The Bike Lane

Rolling into 2024, John Quain stops by to chat with host Jake Sigal about tech, trends, and services. John is the founder, Editor-in-Chief of OntheRoadtoAutonomy.com and has views on the rising popularity of subscription models as a funding path. His observations of the 2024 CES in Las Vegas has led him to opine that we'll be seeing 'luxury' electric vehicles in the $30K range. John's wide-ranging interests keep this episode lively and chock full of tech talk.

What is The Bike Lane?

Covering all things safety in and around the bike lane. The Bike Lane theme music by Daniel Sommers

John Quain: There were a lot
of people pushing subscription

ideas at CES this year.

I'm not sure really why.

Maybe it was because the only way they
could think of monetizing their service.

I think the way to do it is to
piggyback on some other service.

And so it's a value added, but you don't.

You don't have to necessarily
subscribe to that individual service.

And then it becomes a differentiator
for your product that you have

this and the other person doesn't.

Um, that's probably the best
way to try and get that to fly.

Jake Sigal: Hello and welcome
back to The Bike Lane.

I'm your host, Jake Sigal.

Back with us today is John Quain.

Founder and editor in chief
for OnTheRoadToAutonomy.

com.

John's a technology journalist veteran
and contributor to the New York Times,

contributing editor at Tom's Guide,
automotive and mobility contributor

for AARP, and columnist covering
smart Cities for digital trends.

John's my favorite kind of journalist,
a hands on techie just like me.

John regularly tests, reviews, and
researches the latest and greatest

in tech, digging deep to learn how to
improve everyday life through great

experiences on great technology.

John has a specific focus researching
autonomous vehicles and the ability to

save lives while reducing pollution.

John founded On the Road to
Autonomy, an online weekly guide.

To the developments and news about
connected and autonomous vehicles.

John, welcome back to The Bike Lane.

Thanks, great to be here.

All right, so let's jump right in.

CES felt like it was back, but
back to a more sustainable size.

So a lot of trends and we're seeing
a lot of A lot of OEM activity, tier

one activity, still micromobility.

What were some of the key trends that
you saw and you had the opportunity

to spend quite some time and log
some steps, I'm assuming, on the

floor this year at CES in Vegas?

John Quain: Yeah, I did log a few
miles on the showroom floors and

in the hotels around the city.

The West Hall was definitely full again
and the one trend I did see was much

more agricultural big industry stuff.

Um, you know, the John Deere
Caterpillars and the Hyundais of the

world with their big industrial pieces.

And that autonomous component that was
years ago, you know, we were going to

buy our own autonomous vehicles by now,
we'd be driving, you know, they'd be

driving us around cities and now it's
much more focused on the reality of,

well, maybe trucks and industrial things.

That last mile stuff, stuff at
the harbors and warehousing and

stuff, that'll go autonomous first.

There are limited venues, there's
limited places they're gonna go, and

um, that seems a more practical thing.

So a lot of that emphasis
in that West Hall.

Which if, and there's also that silly
thing with Tesla's running down that

tube that goes from one part, if people
haven't been there, from one part

of the convention center to another.

Last Uh, there was hardly anybody on
it cause there weren't that many people

at CES, so I was using it all the time.

I might have used it like 10 times
or something just to save the

steps, but that's still there.

But yeah, definitely more
manageable and companies like

VinFast, you know, Vietnamese.

Um, EV maker, uh, announcing that
they're going to be doing more in the U.

S.

in this market.

So that was also interesting.

Jake Sigal: Yeah, we saw TOG, T O G
G, uh, Turkish, uh, EV startup, if

I got that correct, uh, showing off.

What they're doing and, uh, kind of
bringing a different flavor to it.

I knew they were coming.

I didn't realize they were going to have
one of the largest booths in West hall.

So that was, that was kind of impressive.

You always kind of wonder if size of
booth is representative to, uh, market

position or, or otherwise, but, um,
it was cool to see, see them there.

And did you see the BYD vehicle
that was brought up from China that.

I think it was like, like low
30, 000 US dollar MSRP, it

looked like a luxury vehicle.

It was kind of insane.

John Quain: Yes.

And I really noticed a lot of talk
about them because they're surpassing

Tesla and in the marketplace.

And, um, I just did the other big trade
show, which is IFA in Berlin in September.

I had traveled around Europe a
little bit before that and noticed,

gee, they're all these electric
vehicles all over the place.

Who's that?

That I didn't recognize.

It's And they were all
BYD vehicles everywhere.

Um, I even saw a few Mach E, Ford
Mustang Mach Es in Copenhagen,

which is kind of weird somehow.

So yeah, and they are definitely
a force in the marketplace.

And you know, we were skeptical a
few years ago, and here they are.

Um, so yeah, I wouldn't
be surprised to see some.

under 30, 000 EVs this year and that'll
make a little change the market again.

Jake Sigal: The rotating or kind of
like bringing back in the bike lane

part of this is every vehicle I saw
had a monster screen on it, which has

room to put up alerts and play video
games when you're parked, of course.

Uh, like, so there's the space
on the screen and There is a bias

here because, you know, my day job
at Valtech, this is what we do.

We got, we have a lot of automotive
Android pieces, but it did seem like

everything I saw was, was automotive
Android powered, whether it was running

gas, Google Automotive Services or our
Android, which, which was confidence

inspiring to, HMI perspective, clearly
there's QNX on running on the safety

systems for ADAS, emergency braking.

We'll get to that in a little bit,
but from a user perspective, if we're

trying to roll out safety features
that are going to be communicating

between the vulnerable road user and
the driver, we are seeing that ubiquity

around a common platform where you
can be deploying these sort of apps.

And I, I think it's, it's very.

Comforting to see a lot
less vaporware and noise.

I mean, I think there still was a
couple of flying cars, but you know,

the stuff that I, the vehicles that
I was seeing into your point earlier.

They were running.

And even though the Tesla loop, as
you mentioned, was was a lot busier.

Another point, John, is originally that
was supposed to be autonomous vehicles.

You hopped in to zip between Central
and West, and I still think they get the

gold star for using the boring company.

That's for making a hole, not for
being dull, but it's a cool thing.

And there are human drivers and
the vehicles taking you around.

So I think that we've seen a lot less.

Vaporware and more of like
real deployments on the floor.

And I know there's always going to be
some sense of the future, but it just

felt less Jetsons, more actual 2024, 2025
things that we're going to be seeing.

John Quain: Yes.

I think much more of a
reality focused, if you will.

And, um, yeah, that Vaporware either
came from Microsoft days of they would,

you know, launch products just to
scare off the competition and never

actually deliver on the product.

Um, yeah, there was a, you're right.

I think there was a lot less of that.

There were a lot fewer prototype cars
that would ride around that couldn't

run the rain because they've been hand
built, things like that that were a

few years ago that I remember, and
technologies that were more far fetched.

Most of the suppliers too, uh, I don't
want to talk about that, were, uh,

reality focused theory, practical things
that people could use most and, and

are starting to use in their vehicles.

And to that, the screen and alerts
and what you can see, I continue to

see a technology, a sensor technology
that I wish was in the most of these,

you know, vehicles or semi autonomous
vehicles and that's far infrared.

Um, the benefit of it is that, um, it
can really see through rain and things

like that, that flummox other systems.

And, um, it gives you a much,
you know, it's thermal imaging

and far thermal imaging.

So you can really see things that are
almost invisible to the naked eye.

Um, and the classic case
is seeing a pedestrian.

One time when I was testing a vehicle,
step out from between parked cars,

down the block in the pouring rain.

And the system saw it very clearly.

I didn't see the guy
at all, I'll be honest.

Um, and he was wearing white
and there were white vehicles.

I mean, it's just a bad situation.

It's systems like that could
really make a difference.

I did take another ride, an updated
version, which more distance now, uh,

from a company called Teledyne Fleur and
they, um, they've been around for a while,

but, uh, they've improved, the cameras
improves, the prices have come down.

For that and made it a
much more practical thing.

And their whole push was all they talked
about was, uh, bicyclists and pedestrians.

And they went over it again and again
and again, drilling it, you know,

pounding on that point that you could
see them much more clearly and you're

going to need to be able to, um, at
a greater distance and this way would

make it actually practical to stop a
vehicle to avoid a collision that way.

So, um, and that's a real product.

Um, They are promising some OEM this year.

We'll put it into a vehicle, but
I haven't heard anything yet.

Jake Sigal: Well, right now, uh, in the
entire automotive industry, speaking

for Detroit, since I've been duly
appointed to speak for the city and

the entire, uh, micro ability community
of all of Southeast Michigan, I can

tell you that, um, we're still dealing
with some belt tightening and we've

got, you know, still high interest
rates on vehicles and, uh, these, these

types of technologies aren't mandated.

So we'll get to this a little bit of when
it comes to legislation and what's going

on with the infrastructure bill, but.

To stay on the point about technologies
to do a better job, I saw on via LinkedIn

a really tragic video of a Tesla,
which presumably was on autopilot,

going straight into a box truck
that was laid sideways on a freeway.

And initially, like probably
most, I had the initial like,

This is terrible reaction.

And after thinking about a little bit
more, it start and I started reading

comments from people that I know I like
that it shows the people I know comments

first before it gets into the, um, the
mass it the conversation was about,

like what kind of sensors are needed to
truly be safe and I think we're getting

to a point where we're doing a better
job than humans, and I want to come back

to this point you made about you didn't
see the person walking out that had a

white outfit on and matching the white
color of the vehicles, and you have rain,

obstructive view, and probably a lot of
cognitive load as well driving in the

rain and being in an urban environment
which can be distracting in and of itself.

I feel like the sensors are
getting better, and the vehicles.

Is, is having cameras good enough
alone on its own, or do we need

to have additional sensors?

And I'd love to kind of get your take
about both the types of sensors and

sensor fusion, but also like, are we at
a point or are we about to hit a point

where even though we're going to have
these types of tragic videos from Tesla?

What we're not seeing is the, I don't
know, dozens or hundreds of thousands of

headlines of people getting hurt or killed
because the systems are doing, are doing

a better job than if a human was driving.

So I'm kind of curious to get
your take on where we're at for

2024 on that, that, that balance.

John Quain: Well, I think, um,
automatic emergency braking in vehicles

is clearly, um, saving a lot of.

Um, injuries, at least, and certainly
money for vehicles and damage, and,

and probably, um, lives as well.

Unfortunately, you know, um, there
was a lot of discussion about how

distracted American drivers are, and
that the reason that we have these

astounding number of fatalities.

When everything was going down for
years and then after smartphones as

they became more and more prevalent
this fatality started to pick up

again and we're right back to where
we started before unfortunately even

given airbags and everything else that
we have in these vehicles and you think

of that and adaptive cruise control
and these emergency braking systems

and we're still seeing the same number
of fatalities that's pretty awful.

Um, so that distraction
is really Problems.

So yeah, automatic emergency
braking, it is an active safety

system and it certainly will
help, um, as to the sensors.

So I was talking with people and
recalling fondly 10 years ago at a CES

where, um, I had a panel there with
representatives, engineers from Toyota

and, and GM and Ford and all the major
OEMs and a couple of other people.

And, uh, Strickland, who was then,
uh, uh, head of the NHTSA, he actually

showed up and, you know, walked on
stage and just chatted for a couple

of seconds with me and then went on.

Anyway, the conversation, what all
those engineers were worried about

10 years ago, they all thought
autonomous vehicles were great.

They all thought they would be coming.

They all thought they could make
vehicles safer for everyone.

The only concern they had was.

Tesla, they all read that that's just
that they used insufficient technology

and were trying to do things that were
not possible with the technology and

that they would have deaths and that
they would have accidents and they

would set the industry back years.

One could arguably say, yes, that
in the Uber accident where some

of the systems were not turned
on, set that back quite a bit.

In terms of sensors,
yes, video is not enough.

No engineer that works in this
business would accept that as being

sufficient for a level five autonomy.

Absolutely not.

So that's.

Sort of irresponsible of them as
demonstrated by numerous videos.

And a lot of people, um, still
are going to put LiDAR in it.

It was really expensive to your point.

Yes.

It used to be all two years ago, 500
at least for one, the LiDAR sensor.

Um, now they're under a hundred dollars,
you know, where they're getting there.

So luxury vehicles first, but, um, they're
definitely getting there and they're

getting better to your point to collision.

You probably run these tests too.

There's a couple of parking lots
around CES where they'll do a closed

track sort of demonstrations and, uh,
Luminar, uh, which makes a LiDAR system.

So they've been pushing their LiDAR
for years, but, um, they rented.

A Lexus.

I'll just tell you what was a Lexus.

And then they had a comparable
Lexus outfitted with LiDAR.

And the, uh, rent a car Lexus had a
collision avoidance system on it, right?

It uses cameras and radar.

And we try to run over
something in the parking lot.

I've done this before.

I shouldn't laugh, but it's, uh,
it's You know, when you know,

it's just a dumb close track.

Yeah.

Yeah.

You're just hitting this stuff thing.

And that Lexus with the camera,
the existing one, the collision

avoidance and collision automatic
braking hit the thing every time.

And with the new system from
Luminar, it, it managed to miss it.

It also would swerve
around the pedestrian.

So they're adding another level of
active safety in the car to not just

break, but also swerve around it.

And I think that's what you're going
to need because you're talking about

speeds where just the physics are
such that even, even if you detect it

immediately, you're not going to be
able to bring a car to a full stop.

So what do you do and how
do you avoid that collision?

We're going to need systems like that.

You know, I don't think we're going to
get people to put their phones down.

We're just going to need
to do more, I guess.

Jake Sigal: Yeah, especially with
GM saying they're not including

CarPlay or Android Auto, where you
just You gotta think that's a bluff.

I don't know this, but like, it's just
like, come on guys, like, you know, like

if the idea from a safe, purely actually
for the listeners, it made me worried.

I'm like, what are you, what's
Jake talking about this?

All I'm saying is like from a safety
perspective, what we want is phones

plugged in or wifi connected and on
the wireless charger, not in your hand.

And I, I, you know, I'm really surprised.

I should write a blog about this.

Is it, First of all, give
the customer what they want.

Great Joe Clayton quote, uh, CTA Hall
of Fame member and former CEO of DISH.

And you know, he was real big on it.

Give the customer what they want.

Number one.

Number two is, um, from a safety
perspective, what we want is not just laws

that say you can't hold your phone, which
I think now most states have that law.

But actually good behavior, good,
good, like common sense where now, if

you're, if you're an automaker and you
make an intentional choice of, of one

having safety, but then two telling
people they can't use their phones on

their, their car screens that, that
has a, an Apple or Google experience

that they're, they're used to that.

I mean, that's a safety issue aside
from like, Oh, well, yeah, you can do

your Spotify built in, or you do this.

I understand all of those points.

I just.

I'm not quite there yet.

You know what I mean?

Like if we're trying to keep the phones
down, let's make sure consumers can plug

them in or hook them up wirelessly and not
have a reason to be holding their phone.

John Quain: Yeah, I think any trick we can
do to get people to give up their phone.

It's been really difficult
and um, I've sort of given

up telling people to do that.

That used to be a constant
drumbeat of articles and things

that I would do all the time.

But, um, driving around, you
look at the car next to you

and people are on their phones.

So trying to make it more voice
controlled, more voice activated,

uh, trying to do something like that.

Oh, something we didn't talk about,
speaking of that, I gotta mention this.

Uh, Volkswagen, AI was everywhere
at CES, okay, it was AI.

And Volkswagen, uh, did their
presentation, it was just on press

days at, uh, the day before CES.

They had a great demo and they talked
about how they were going to introduce

AI into the car and they were going
to incorporate chat GPT and that

company that was doing the integration.

And of course you can imagine
what went wrong, went wrong.

Um, how it was going to
make it more accurate.

You know, your car would understand you.

And when you spoke and the head
of VW asked the car, so who makes

the best automobiles in the world?

And the car started talking about.

Otterbox.

And where you can buy Otterflux and they
have to shut it down really quickly.

Uh, for people who don't know, Otterbox
makes the cases for smartphones.

So that was pretty funny.

Whoops.

Uh, so I don't think AI is going
to be the solution, just saying.

Jake Sigal: Yeah, it's like
the new level five autonomy.

It's like, okay, there's probably
something there when it comes to like

getting user help on a vehicle or.

Finding a restaurant, like as a, as
a built in feature for, for Google

restaurant search, I will say this,
John, that again, we're going back to

like the less vaporware and more real.

If I'm glad that we still have CES because
it really lets the right technologies

and the right experiences win.

And it also gives you a good
sense of like, what is the actual

technical readiness level for
this tech in this use case?

And I think we have all seen what chat
GPT and other generative AIs are ready

for production for and things that are
still maybe in the sandbox a little bit.

John Quain: It was just, it was
pretty funny, but we'll come to it.

We talk about bikes too.

It was even in bikes, just crazy stuff.

Jake Sigal: Oh, I didn't know
there was so AI in bikes.

John Quain: Yeah.

So Urtopia, which makes like a
carbon fiber bike that I think, uh,

most of us cycling enthusiasts and
if you like e bikes kind of drool

over this, it's like a carbon fiber.

Yeah.

Uh, it's like the new version of what
were those Cannondale bikes, right?

The 10, 000 carbon fiber bikes.

Well, now you can get an e bike,
it's carbon fiber and Urtopia is,

uh, promising it was prototype.

You know, it's just.

I think they might be taking
orders, but to put, um, AI

Chat GPT in their, um, bikes.

And again, it's more, it's more like
extensive voice control, you know,

navigation that would show up on
the bike screen, things like that.

Um, distance, feed it, you know,
tell it you want to, you want a 10

mile trip today and you want to do
X and it will plot a route for you.

Things like that.

Um, that's cool.

Yeah.

I mean, eventually if it did things
like power meter controls, things

that people actually use in their
bikes that are serious, it could

show you what your workout was
like and how much it had to help.

Um, but they're talking about doing
things like, Oh, you had a, uh,

you didn't sleep well last night.

So your commute into work, you might
need a little bit of extra boost

on the electric part of the bike.

And then it would automatically
recognize that and give you just a

little bit more help getting to work.

Things like that.

That seems a little fanciful.

Anyway, that's just, just
putting that out there was kind

of an interesting application.

Jake Sigal: You had me on routing
because I do think that there's gotta

be some, some opportunities for routing
improvements from, for those of us in

the bike industry, we're familiar with
Strava and Raiwa GPS and Komoot and

other great companies that are doing
routes both for on road and off road.

But it's, it still feels
like Kind of version 1.

0 where it's like, here's the heat map
and then here's your heat map in purple.

Here's the global heat map in red and
you kind of have to figure it out.

But there's like tricky
intersections where.

As a VRU and kind of a good segue in.

It's weird for those of you that are
listening to the show that aren't

cyclists, uh, may not, may not know this,
but it's almost better as a cyclist to

go through a major intersection that has
proper signals than to hit all the side

roads and then kind of be stuck like
trying to cross a A five lane road, two

and two and one in the center during
rush hour and when we plan our group

rides or even just getting to a group
ride, it's, you want to make sure that

during rush hour you're taking the major
roads that have traffic lights because

it's just not safe to play Frogger.

Whereas on a Sunday afternoon
ride, it's a different deal.

I do think there, there may be some
opportunities to, uh, to, to level

that up, whether it's AI or not.

It's just, that's the piece that, and I've
had conversations with several folks in

industry about this that work at some of
these companies and it's like, Hey, this

is me with my cycling helmet on, not my.

Not my Valtech hat, just saying,
look, there's got to be some ways to

level this up because I know where
I'm going and I'm, I ride a lot.

And for people that were just trying to
get out there where there isn't going to

be bike lanes and sharrows everywhere,
uh, they may need the help to, to figure

this out, which, which, uh, goes into
equity and goes to some other topics.

But kind of curious, John, if you've
kind of seen that, I mean, obviously in

the big cities, it's a grid and you've
got dedicated greenways, but like,

Are you, where are you seeing that?

As far as like, almost
like first mile, I guess.

Would, a way to way I think about this
is, is traveling via bicycle or Right.

Other,

John Quain: I think about it, what the
features they put in now assistance for

truckers and, and RV owners and stuff.

So you switch it into that mode.

And even so I still see, you know, semi
tractor trailers on the merit parkway.

, yeah.

Um, and disasters like that.

And uh, and out here in the country,
tractor trailers, there's a covered

bridge near me, it's Vermont.

I have to have a covered bridge.

And, of course, they get turned around,
stuck, and they try to turn around a

dirt road, um, happens pretty frequently.

It's the same kind of issue, and I
think, um, or, or, you know, avoiding

left hand turns if, um, you're
using Waze or a system like that.

You can, these systems can be programmed
to try to avoid dangerous intersections

that you see the statistics on, on
them, and you know it's a problem,

so you direct people around them.

Same thing, and, and you know
the statistics for the whole

week as you're describing.

Okay on a Sunday, not a good route on
a Monday, you know, that sort of thing.

Um, and I, as a, you know, New
Yorker too, I have routes going

across town that I'm very particular
about, because it's always dangerous

on Manhattan streets, definitely.

Yeah.

But there are some streets that are
a little safer than others, to your

point, like a two way or four lane busy.

avenue going across is probably
safer than trying to go across on

a regular side street just because
you can get doored and there are too

many there's so many things going on.

Jake Sigal: And doored for listeners
that's when a you're riding a bicycle

and a passenger door whether it's an
uber driver or delivery driver or a

passenger just pops out and as as you
probably if you haven't heard of this

for When you're in the backseat of a
car, there's no side mirror to know that

there's a cyclist or scooter rider coming.

So that's bad.

And that's also for the drivers
out there that never heard of this.

It's like, that is why most of us
that ride, ride in the middle of the

lane in those streets when you're
like, get on the damn sidewalk.

Well, the reason why we are
in there, one, you don't ride

a sidewalk, that's not safe.

You, we'd be running into pedestrians
and they'd say, get in the street.

The other thing is doors pop open.

So when we're going through
those, Especially suburban riding

and you hit an urban section.

That's why we're in the lane
and in the middle of that lane

to be clear of any door that's
just going to randomly pop out.

And if you ride enough and you commute.

That's going to happen.

It's not an if, it's a matter of a when.

You're going to see a door open up.

John Quain: Oh, I got doored running.

And then I, I just didn't expect it.

And the person was not looking my
way and just threw the door open.

Bang, you know, you're just
because you're running.

Jake Sigal: Did we get a
speed from Strava on this?

John Quain: No, it's kind of embarrassing.

Um,

Jake Sigal: it is kind of funny because
we know, you know, you're okay, but

like I'd say I have a someone in
my office that got hit by a car and

he's fine as well, but it was through
an alley where where driver was.

Trying to cut traffic going through
a back alley in Metro Detroit.

So these, these types
of use cases are real.

Again, if you find someone with
experience, whether they're driving

a car, riding a bike, running, et
cetera, like you'll, or even like

doing package delivery, when you, and
if you see something, you're like,

well, I wonder why they did that.

It's probably because it's the
safest thing for them to do.

And it's, uh, It could be efficient
too, or like maybe they're lazy, but

I, I, I like to think that 95 percent
of the time it's, it's for safety

because they do this a thousand times.

And that's, that's the, the routine
that, that, that he or she's in

when they're doing their job or
trying to get where they need to go.

Absolutely.

So let's, let's talk a little bit
about, uh, what's going on for gov.

So I, like, it's always, um, interesting
that, The Transportation Research Board,

TRB, is always around slash on top of
CES and there are several folks from our

team at Valtech and USDOT that were going
back and forth between DC and Las Vegas.

Uh, a lot of action.

So obviously we've got an election year
coming up, but the, um, it was interesting

that, uh, about a week and a half
ago, uh, Transportation Secretary Pete

Buttigieg announced a progress report.

And basically the way I look at this
is a, is a release that highlighted

some of the key initiatives.

So I just want to, John, talk
a little bit about, like, what

So my thoughts is overall, I'm
happy that we're seeing progress.

I was a little underwhelmed that
the bicycles and generally VRUs,

um, was not a bigger highlight.

In fact, I hit control F and the bicycle
VRU pedestrian didn't show up once.

Now, before I get too, too nitpicky
here, we were certainly covered.

around the, um, the, uh, equity, um,
uh, piece of the, of that release.

And there was a major
highlight for air travelers.

I get that.

I'm assuming that's politically
motivated because it didn't seem

like that was a safety thing.

It was more of a, in my opinion, it
was more about consumer sediments.

Uh, there's also a big push around quote,
building a nationwide electric vehicle

charging network, which obviously there's
a lot of, um, uh, political capital there.

And, um, and, and I think lastly, the,
the, the point really around Uh, where

we fall in is these, quote, making roads
and vehicles safe for all, end quote,

which includes these advanced rules
for emergency braking and other topics.

So there's a lot happening.

The money's been deployed.

There's been several
smart cities out there.

So I'm really happy and I applaud
the innovation and improvement.

I hope that stays.

I'm not nitpicking when I say that
we don't want to see the vulnerable

road user back to being a sub bullet.

We really want to see
that front and center.

So, John, I'm kind of curious, like,
from your perspective and, uh, how do

you, how do you gov roll into Like these
consumer products or things that are

happening in cities with with OEMs, I
feel like we're going to be hitting a

inflection point around what's going
to be sustainable, similar to what I

mentioned earlier about CES sustainable.

So from a gov perspective, what kind
of thoughts do you have around this?

John Quain: Yeah, I mean, I
definitely like to see more regulation

around it, um, in terms of, and I
don't think it's as complicated.

You know, it's like, um, working
with autonomous vehicle technology.

I mean, you can sit down with
engineers and they'll tell you,

you know, this is how many inches
you have to be within this.

And this is how fast this needs to break.

And this is, you know, they, they
already know this information.

I think you can do some of
the same things with this.

I think.

You know, cities seem to be, pre
pandemic, were sort of studying more

bike lanes, safety, what they need to
do to build a bike lane where it's safe

to ride, how to protect pedestrians,
what you need to do at corners, um,

and signals and that sort of thing.

And that seemed to, you know, with
everything else, come to a halt during

the pandemic and with other concerns.

And now to sort of get to your
point, to get that sort of back in

front of people would be helpful.

I mean, they're still building bike
lanes in New York City, for example, and

that's, that's definitely been helpful.

And people have seemed to get, gotten
used to it, but there's still a

clash there between, uh, you know,
messenger bikes and pedestrians.

We're seeing still a high
number of accidents like that.

So more work needs to
be done in those areas.

And that takes, as you just pointed
out, money, government money.

Um, on the other hand, you're right
too, that, you know, with Buttigieg

and the focus on infrastructure, There
are a lot of states, and we know what

states those are, where those highways
are kind of disrepairing bridges and

stuff, and yeah, that needs to be paid
attention to as well, but, um, yeah, I

would like to see more focus on, on, um,
encouraging, what do we call it, micro

mobility, you know, cyclists to work
commuting, that sort of thing as well.

Jake Sigal: The government has
what's called the Manual on Uniform

Traffic Control Devices or the MUTCD.

Everything that's funded in
gov has a giant acronym to it.

And there is a new version.

I haven't even gone
through and picked it up.

In fact, I'd love to get someone
on the bike lane that was involved,

um, whether directly or, um,
has been, you know, lobbying and

working on these types of changes.

But we are seeing this here.

So, I'm really encouraged that
we're making a better step

forward towards VRU safety.

There still is going to be a social
element here and as you mentioned about

like the what's safe by like this is
how many feet for these corners and

and where a bike lane is going to go.

Going back to what you said earlier
about drivers and distractions,

I still feel like in our country
there's a gap between prioritizing,

across the board, prioritizing.

VRU travel and, and those, those
users over vehicle drivers where a

vehicle driver has to wait that, that
extra 10 seconds to accommodate a

cyclist or a pedestrian to get across.

And apparently that's a pretty
big inconvenience here, uh, where

I live in, in Southeast Michigan.

So kind of curious, I mean,
you, you've been in a big city.

I mean, what, what, what do you,
what do you expect to see from

a social perspective as these
new things are rolling out?

John Quain: The pandemic, it had
more of an impact and is going to

have more of an impact on traffic
in cities than congestion pricing,

which doesn't have an impact at all.

What happens is, it goes down for a
little bit for a year or two and then

it's right back where it was before.

Every place has done it.

I mean, just not to say you shouldn't do
it if you're looking for revenue, but in

terms of You know, vulnerable road users
and their safety that thing measures

like that don't make a huge difference.

What does make a huge difference is
what you're talking about, putting

these lanes in and then probably
putting some kind of physical.

Barrier, uh, I was in St.

Louis, in a suburb of St.

Louis, and same thing, they have
this, it's a suburb where they have

a nice four lanes, or more than that,
divided by a medium with trees on it

and stuff, so it's a beautiful thing.

They did just recently take out lanes
on either side and put in two lane

bike lanes, just as you're describing,
and just as you're describing,

there was a hue and cry from the
people in that, in that locale.

But in point of fact, it really
never affected traffic at all.

Because they just didn't have that
much traffic anymore on that road.

And it's just a fact of the
matter, you know, we're not going

back and forth to work as much.

And so giving it over to the
cyclist was actually pretty good.

And then there was actually, because I'm
also a runner, there was a running lane.

Yay!

Like being in that lane and not
get, you know, sideswiped by cars.

And it was seamless, you know, to
your point about for cyclists and

runners and stuff, you're trying to
do something that's kind of seamless.

As you're doing this physical activity,
it really seemed to work just fine.

So all that craziness beforehand and
complaining later, it just died down

and haven't heard anything about it.

So I think there's more
room to do stuff like that.

Just getting past that point
is the trick, you know?

Jake Sigal: Yeah.

I could tell you this as a resident,
um, here in Southeast Michigan, we

say we have two seasons, winter and
construction, and, uh, and we've had a lot

of construction, a lot less winter lately.

So.

It's, it's, uh, I'm sure that's part
of it too, is that when people have

several of their north south or east
west routes under construction, it just

piles people in traffic and they Seem
to always have a rosier memory of how

short it used to be to go from A to B.

And then it's just, then that 15 seconds
when I am trying to make a right turn

or trying to clear and that person's
bumper is sticking out into my, my

bike lane, it becomes more of an issue.

So, um, I think that that out of this,
we're, we're going to see, I think

we're going to see continuation of.

infrastructure spending.

However, I'm curious, especially as
we're looking at, um, another potential

government shutdown in front of us and
budget cuts as a function, especially in

election year, will we start seeing cuts?

And I don't think it's
going to be bridges.

Um, I mean, who knows, maybe it's rail,
but it does kind of sense that if you're

not keeping VRUs as its own specific
highlight, it might make it a little

bit easier for someone to back off.

So, um, I, I.

I would just hope that if you're listening
to this and you're at a company that's

got a government relations team or
you're working with a lobbying group,

not just, in addition to your normal
tasks, things you're asking for, this

is a common, again, speaking for the
Metro Detroit VRU cycling community,

I would just ask that you ask your GR
folks to make sure we've got VRUs of its

own, like heading one, not like a sub
bullet of heading two or heading three.

John Quain: Yeah, definitely.

I agree with that.

Jake Sigal: A little bit
about consumer trends.

So, Yeah.

Oh, you mentioned about like
legislation and, and um, emergency

braking and, and that, that's
automotive technology clearly.

That's fantastic.

Actually, I should also
give a shout out to Bosch.

They also have emergency
braking now on their bicycles,

which is really, really cool.

I would love to have that.

Yeah, I see it on kids bikes too at
some point in the future when they

can get the cost down and weight
down and all that be fantastic.

Uh, but uh, around consumer products
though, like the outside of things that

are for the automotive industry, I, I
really feel like going through this the

last 10 years and, and working through it,
that Consumer products that are going to

be in your pocket or on your handlebar.

That, that, that's the kind
of thing that just, to me,

seems like the underlying tech.

We're making some movement.

We've got new stuff in Bluetooth.

We've got some new Wi Fi coming out.

Uh, you know, John, you're mentioning
cost downs for, for LiDAR and, um, um,

like far ranging sensors for infrared.

And I, I'm curious to get your
feeling, John, because you're, you're

right in the thick of consumer tech
that like, what sort of consumer

tech should we be looking at?

that will accelerate or solidify
VRU safety based on what you've

seen in CES and then leading up to.

John Quain: Well, I have to give
a shout out to Bosch too because

they are the, you know, they've
supplied the mid drive motors and the

drive systems for a lot of e bikes.

So I encounter them quite a bit in bikes
that I review and test and actually

took a ride with them through Red Rocks.

During CES, which is a nice break
to get away from Las Vegas and

all of that, and that was a blast.

Um, and, but it was also demonstrating
some of that technology to your

point, the emergency braking, the
APS brakes, basically for bikes,

which is awesome and really great.

You know, none of that grab the
bike and you do a header over

the, over the handlebars stuff.

Jake Sigal: Or you grab the
bike and nothing happens.

You know, there's the other side of this.

So it, it like, no matter your experience
level, it'll stop you the fastest way,

safest way possible, which is just right.

John Quain: I, I just thought it was
awesome and it's, and I tested a few

bikes where it's now on that system.

And then even like Bianchi, you
know, alternate racing bikes.

And I was a kid and I was
like, awesome racing bike.

It's still awesome by the way.

It's

Jake Sigal: still awesome.

Most beautiful paint color in
the history of bike paint colors.

Sorry, Specialized Trek, but
like Project One, we love it,

Trek, but man, the Bianchi green
is just, I mean, just classic.

John Quain: So I had a Bianchi that
was an e bike through Red Rocks.

And I was.

Booking it through.

There's a, uh, uh, five mile stretch
where it's basically all uphill.

And I was just like, I wanted to work out.

So I was pushing it harder anyway.

It's very seamless.

Uh, love the system.

So making these bikes more seamless and
getting people used to the technology

sort of being built into their bike.

And being less, you know, it's
not to be a purist, but I have a

fixie too that has nothing on it.

But, um, it really made the ride easier.

And I, one safety thing to another
item where we had all had helmets

with a mesh network on them.

So we were in a group and every once
in a while somebody would say car,

car's coming and we would all, I
just automatically pull over more

to the right, get out of the way.

Um, you know.

Cause I'm looking at the mountains and
the rocks and all of that and the canyons

and Calico Canyon is there and stuff.

And so it was, that was
actually very helpful.

I found in a group of five of
us or more cycling around it.

If those were more
commonplace in our helmets.

Um, that would also help, you
know, just alert other riders

what's coming behind them.

Jake Sigal: That's really cool.

I could see, um, I could definitely
see, especially if there was an

open integration for, for AMP plus,
uh, or, or Bluetooth where like a

Varia rear, rear firing radar would
be able to communicate with, with

connected, but low cost connected,
like Bluetooth beacon, just a buzz.

So somebody like those are expensive
products and that's, and they're

great, but they're expensive.

So that kind of community
sharing for safety.

That'd be really cool.

Like I would love to see a great
point about like, especially if

we're running this on a Bluetooth 5.

2 system and just that,
that could be really cool.

Like the, the, the, like using consumer
tech to add on to somebody's got the

expensive stuff and they can share with
everybody else that may not be able to

afford that or, or choose to have it.

John Quain: Yeah.

And it's not too expensive in helmets and
it lasts, you know, a number of hours,

you know, four or five hours at least.

And it's hands free, so that you're
not reaching for something else.

It's not another button you have to push.

You don't have to look at it.

You can still do your
sightseeing and enjoy the ride.

And then every once in a while,
somebody says something, or points

out something you should look at.

Um, or one person was heavy breathing,
I won't say who it was, struggling

to keep up with the rest of us.

But otherwise, it was great.

Jake Sigal: Asking for a friend, right?

Yeah.

John Quain: But it was great.

I really enjoyed that.

Jake Sigal: Very cool.

So another topic I just wanted
to talk about with consumer tech

is, is the idea of subscriptions.

VanMoof, if I'm pronounced that correctly,
has gone into bankruptcy and Dutch e

bike maker, really beautiful product.

And uh, I know a lot of folks in
New York had these things, but yes.

So, subscriptions.

I think it was BMW, if I was correct,
originally tried to charge subscriptions

for heated seats and then realized
that's a bad idea and we're not going

to charge you a monthly service so
you don't freeze in the car when you

start if you don't have a garage.

But let's say you buy something, and
this is not a new problem, by the

way, is, is, uh, Founder of a company
that made products that worked with

Pandora, you know, you, you get this
thing and you are like, whether it's

like the old school remote control
that has a button for a subscription

service that you'd may not pay for, or
doesn't exist anymore, or has dropped

their API to a VanMoof e bike maker.

What's your feeling, John, about like
products that require these subscriptions,

both from a consumer standpoint where
they, he or she has to pay for that

subscription and also from a business
standpoint where you're running a business

that only works if you continue selling
more and more hardware to offset that.

That software costs on
the flip side of it.

So how, how does that balance going into
like the next chapter of connected stuff

for, for cyclists and VRUs and vehicles?

John Quain: Yeah, I don't see,
I'm not a fan of subscriptions.

Like most consumers, I'm not a
fan of consume, you know, another

subscription that I have to pay for.

And I don't think they work,
they work in very specific areas.

So obviously streaming services,
video streaming services work

on that, they work for podcasts.

No.

You know, um, you have to have
some other way of monetizing that

podcast if you're going to do it.

But they work for streaming video
services and Netflix started that.

And then we have, you
know, scores of that stuff.

I used to think that, um, satellite radio
was going to go the way of the Dodo bird,

but it's, it's managed to hang on as well.

One of those few things that, that
has, but I think you're right.

Um, it was BMW, by the way,
Mercedes Benz also floated the idea.

And the, and these were kind of, you
know, they put the balloon up and

people sort of shot it down, but.

I think they were thinking OnStar,
but even OnStar is, what, free

for two years now or something.

I mean, because you have all
these other services available,

other ways to do a similar thing.

You can set your smartphone up,
and it has an accelerometer in

it, and if you're in a collision,
sometimes it'll go off automatically.

You don't need Unstar for that.

So, um, but there was, you're also right.

There were a lot of people pushing
subscription ideas at CES this year.

I'm not sure really why, maybe it
was because the only way they could

think of monetizing their service.

I think the way to do it is
to piggyback on some other.

service.

And so it's a value added, but
you don't have to necessarily

subscribe to that individual service.

And then it becomes a differentiator
for your product that you have

this and the other person doesn't.

Um, that's probably the best
way to try and get that to fly.

Jake Sigal: Excellent.

Uh, last question before we
wrap up is looking ahead.

Uh, what are you excited
about going overall in tech?

What's the most exciting thing that you're
thinking about going into this year?

John Quain: Wow.

That's a tough one.

I, I, um, I look at a lot of like
everything from exercise equipment

and TVs to audio and cars and stuff.

I mean, the most exciting thing for
me, I guess, is I do think we're

going to see more EVs on the road and
you're going to see more EVs, electric

vehicles, you know, under $30,000.

So the rest of us can buy
them and they are putting more

technology in them all the time.

So stuff that might be in $110,000
Lucid vehicle is actually going to

be in like a $30,000 Hyundai or BYD.

I think that's pretty exciting.

You get into the vehicle and
it kind of feels like you're

in a luxury vehicle and no gas.

Pretty great.

Jake Sigal: Last thing we always
like to ask our guests is, what

kind of podcasts, blogs, newsletters
are you up to speed on these days?

What are you listening
to, reading these days?

Gosh,

John Quain: uh, well I
read a lot of scientific.

Journals and stuff.

So I, I, um, also work in bioethics,
um, and, um, present papers at

philosophy conferences and things
like that having to do with

technology and the use of technology
and, um, even genetic engineering.

So I do a lot of reading in those areas,
and I think that's also a burgeoning

field, the research that's being done,
not just in autonomous vehicles and

mobility and the use of things like AI,
but also in genetics and healthcare.

Um, I actually do a lot of stuff
that I know that's kind of boring

and super nerdy and not a lot of fun.

Uh, but I do a lot of that.

And then, um, yeah, uh, in terms of,
you know, I do watch a lot of movies.

So, but the other thing that's
my guilty pleasure, I guess.

Jake Sigal: Excellent.

Excellent.

Well, John, thanks for joining us
back on the show and giving us your

unfiltered feedback of all things
tech leading into another strong year.

John Quain: Thanks.

Jake Sigal: That was John
Quain, founder and editor in

chief of OnTheRoadToAutonomy.

com.

I'm your host, Jake Sigal.

Thanks again for listening, and
see you next time in the bike lane.