product. Upon receiving favorable feedback about the product and their company’s progress, the company will seek a second round of financing of about 100-200 million to build a test fleet of 2-3 cars. This fleet will eventually grow to 10-20 vehicles. In this stage, they conduct road tests, collect data, feed in feedback from these tests, and remodel their previous statistical models based on the new data. In the future, technology will continue to develop at an increasing rate. Can the use of existing technology help solve the current commercialization problem, such as logistics and cargo transportation? When this question is asked and answered, it is an indication that autonomous driving has entered the second half section.

Different Players in the Autonomous Vehicle Field

It is possible for entrepreneurs and investors to become involved in the unmanned driving industry in many ways. Autonomous driving companies can generally be divided into two categories. Integrator refers to companies that provide a complete autonomous driving solution. One can subdivide this further into two categories: self-driving cargo transport and self-driving people transportation. The trend is clear that both in China and the United States, people generally believe that it is faster to achieve self-driving cargo transportation from a commercial standpoint than from a human perspective. Transporting goods is safer from a safety standpoint. Even if an accident occurs, the resulting harm is less than transporting people.

Another way that companies can participate in the autonomous vehicle industry is by producing individual parts required in an autonomous car, such as sensors, radars, and lidars.

The Transportation of Cargo - Autonomous Trucks

Trucks are often used for the transportation of cargo. Autonomous trucks can be further categorized into three categories for its different functions: long-distance deliveries, middle-distance deliveries, and last-distance deliveries.

Long haul delivery trucks are responsible for delivering goods for  a long-distance, oftentimes for a distance of 250 miles or more. Companies that are in the autonomous long haul trucking industry including Waymo, Tu Simple, Embark etc.

It is the job of middle mile delivery trucks to deliver goods from a distribution center or warehouse directly to fulfillment centers from which consumers can purchase products. A company that is in this field is Gatik. As a result of this partnership, they now pick up goods from Walmart’s logistics center and drop them off in the store. This logistics center is a fixed location, as is the Walmart store to which it will be delivered. The vehicle will follow a fixed route. In an autonomous taxi, passengers can be picked up and dropped off at any point. As a result, there are many variables that need to be considered during the route planning process.  As long as the starting point and focus are fixed, there are fewer variables and it is easier to determine a solution for cargo transportation, hence the success of the Gatik’s pilot program. The product solves existing problems using existing technology, and the market is large. The logistics e-commerce market is big and growing fast. In the traditional logistics industry, someone must drive, but currently people do not want to become a truck driver. There are several reasons: their wages are not ideal, driving time is long, the work is hard, and they must spend a long time away from their families. North America and China are experiencing a rise in the average age of truck drivers. Few people want to work in the trucking sector. The supply chain does not meet the demand. This can be addressed by the more mature driverless technology. The solutions they have worked on so far are very meaningful. At the present time, Gatik has several vehicles on the road that are completely unmanned for the Walmart project, with no safety personnel. In fact, Gatik is conducting daily commercial operations, rather than testing.

The last mile is a part of logistics and distribution, which refers to personal delivery of parcels to customers through e-commerce channels such as the internet. Once the goods are transported to the distribution point, the logistics company delivers them through certain means of transport to the customer in order to achieve door-to-door delivery. The term “last mile” does not refer to a quantitative distance, but to the last point where the customer receives the goods. With the advent of e-commerce, urban logistics distribution has become an important link between e-commerce enterprises and their customers, and “last mile” distribution is of great importance. The last mile delivery trucks are responsible for transporting finished products from the fulfillment center to the consumer. Zoox, Cruise, and Nuro are among the companies involved in this field.

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