California Mobility Center Incubator Showcase 2022 - Backstage Tour +VIDEO
A matter of perspective:
Special Feature from Jon Rosner
Walking into the California Mobility Center’s first anniversary meeting you might be struck by the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed energy of the men and women of a wide-range of ages and their infectious enthusiasm for what they were presenting. But if you stepped back and went deeper you would hear about the path that led them to CMC.
The California Mobility Center is an incubator. Reaching out by offering those with an idea help where they need it. Some may seek help with understanding how to take their concept of a viable solution to a major problem and build a foundation. For others, help with seeking critical initial financing or guidance from experienced hands with can point out potential pitfalls, specialists in a variety of old and new technologies and teachers who can provide assistance in material selection to software or hardware consulting.
The world has lots of incubators. What differentiates CMC? CMC is a very different animal altogether.
Alberto Ayala, CEO of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, a BS/MS/PhD engineer with a studied dedication isolated the critical elements that yielded the undeniable evidence in Volkswagen’s cheat in Dieselgate. This thought process, applied to issues of transportation, the environment and the future of transportation allowed Alberto to understand and identify what he calls the “secret sauce” that makes the California ideal work and Silicon Valley spectacular success possible. To more than half of the US California is the Land of Fruit and Nuts. To the person with an idea, living in China working for billionaire Jack Ma in the company’s 996 program (work 9AM to 9PM, 6 days a week) California would be a dream. For the communications engineer in Ukraine hooking up people in the field sending logistical information about the invasion to former hobbyist drone club flyers Tesla’s Starlink was a lifeline created and implemented by California dreamers.
Democracy is messy, we sometimes can’t see the advantages. Working together, encouraging others to share their ideas and their needs, building consensus around concepts, none of this is easy. When you take this method and add American idealism, a Silicon Valley lack of inhibition and drive you have a lot going for you.
But you still need Dr. Ayala’s “secret sauce.” “California took the first step 32 years ago in 1990. It hasn't been easy and it's taken us a long time, but when you consider the type of development you have seen in California, in the US and the world, you can trace it back to that very initial policy requirement. That essentially requires the manufacturers to bring these technologies to the market, right? So imagine if we can create and frame policy in a way that supports not only EVs, but all of the other technology and mobility innovations that you see here in the CMC. And the other point is ~ and I argue that the makers of that technology need to see ~ if you are a manufacturer that is established at the CMC, and if you are an innovator that has a new solution; It behooves you to understand the role of policy and what policy instruments can do to support your technology.”
Dr. Ayala: “Because one thing we have understood, working on public policy here in California for a long time, is clear: public support, public dollars, public policy has a very important role to early market adoption. Incentivizing and enticing folks to become early adopters of technology.
But we also understand that eventually it is the private sector, it's the market, and that enterprise that needs to support and create the demand for these technologies. Because government ~ the role of government is to create and support these markets, not to fund them forever.
They need to become viable private enterprises. Again look at Tesla, they don't need public support anymore. Because they created the excitement and demand in the market ~ people can not wait to get their cars. Imagine if we can create the combination of innovation, technology, and policy for many of the zero emission and electric mobility solutions that we have here.”
Dr. Ayala and his policy-making colleagues in the legislature, the regulating agencies and the governor’s office envisioned a system where electric car manufacturers could sell their emission credits to those transportation manufacturers who couldn’t or would build zero emissions vehicles.
Tesla took full advantage of what these forward-thinking policy makers created and in selling their emission credits creating profits that put them over the top and allowed Tesla to profitably lead the huge shift in car manufacturing away from vehicles that that pollute our environment with their exhaust to a more sustainable means of transportation.
Dr Ayala noted: “California instituted the very first requirement anywhere in the world that required automakers to produce and bring to the market electric vehicles.” That “Policy is always catching up to technology.” We collaborated “coalescing behind a single goal.” California will continue to put incentives in place to encourage the replacement of solutions that lead to pollution with ones that are sustainable and as pollution-free as possible.
“There is no accident that Sacramento is the seat of government and the state of California has been leading the environmental fight for many years. The policies that have helped create markets were born here.”
“You've got folks that have these new ideas and the rest of us are here to understand the ideas and to better design the policies, or advocate for the policies, that best support these innovations. And now when you consider what is happening at the federal level the potential for impact from the CMC is even greater.”
Autocracies can order their people to do whatever they deem fit, the public is not given a choice or an opportunity. And unfortunately, the citizens of many nations do not have the opportunity to choose. We do. The CMC concept is like many other incubators, except that it also offers the opportunity for those with a vision to present their concepts to policymakers who can help by offering the very best of California’s version of the American capitalist system. "Because government ~ the role of government is to create and support these markets, not to fund them forever."
On February 3rd 2022, the US Department of Defense announced that Heidi Shyu was going to be the first Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, functioning as Chief Technology Officer. Many of the pillars of modern technology, like the internet, were nurtured by Defense Department in their early stages. Given that federal money has often found some of the most advanced paths worth supporting coming out of Silicon Valley and Northern California, it look like the CMC could prove to be foundational for what is coming next.
Incentives that allow profits to build economies of scale allow products to be priced competitively. We can choose a lower-cost option that is environmentally sustainable and will remain profitable long after the incentives are not required. The United States is a democracy, not a command economy. What we do with our money is our choice. We choose. Through collaboration, CMC will help us create these options. One final quote from Alberto Ayala seems fitting: Supporting the innovators at CMC is “Public policy at it’s best.”