Who better to debate autonomous vehicles with Alex Roy than Dr. Mark Rosekind, former head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Fatigue Countermeasures at NASA. Now he’s the Chief Safety Innovation Officer at Zoox, and still one of the most opinionated and colorful characters in American transportation. Hear how he revolutionized sleep for astronauts and investigated devastating accidents, plus why he’s now a big proponent for autonomous vehicles in cities.

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Episode Transcript

Alex Roy
Hello and welcome to the No Parking Podcast. I’m Alex Roy, with my friend Bryan Salesky. And in this episode we have Dr. Mark Rosekind, formerly of NASA, the National Transportation Safety Board, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Chief Safety Innovation Officer of Zoox.

Bryan Salesky
So Alex, I wasn’t able to make it but what did you end up talking to him about?

Alex Roy
Well I really wanted to talk about NASA, because he was there doing sleep research for a long time, but we ended up talking about why AVs are necessary.

Bryan Salesky
Did you get any tips on how to improve your sleep habits?

Alex Roy
He sent me a book about it prior to our discussion. He said what a lot of my friends say, which is that in order to sleep well one has to be ready to sleep well.

Bryan Salesky
What does it mean to be ready? I don’t..

Alex Roy
In the late ’90s, a friend of mine came over and he happened to be a Tai Chi master. I said to him in 1994, “How can I learn to do Tai Chi and improve my health and wellbeing?”, and he said, “You are not ready.” And I asked him again in 2004 and recently 2015, 2016 and you know what he said?

Bryan Salesky
What?

Alex Roy
You are not ready.

Bryan Salesky
Oh boy.

Alex Roy
But it’s like driving. It’s like driving a car. There are people…and actually Rosekind and I talked about this. There’s this cognitive dissonance. People question whether or not they can trust a machine, and yet they trust strangers to drive them, and they trust themselves. And yet they’re never ready to make the leap into improving their own driving skills.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, it turns out that humans are not exactly as good as they always claim to be at driving. And it’s very dependent on where you’re driving as well and what you’re driving and the conditions at the time, obviously. But…

Alex Roy
If you look at race car drivers, why do they peak? The best drivers in the world, Formula One drivers, what are they doing? They’re training from 5-10, they’re becoming real drivers at 12-13, 17-18 they’re getting into these big cars and they’re peaking in their late 20s…and even the best in the world know it. And then as they get into their 30s, you don’t see Formula one drivers in their 40s, and yet people who are untrained…and I love driving, I know you do too, are still on the road at 40, 50, 60, 70.

Bryan Salesky
Yep. Fair enough. So there you go. Did you get into any of the history of the NHTSA and the Safety Act of 1966 and how all of that came to bear?

Alex Roy
Do you mean the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

Bryan Salesky
Did I get the year right? Was it 1966?

Alex Roy
I’m not going to lie to you, a few months ago, I didn’t know what that was.

Bryan Salesky
Really?

Alex Roy
I was aware that NHTSA was created in 1970.

Bryan Salesky
It’s a seminal moment in vehicular safety in the United States, Alex.

Alex Roy
All I knew was that Volvo had invented the seatbelt, and I was aware of Ralph Nader, and my knee jerk reaction is…communism!

Bryan Salesky
Ralph wrote some pretty scathing stuff about the auto industry at the time, and it generated quite a bit of a controversy.

Alex Roy
But luckily we have all these technologies which have reduced fatalities in many ways, but they’re up last year.

Bryan Salesky
And what’s interesting is if you follow the history of it, it was all about when a crash occurs, how do we make the occupants as safe as possible? So occupant protection, whether it be seatbelts…after seatbelts, it was airbags. In fact, before seatbelts, it was ‘let’s create structures that when a crash occurs, maybe the steering wheel should not impale the person in the driver’s seat’.

Alex Roy
Some people have suggested…my friend Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik said every car steering wheel should have a spike on it. It would encourage better driving. But what’s interesting is that, if you think about it, for a long time, cars were designed with the assumption that crashes will occur. They’re just going to happen. It’s just part of life. And so all the focus, the focus wasn’t on driver education. I guess internal or what was it? Occupant protection.

Bryan Salesky
Occupant protection.

Alex Roy
So then we got into advanced driver assistance systems, ADAS. And then the idea there was, well maybe crashes aren’t inevitable, and that has improved crash rates. But now we’re at the stage where AVs become necessary because you can only reduce crash rates so much.

Bryan Salesky
That’s right. Now we want to try to completely prevent and eliminate the prospect of any crashes someday. In order to get there, what was Mark’s answer?

Alex Roy
It’s complicated, but he agrees with it being necessary. Of course he does.

Bryan Salesky
So he is a supporter of autonomy.

Alex Roy
Absolutely. He’s also enjoys driving and he’s in that camp of people. I know you’re in it and I’m in it too.

Bryan Salesky
I love driving.

Alex Roy
Who understand that human driving and autonomous vehicles are going to coexist for a long time.

Bryan Salesky
Well, look, let’s go ahead and get started and see what Dr. Rosekind had to say.

Alex Roy
He says, by the way, that he would like to see you the next time you come out to-

Bryan Salesky
I can’t wait. Mark, we’ll see you soon.

Alex Roy
Good dude. How’d you guys get to know each other?

Bryan Salesky
No, we hadn’t met until recently, actually. Earlier this year we went and had dinner together. Given that we’ve had a lot of shared experiences…but never crossed paths.

Alex Roy
So let’s roll right into this conversation with Mark Rosekind. The topic was why AVs are necessary? Do I even have to ask your opinion on this?

Bryan Salesky
I think this is well-traveled territory, but I’m curious to hear what Mark has to say.

Alex Roy
I would love to know if podcasting existed in 1915, and people were repeatedly being injured on horseback, and trains were polluting and unreliable, and horses, it wasn’t easy to go buy a horse…and you had to be trained, and it was dangerous.

Bryan Salesky
It wasn’t easy to walk down the road and not step in something either. Horses come with something else too and it didn’t smell good on those streets.

Alex Roy
Internal combustion arrived as a solution to pollution in major urban cores. And so I’m quite convinced that someday people are going to look back and they’re going to say, “Well, of course, AVs were necessary in urban cores.” Let’s hear what Dr. Rosekind had to say…

Mark Rosekind
Anything for some fun.

Alex Roy
You’re too much. I really want to talk about why we need autonomous vehicles. I, of all people, should be opposed to them, but there is a time and a place for technology. The march of technology is inexorable and it seems like in recent headlines, the AVs industry has been getting a bad rap for a variety of reasons. Talk to me about the history of safety. When did you first start working in safety?

Mark Rosekind
I’m going to actually start at the first question you had.

Alex Roy
Start.

Mark Rosekind
The number for 2018 is 36,560 lives lost on our roadways. That is now a hundred people a day, and we’re losing. Every one of those is preventable. So I think when people ask, ‘why do we need autonomous vehicles and new technology?’ The answer is crystal clear. Because we have an opportunity to save those lives and prevent all the injuries that happen as well. And if you want to have more discussion about changing mobility for our society and making a more sustainable world, et cetera, I think we have multiple opportunities. But let’s start with the fact that we can save the lives that we lose every single day on our roadways. I think just start there.

Alex Roy
The most recent thing on your LinkedIn is Zoox. I am currently working for Argo. Every company says that. To get from today to that, some people say it’s going to be a winner take all. But that can’t be true, because some companies are going to develop it better than others. So how has anyone, regulators, the public, to know, whom to trust? How does one build trust in a brand and know who they should trust?

Mark Rosekind
So we’re going to have a challenge with this conversation because every sentence you asked has about three to four questions built into them.

Alex Roy
I’m all ears.

Mark Rosekind
Let’s start with, it actually bugs me a lot when I hear everybody… So NHTSA, we set the foundation for this, know that number. Know there are 100 people every day. This should drive us for these changes, to really attain what the optimal opportunity is with AVs. 94% of crashes are human choice or error, et cetera. That’s NHTSA data. But it really bugs me that so many companies use that as the justification and it’s one bullet out of their mouth and then it’s onto something else.

Alex Roy
Wow, when you said every, every sentence I had is loaded. But that particular point, the 94% number, everyone uses it. The number is actually, it’s that humans are a factor, not necessarily human error.

Mark Rosekind
It’s a great graphic and you should read the paper from 2015 and what’s really good about it, is it shows the last causal link, 94% and it’s all the different performance errors, et cetera. And the way I characterize it’s a choice or error that the human makes. A choice to speed, drink, be drowsy, pick up their phone, et cetera, or an error that they make where basically their attention is one place when it should have been somewhere else. But it’s 94% human based in that final chain of things. Since we’re on the things that bug me, let me start with that.

Alex Roy
I love this.

Mark Rosekind
At the NTSB, I learned this thing. You can either blame people or you can have safety. And it makes me crazy when the 94% gets thrown around and we’re trying to blame the human and it’s no, we’re trying to figure out where to fix this. So a good friend of mine, a board member of the NTSB with me, Earl Weener, an aerospace engineer, he says, you always go for the big bars. So it ends up the other 6%, 2% related to defects and recalls, 2% related to environment. That’s the infrastructure and the weather, 2% unknown. Why would you focus all your time on 2% or 6% when there’s a 94% bar you get to go after and prevent all those crashes. And so again, if you want to blame people, there’s a lot of folks would like to do that, that’s not what this is about. If you want to find a solution, saving those 100 people a day, you better know what the source of that challenge is. And then go after that directly.

Alex Roy
One of the things that drove me crazy, still does, is these people, I think people who are skeptical of AVs are skeptical because of the overpromises or how they’ve been sold. I’ve seen things out there, 94% of crashes are caused by humans. Ergo, replace human with machine, crashes will drop by 94%, but that’s not true. That’s not ever been true of any invention. So what is true?

Mark Rosekind
We don’t know. And that’s what the challenge is right now. This is why I believe so much in motivation because we don’t know how far we can get with that 94%. Some are obvious, if your robot and your AI is not going to drink or be distracted, et cetera. But we’re introducing all this new technology so we’re actually creating new risks and we have to be just as responsible about understanding those and trying to fix those as we are about addressing the things that we know about.

Alex Roy
That sounds like a Hippocratic Oath, like an autonomous Hippocratic Oath.

Mark Rosekind
Yes.

Alex Roy
If only people would behave like that, everyone would behave like that. So the other thing about AVs…which gets me because I love driving. Do I have to say that?

Mark Rosekind
Went at it again?

Alex Roy
When I first met you, I thought that you would be the one in the room to tell security, take me out and have me strung up. But the other thing about it is AVs the day somebody, some might argue it’s way more today, it might be argued, somebody says, okay, it’s quote unquote safe. Our people trust it. Passengers trust it, it’s deployed. They’re not going to work everywhere all at once. They’re going to work here and like a fence expanding spiderweb, it’s going to go up. We have deployed AVs successfully in urban course. It’s going to take decades to penetrate, to become ubiquitous. There’s no such thing as a 100% ubiquity. So how does one educate people to understand that the safety tech exists and actually is better than the alternative, which is themselves driving?

Mark Rosekind
So this is actually the biggest challenge we have now, and you’d asked about this in the previous question. How do we get people to trust this new technology? And I think there’s a few things that we’re going to have to really push. One is education, the second is transparency, and the third is experience. So we’ve got to get people educated. We can’t have all this nonsense of all these different terminologies and confusing language and descriptions, et cetera. We got to get people educated about what’s real and what’s possible here, including what the new risks are going to be. The transparency, this is another big soapbox for me, but I’m a strong believer in we got to share safety data. While everybody’s concerned about protecting their intellectual property, keep it. But I have this saying never again. If someone dies and it’s already happened, you shouldn’t have to have every company experience that to figure out how to solve that problem.

Alex Roy
The first time I saw you speak in person, maybe the second time in Washington, you made this argument in a room. Some folks were there from Volvo and some people from Google. Waymo, the name didn’t exist. And someone in the audience brought up the Manhattan Project and I think it was, who was it? The American behind it who said atomic energy, the technology should be shared. Everyone should have it because it’ll become a net good. But if we hoard it, it will become…suboptimal. Is that what you’re talking about?

Mark Rosekind
Well, I think on the safety side, absolutely. If you want people to trust this new technology, they’re going to have to be educated about it. We’re going to have to be transparent about what’s actually going on, especially the safety. And the third element is they’re going to have to have experience with it. And that’s the part we suffer now because we have a big vacuum. People are writing about all of these new technologies and many of them don’t really exist yet. And so the example I love to give is, you know the iPhone’s about 10 years old now, if a dozen years ago I did a survey and said, would you buy a phone to put in your pocket? You’d laugh.

Alex Roy
Especially if it costs $1,000.

Mark Rosekind
And you want two of them actually right? And by the way, you won’t make a lot of calls, you’ll be doing some texting and you’ll say, “What’s a text?”, well that’s an app, “What’s an app?” We’re asking people to understand and think about things that don’t exist yet. And would you buy one of these? Would you go for a ride? Which by the way, I think points to one of the weaknesses of the industry right now is there are technologies currently on the road and we are not doing a good job about demonstrating if they’re working or not.

Alex Roy
Just basic automatic emergency braking, traction control, lane keeping.

Mark Rosekind
What a perfect example, that already exists. It’s on pretty much everything that’s out there. There’s a lot of this new technology that’s out there that we just don’t have the data showing where’s it effective and how should we be improving it.

Alex Roy
I remember when I was a kid. All right, so when I was a kid, let’s do the timeline, you were the administrator of NHTSA, prior to that you were on the board of NTSB, prior to that you had a private company about cognition sciences, sleep sciences.

Mark Rosekind
It was called Alertness Solutions. It had to do with keeping people awake on the job.

Alex Roy
And prior to that you were at Stanford?

Mark Rosekind
I was at NASA.

Alex Roy
At NASA. Cognition and sleep for astronauts.

Mark Rosekind
Fatigue and sleep management. Yes.

Alex Roy
Somewhere around 1990, what were you doing?

Mark Rosekind
1990s, when I first started at NASA.

Alex Roy
Okay. So I remember vaguely in 1990 that ABS was becoming common, antilock brakes becoming common. I remember people saying that they felt it was more dangerous because when ABS was working, that your total breaking distance might be a little longer when it was functioning, and as a result they felt less safe, and they didn’t want it. To be clear, ABS pulses the brakes at high speed, faster than a driver can, in order for a driver to maintain steering control during braking. How did the automotive industry transcend that?

Mark Rosekind
This is a critical point because…let’s make it even simpler, which is the fight not to put seatbelts in cars or airbags.

Alex Roy
Tell me the history of that.

Mark Rosekind
It’s exactly what you said, which is new technology comes out, and because it’s foreign to people and they either don’t understand it or want to keep things the way they are… There’s always going to be some risks associated, whatever it is. You started hearing those things. If you’re strapped in like that, you could get stuck in a crash and not be able to get out in time. Okay.

Alex Roy
Did that ever happen?

Mark Rosekind
I’m sure at least one that they could use as a… You still see that when we’re arguing about seatbelts on school buses.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
This happened when I was administrator. There’s still not a requirement for seat belts on school buses.

Alex Roy
Really?

Mark Rosekind
Yes.

Alex Roy
That’s crazy.

Mark Rosekind
The structure of them is very safe. But guess what, especially as an NTSB board member, we had crashes where three point seatbelts would have saved more lives and prevented injuries. And so the only thing out there, on our roads, not required to have that seatbelt is that big yellow bus. Okay.

Alex Roy
Who’s against it? Who is the anti school bus seatbelt law?

Mark Rosekind
Usually about money. Who’s going to pay?

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
Right. And what’s interesting is there are school districts across the country that have figured out how to do that. Literally from bake sales to state funding. People have figured out how to do that, and this is me being pushy, which is if you only build them with seatbelts, that’s the only way you could buy them.

Alex Roy
That was under your tenure?

Mark Rosekind
What we did in my tenure, because we didn’t have time for a new regulation, et cetera, was basically, here’s our policy. There should be three point belts for every child on a school bus. Then we started having meetings and stuff to figure how that could actually come about, but I didn’t have enough time to see a bunch of things through.

Alex Roy
All right. If I recall, the items that were… So we had seatbelts, there was the anti airbag lobby. Who was against that?

Mark Rosekind
Well, as you know, one of the things that happened is that some kids got killed in the front seat.

Alex Roy
By an airbag.

Mark Rosekind
Yes. And so there it was. We told you they’re not going to be for safety. They’re actually going to take lives. I think that’s a great example of the technology was tuned for adults in the driver’s seat. The real innovation did not extend to passengers and an air bag there or any place else in the vehicle. I think this is one of those, there are going to be risks, you’re going to lose people and the irony is that you’re actually striving for greater safety but there’s absolutely going to be a risk as you move to that. So to your question, what’s fascinating is this is not new. Every time you come up with a new safety feature, there’s always some group that wants to fight it for a period of time until somehow it pushes through.

Alex Roy
And that incident with the kids in the airbag led to passenger side sensor as standard is that now federally mandated?

Mark Rosekind
Correct. Correct. The other part is actually, at certain weight, size, age, et cetera, backseat. Don’t put them in the front.

Alex Roy
I imagine that lesson that now passenger and other non driver’s seat sensor, if one can anticipate second order consequences, then one has a leg up on trust.

Mark Rosekind
Exactly. Partly I like to conceive technology’s a tool.

Alex Roy
Oh, you sound like me. Well, I sound like you.

Mark Rosekind
I think it means we’re in sync on this. Right? And whether it succeeds or fails-

Alex Roy
Used for good or evil.

Mark Rosekind
Right, right. But I think part of what we have to do is take responsibility to pursue the good and we have so many examples of this all over the world today.

Alex Roy
I can see where this is going.

Mark Rosekind
So let me come back and specifically around safety and just say, I think it’s a tool. In fact there’s another great NHTSA study that was done looking at 14 different technologies starting with seat belts and airbags and the stability control, 14 of them. They looked over 50 years including federal motor vehicle safety standards, et cetera. And over those 50 years, let me get the number, I think it’s 613,501 people.

Alex Roy
You would know.

Mark Rosekind
Those lives have been saved because of the technology and those are the ones that we know. So we know technology can work, but the examples we’ve brought is there’s risk associated with those and we have to overcome those for the longterm benefit. This is not a new story.

Alex Roy
So we agree technology can’t be stopped. It’s only a function of whether channeled in the best possible direction or bad things happen to get to a better end.

Mark Rosekind
And I think what you’re moving toward here is there’s a lot of innovation. There’s not always one way to get things done. That different paths will create different kinds of risks that you have to be aware of, so you can address them. And I think what you’ve just highlighted is right now in AVs, we don’t know if there’s one path or three paths or five paths. So this is my thought. We are in a moment of innovation. We have to go crazy with this in a good way because we don’t want to limit what the potential good is by saying, nope, you got to put it in this box and that’s it.

Mark Rosekind
This is where, so you think you can do this without LIDAR. Bring me the data, show the data. This is where the sharing safety data for transparency lets everyone, whether it’s a regulator, consumer, whomever else, understand, there’s multiple ways to do this. The data show, this is the way that’s going to actually work or it’s going to create a danger that we didn’t know before, but we better address that or it’s not going to be safe for people.

Alex Roy
I subscribe to the philosophy of, this is a horribly cynical thing to say, a casket, I think average is like $3,000 or something like that. A LIDAR… How much would you pay to bring back a loved one? Would you pay $3,000 would you pay $10,000? $50,000? You’d pay literally every cent to the bank. The most of this expensive LIDAR made today is cheap. Cheap. Because if it adds any safety and so as far as I’m concerned this is a nonissue or it’s a non-question for me.

Mark Rosekind
So I’m going to put words in your mouth. That’s why you’re with me on the 100 lives a day.

Alex Roy
Oh, of course.

Mark Rosekind
The reason I always start with this is we cannot bring those people back. The ones that are injured and lives changed of the families and communities, etc. We cannot bring those people back. And so your point, which is, and this is an NTSB thing, you want safe transportation, don’t leave home.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
As soon as you leave the door through whatever mode, there’s a risk involved. But if you know about the risk, it is incumbent on those responsible to try and minimize the risk as much as possible.

Alex Roy
In good faith.

Mark Rosekind
Yes.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
And with some transparency that… I know this could be an issue and here’s what I’m doing for it.

Alex Roy
I think of safety as a moving target.

Mark Rosekind
You got to acknowledge that.

Alex Roy
It’s funny when people look back at what they thought was the safest car on the road, 1985, but today you look at that thing. What are you insane? Even cars that, you can go back 10 years and find some cars that are actually even today seem to be pretty good, but it’s hard to go back 30 years and say the same thing. So you earlier were talking about, show me the data, and as I was poking around, I was looking at the FARS system, Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Mark Rosekind
Right.

Alex Roy
Can you explain what that is and why there’s controversy around it?

Mark Rosekind
Well, what’s interesting is, I’m a former NHTSA administrator, so I’m not sure there’s a lot of controversy about it. And in fact I think there’s so much stuff that goes on at NHTSA given the number of people there and it’s resources. It’s amazing. So when I say for example, 36,560 people died on roads in 2018, that number actually comes from NHTSA collecting every death from a police department that investigated one of those in their police reports, the entire nation. And this is why typically it’s taken almost a year to get that data. So that’s why I’m giving you 2018, because we don’t have 2019, it takes you anywhere from six to nine months to collect all of that data. So FARS is a database that actually collects that. I think, inherent in any database you have to make definitions.

Mark Rosekind
And so there’s some people that aren’t included in that. If somebody actually gets killed in your driveway that’s not on a public road, that’s not included in there. So for me, there are some controversies about those kinds of things.

Alex Roy
They’re bullshit.

Mark Rosekind
As a scientist you’ve got to draw a line and it was most important to be explicit. This is included. It’s not. Okay. And then you’re going to argue over whether my loved one who got killed in our driveway should be included as one of those numbers or not, absolutely fair game. But that’s what happens. You draw numbers and NHTSA runs a lot of databases like FARS that people all over the world use to understand how things are changing.

Alex Roy
So the data, the most recent data, like the 36,000 number that you throw out, that number, after many years of decline, has started to rise again. Why?

Mark Rosekind
So I think that’s one of the problems that we have is we look at these small adjustments and I would say you have to celebrate the lives that gets saved. When you lose more, you have to use that as a chance to go after more safety if you can. But I think you need to step back and realize… During my tenure, the numbers started going up a bit. And what’s interesting is that had a pretty much nothing to do with us. These numbers lag, because when you do a national program it takes a while to institute and see the effect, et cetera. So I think that’s the challenge. What we’ve seen, actually it’s gone down by about 1%, 1% to 2% over the last couple of years. But I can pretty much guarantee that we’ll start seeing other little budges up.

Alex Roy
So these are not, we can’t read anything into them yet?

Mark Rosekind
That’s correct. And I think what we want to do is look back over the 50 years since we’ve had FARS, and looking at these numbers in a more collective scientific way, we’ve seen the numbers come down. It used to be over 50,000 lives lost. So we know it’s getting better. And I think that’s why I say, if we’re looking just year to year, that’s not a sensitive measure of the programs that we have in place.

Alex Roy
So one of the theses I’ve seen is that the decline was… Road fatalities trend a bit to total vehicle miles traveled. Economy’s good, people drive more, more crashes. But deaths have also gone down because advanced driver assistance systems are becoming ubiquitous, traction control and otherwise. But then does a trend line up…is that related to the average vehicle size and weight increasing. Are all those things true?

Mark Rosekind
So what’s really fascinating, and you’re going to say, this is why the guy knows too much. Weather and economy are the two biggest factors that change that percentage. And it ends up when there’s good weather and more kids get jobs, there are more people on the road and you see the numbers go up.

Alex Roy
So strong economy and winter is not good, right?

Mark Rosekind
Yeah. Or good weather, where there’s more people on the roads.

Alex Roy
So its lose lose. All we can do is mitigate. So why do we need AVs?

Mark Rosekind
You answer first.

Alex Roy
Because there are places where humans will never be as good as an AV. Very complex places, when people are under stress, urban cores, and I live in one of those places. I know it because I see it in myself that I’m unsafe and I still drive. What do you think? Why do we need AVs?

Mark Rosekind
Save lives, a hundred a day.

Alex Roy
Even if that’s all they do?

Mark Rosekind
That’s why I say there’s a trifecta. There’s safety, mobility and the sustainability. But I think that safety has to be the imperative. Before I left NHTSA, we started a Road to Zero Coalition and Debbie Hersman, who is President, CEO of the National Safety Council at the time, Dr. Jeff Michael at NHTSA, put this coalition, hundreds of organizations now, and they got a report together, we could get to zero lives lost in 30 years. And what’s interesting, there are three factors. Let’s keep doing what works, let’s move toward a safe system, and the third is advance new technology. So the new one we’ve got, new technology. Those are new tools we have. And if we want to save lives, we’re going to have to advance those tools to their optimum.

Mark Rosekind
So we didn’t talk about this. What’s really interesting is, let’s play this out even further. So as you were just saying, humans have certain limitations. At some point though, we should actually be able to have automated systems that are connected to everything else. So it means that we could actually potentially be going faster speeds, closer, right? I mean there’s a whole different system for us to think about out there, but we’ve got to get the first phase done to make sure it’s safer and that it’s going to work okay. And we’ve managed the risk before we can really go beyond just visionary, “What could that look like?”.

Alex Roy
I totally buy into that. I don’t buy the people that say you need that on day one, or that you can even have it on day one…and I don’t buy that at all.

Mark Rosekind
Not at all.

Alex Roy
Not at all.

Mark Rosekind
And in fact, you create more risk that way. And we’ve already talked about how do you get people to trust you?

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
Right. So you’ve got to show the safety really works and then work toward whatever that vision could be. But again, you’ve got to show the tools going to actually be effective.

Alex Roy
Let’s go back in time. You became a scientist. You studied psychology?

Mark Rosekind
Yes.

Alex Roy
And cognition? Walk me through what happened after Stanford and the sleep science and cognition research and then to NASA. I’m curious.

Mark Rosekind
The short version.

Alex Roy
Whatever you got.

Mark Rosekind
I’ll start with a little bit of the personal side, which is my father died when I was very young and I had an uncle who was a male role model for me that was a physician. Brilliant guy, loved to take his nephews around to see what’s going on. So I was a pre-med through college, but when I was a sophomore I took this course from a guy named Dr. William Dement and he was part of the team that discovered REM sleep. So humanity has been sleeping since crawling out of primordial slime. But it wasn’t until the mid fifties that Dr. Dement and this team actually found out we had two kinds of sleep, rapid eye movement sleep and non rapid eye movement sleep. He’s the guy that coined the term REM sleep. So I’m an undergraduate taking a course from this guy thinking, man, we all sleep. This is so cool. And through that actually got involved in research. So by the time I graduated I actually decided, I’d rather get a PhD and be a scientist in this area because there really wasn’t a specialty of sleep medicine at that time. Dr. Dement started it.

Alex Roy
What year is this?

Mark Rosekind
This is in the mid ’70s.

Alex Roy
Okay.

Mark Rosekind
Graduated in ’77, so there is no field of sleep medicine. Dr. Dement literally started it and the first textbook and the first journal, all of the first clinic, all of this stuff. And so it was an exciting time. There was this joke in class, there’s a sleep disorder with your name on it out there. This is so new and yet affects everybody. So I actually ended up staying at Stanford for three years running a human research facility for Dr. Dement and I joke it was like doing a postdoc before ever getting my PhD, because I reported and learned and mentored directly from Dr. Dement. So it was an incredible experience. And then after that, decided if I want to be a scientist in this area, I need a PhD at least in some area that’s going to ground me somewhere.

Mark Rosekind
So that’s why I ended up at a very academically oriented program, but also did clinical work, which most people don’t know. So I am license eligible.

Alex Roy
People in beds sleeping with you watching with a clipboard?

Mark Rosekind
So two things. One is sleep part, I actually continued that through graduate school, but my psychology degree was both psychophysiology, how to look at brains and all that stuff, and the cognition and that side. But I also did clinical training, which means that literally I could have opened an office and seen people, clients and stuff.

Alex Roy
You look the part. That’s a compliment.

Mark Rosekind
Thank you.

Alex Roy
Then psychophysiology, what’s that?

Mark Rosekind
So that’s basically looking at how brain affects mind and behavior. My expertise was looking at brain activity. So I literally put electrodes on the brain and measured EEG and eye movements and muscle activity. And when I was at NASA, I actually did that on pilots when they were flying airplanes between Hawaii and Japan for example.

Alex Roy
We’re still a few years shy of your trip to NASA.

Mark Rosekind
Okay.

Alex Roy
So Yale, then chronobiology research at Brown. Chronobiology. What’s that?

Mark Rosekind
So that has to do with our internal circadian rhythms, our internal biological clock, so that basically is a biology of time and we have a clock in our brain that pretty much regulates everything we do in a 24 hour basis. So between sleep and that clock, those are the two big factors when you look at sleep and human fatigue.

Alex Roy
Having done all this research, how did you end up at NASA? Did they call you or did you call them? Because NASA, at that point, had been sending people to the moon since mid ’60s. Was no one thinking about this until you showed up?

Mark Rosekind
There was a little bit of work and what was pretty exciting for me is I had come back to work with Dr. Dement again, running a human research lab, like what I’d done before I left for graduate school. And part of my job was to get new projects going. And so we’re here in Palo Alto at Stanford and NASA Ames, which is one of the NASA centers that mostly focuses on aeronautical work, about 70%, had a fatigue jet lag program. But they mostly had folks looking at circadian rhythms and animal things. And so my job at Stanford was getting new projects going and they were doing a project looking at could we give naps to pilots in the cockpit and help their performance and alertness increase.

Mark Rosekind
So because I knew how to measure brainwaves, et cetera, they were struggling with how to do that in the cockpit with all that electrical activity going on. So part of my job was how do we collect the EEG or brain activity from those pilots in this nap study.

Alex Roy
The Apollo missions, I can’t believe I don’t know this. How long was it from launch to touch down? A couple of days?

Mark Rosekind
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

Alex Roy
They had to sleep.

Mark Rosekind
Yeah. And let’s fast forward a little bit. So I’m at NASA for seven years and eventually was running the fatigue countermeasures program.

Alex Roy
1990…

Mark Rosekind
To ’97, that’s correct. And running fatigue countermeasures program means that we were focused on both astronauts and pilots and how to deal with sleep and the circadian clock disruption. Keep them awake on the job. So the reason I mentioned that is because it was actually after that when I’d started my company, I got to know this great guy, Captain Bob Augustino, and he started the safety stand down at Bombardier, and Bob asked me to come and give a talk on sleep. So I’m one of the original faculty there and did it for 10 or 12 years, et cetera. But Bob is near and dear to my heart because I think it was the second one, the second stand down that I attended, in the very front row is this guy, his name is Gene Cernan. Captain Cernan, of course, was the commander of Apollo 17 and the last man who walked on the moon. Naval aviator, all this stuff, he’s in the front row. There’s 500 people. The stand down is always totally packed.

Mark Rosekind
You can only have 500 and I always got a two hour slot. So I’m doing an hour, taking a break, it is a fatigue talk. Right? And then doing another hour. So I’ve never met the man. Bob’s telling me, well we got the special guest who’s talking and participating, but he’s in the front row and I always walk around when I talk. So right before the first break. So I’ve just done the first hour basic stuff non-REM, REM, how much sleep do you need, what’s a sleep debt, et cetera. And just before I end it’s like any questions before we take a break. Jean’s hand goes up. “Mark, you’ve just explained what was happening to me when I was on the moon.”. He starts telling stories and he was going on. I finally said we’re canceling the next hour and letting Captain Cernan just tell sleep stories from the moon.

Mark Rosekind
To your point, they have been having to deal with this in every operational environment, including going to the moon and yet there was really no focus or expertise or knowledge applied to trying to help them manage that. And so I bring that up because it’s kind of interesting that from the earliest stages of even moon exploration, there hasn’t been a lot of focus on this. And it was fascinating for me, and I can tell you this, because it’s almost three years since he passed away, but for over a decade through Bob Agostino, I had this chance to get to know Captain Cernan and so it was amazing to learn from him about what they didn’t know.

Mark Rosekind
What he was learning about that, what he was even transmitting even in his late 70s and 80s, how he’s communicating that to the younger astronauts and other pilots and stuff at things like these safety stand downs. Now this one’s super personal, but he sent me a photo of him on the moon, a big one. One of those you’ve seen before. He’s saluting the flag and it says, “Mark, promise I was awake for this one.”. With all best wishes from the man on the moon, it’s absolutely amazing.

Mark Rosekind
But I have another one from literally when he was in the lunar module where he just looks like, is anybody home? And that one he signed, “What day is it?”, because everyone who’s ever worked in an operational environment has stories about where sleep and fatigue, you paid a price.

Alex Roy
Did you ever see data, anywhere, NHTSA, anywhere in your career correlating crashes to drivers’ lack of sleep?

Mark Rosekind
Yes.

Alex Roy
Where does one get that data? Is it from the driver?

Mark Rosekind
It’s fascinating. This is another one that I have to talk about just for a moment, because you know Dr. Jeff Michael. What’s interesting is, I ended up at NHTSA and one of the first meetings, Dr. Michael says, “So Mark, are we going to take on drowsy driving now that you’re here?”, and I’m like, “I’m here to focus on this GM ignition thing and took out an airbag and then we’ve got some other stuff to do. I’m open, but I don’t want this to be about my agendas.” And Jeff was good enough to say, kidded me around a little bit and said, “Mark, you have such expertise and a circle of people that we could tap into to address this issue on a national level. Why wouldn’t we do that while you’re here?”. He convinced me basically that we have to take this on. So we expanded the three D’s of impairment and NHTSA. It used to be drugged, I’m sorry, drunk, drugged, distracted and we added the fourth D, drowsy.

Mark Rosekind
And so there’s been data for a long time. The problem is what you said and that is how do you measure it?

Alex Roy
With a camera and driver monitoring, which today they’re still not 100%.

Mark Rosekind
That’s exactly right. And in fact I always joke but we do not have a fatigue-alyzer.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
If we had the equivalent of the breathalyzer it would be great. And people for years have been trying to find one. It doesn’t really exist. And so I actually know of cases where someone gets out and will admit that they fell asleep at the wheel in a crash, and yet you don’t see that anywhere in the subsequent report, et cetera.

Alex Roy
My opposition to AVs for a long time was ‘I think I’m great’, everyone does. And I’m an enthusiast, I want to be free to drive. I was afraid based on media and statements, that once AVs are demonstrably better than people that I won’t have the option to drive. But on the other side, I’m all for AVs, purely from a moral standpoint. Forget traffic and pollution, moral standpoint. I know that I’ve gotten in a car when I was tired and drove because I had to get to work, I had to do something. That is a decision even very skilled drivers make because they’re not capable of judging their own impairment. After I set the Cannonball record, with my buddy Dave Maher in ’07, I was invited to speak at the FBI and the CIA. The FBI guys thought this was hilarious and fantastic. The CIA guys only had one question. I think I can say this.

Alex Roy
They asked how many hours before you felt you were impaired as a driver. And I said that I felt like I was at about, I shouldn’t say this to you. I felt that at about 24 hours awake driving, things start to fall off. And I thought real hard about that over the years. And I was driving here yesterday for Thanksgiving and I must’ve seen 15-20 crashes in slow moving traffic. What is the solution? Is it just AVs? that’s the answer? Is there anything could be done for human operated vehicles that could mitigate that? What is it?

Mark Rosekind
Well people have been searching for that fatigue-alyzer forever. Because if they could monitor you effectively and tell you when to pull over, take a nap or do something else, that would be great. Nobody’s actually done that effectively. Now I know there are cars that a coffee cup comes up, et cetera.

Alex Roy
Yeah, it’s garbage.

Mark Rosekind
Well, it’s interesting as an administrator, I used to go to the auto shows and they’d show me all this great stuff and I’m thinking, I know the scientists at Harvard and Penn, who have proven you can’t do that actually. I think again, it’s just more proof that the human is that weak link in the middle of where the risk is. And what’s interesting, and I’ve done this too many years, but it’s really at about less than six hours of sleep or longer than 16 hours a week. You can get performance looking at about .05 equivalent alcohol. Okay. So it’s both, if you’ve been awake for a long number of hours or you haven’t had sufficient sleep at night, that can impair your performance equivalent to an amount that would be almost legally, might get you in jail.

Alex Roy
Is it true that pilots and astronauts, it’s the Jacob’s Ladder question, is it true that starting in the ’60s and ’70s that there was research into amphetamines and then later into things like provigil, other items. Did any of that stuff ever work without side effects? Do those impair safety as well?

Mark Rosekind
So let’s pull that apart, because the military and all kinds of groups were using different types of medication to both go and no-go. That would either help prolong wakefulness or help you sleep when you need it to. And so there was quite a bit of research. And so to your point, there’s a lot of data that shows it can be effective, but there are also bad side effects if you’re not careful.

Alex Roy
There’s a cliff.

Mark Rosekind
The methamphetamines were mostly what kept people awake. And then you’d go to a sleeper or a sleeping pill that would help you get to sleep when you need it to. But as you know, there can be all kinds of problems with amphetamines. So that’s why when you mentioned Provigil. Modafinil was a new one on the market that was just remarkable in the sense it could keep people awake and you wouldn’t get that sleep crash in the end, which people still don’t understand why.

Alex Roy
Nothing can substitute for sleep. So my vision of a better world is that we have AVs where people are worst. On those drives, urban course commutes, and that there be some mixed mode scenario where AVs don’t work, where ADAS and driver monitoring, we just pile on these technologies and so if people are good and engaged they can drive and if they’re not, they have all this assistance until they get to the fence and the other side of the fence there’s that no amount of skill will ever be as good as the AV. Am I crazy? Is that the future?

Mark Rosekind
I don’t know you well enough but I’m going to say this anyway. That’s brilliant because what you’re going is beyond a specific technology. A is good. B is not, we need A, B and C, et cetera, and you’re trying to take us to the new level of how do we conceive of how to use these tools in an effective way…that offset the frailties we know about, the limitations that are clearly established with humans. We don’t want to lose those lives. We would like to be able to drive. How do we put those pieces together into a new model? I haven’t heard anyone actually talk about it that way exactly. And that’s the point. This is why I’m saying I think we’re in a moment of innovation and we need to go from concept to actually testing these models to figure out what’s going to give us the most of everything. The most safety, the most joy. Many of us love driving.

Alex Roy
Do you?

Mark Rosekind
Yeah.

Alex Roy
Really?

Mark Rosekind
Yeah. I’m not sure I would do cross country Cannonball.

Alex Roy
I’m retired.

Mark Rosekind
Okay. Yeah. I don’t think we want to take that away, but how do we get these mixed models where we take advantage of the tools, minimize their risks, and still allow the flexibility and freedom for the range of what wants to be out there?

Alex Roy
I always wonder, how do we avoid… I guess the Facebook problem, Facebook has done so many things with people’s privacy that the brand is not trusted the way it might’ve been in another world. Some other brands in our sector are having similar issues. I feel like being, how should I describe it? You said earlier these things are tools. I guess what I’m really getting at is if we look at how surveillance is being deployed in other countries and parts of Asia, that if we want people to trust AVs in an open society, that we should be very sensitive to privacy and surveillance at the same time as we push for more safety. Selling people’s data is something people don’t like. Are we looking at two AV cultures in the world? Are we looking at a Western one and an Eastern one?

Mark Rosekind
What a shame if we did that, but this gets to my point about you want the trust, education, transparency, and experience. This is the transparency part, which is again it’s a tool and so the transparency part is being clear how you’re using that tool and it really would be a shame if we have these two divisive ways of pursuing this. But I think choice is important there and the transparency is a way for you to have a choice. That you’ll decide if you’re going to give up that information or not and whether the benefits worthwhile for you or not.

Alex Roy
Do you listen to Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway?

Mark Rosekind
Yes.

Alex Roy
They had an episode recently talked about two internets and so I’m hoping we avoid, as you say, two roads here. It’ll make it harder to transport the stack or the platform or the technology that is demonstrably superior to move it around. If we pile on things market to market.

Mark Rosekind
Right.

Alex Roy
Do you think we’ll see common standards globally? Because right now we’re trying to get them nationally in order to accelerate roll out. Do you think there’ll be a United States common standards or regulatory framework?

Mark Rosekind
I hope so. I hope so because I don’t mind telling you as administrator, one of the challenges we had is that we do some things in the United States differently than the rest of the world. There are these global efforts to try and synchronize those. And of course manufacturers wanted that. Why do you want to have to do X here, Y there, Z someplace else in the world, et cetera. And when you think about it from a safety perspective, shouldn’t we have one level of safety? Shouldn’t again, transparency about what really works? We don’t have that now. Here’s another NASA story. When I was there we were trying to actually make some suggestions on shuttle schedules, space shuttle schedules. I was coming from NASA Ames and sometimes at the Johnson Space Center, if it wasn’t invented there, maybe it wasn’t as solid as maybe whatever.

Mark Rosekind
And I talked to a guy who was assistant center, associate center director at Ames, NASA Ames and he said, you’re going after the shuttle. It’s been in place for a lot of years now. If you want to make your changes go for the station. Because they have a pretty much a blank slate right now. So I bring this up because that’s where we are globally with this. We’re still trying to get it country by country. But the reality is if we don’t want to end up having to retrofit a lot of things like we’re doing now, then we should consider that we have a blank page and globally we could come together and actually take advantage of all the things that are going on around the world and use them to move this potentially faster and farther.

Alex Roy
So something as simple as driver training. The argument, even the cynics argument for why AVs I think are inevitable and necessary is that the United States seems to be unable socio-politically to improve driver training, which makes the argument for AVs here probably more powerful than anywhere else in the industrialized world. Why has it been seemingly impossible to improve driver training? It seems to in fact to have declined. Why?

Mark Rosekind
What most people don’t understand, that’s actually under state control. So one of the things, don’t have your eyes gloss over, I’m looking at you.

Alex Roy
I’m listening.

Mark Rosekind
But the federal government’s responsible for the vehicle safety and states are mostly focused on the safety and responsibilities related to the operator or driver. And so they’re going to do licensing, they’re going to do insurance, they’re going to do driver training, et cetera. So why that’s relevant is it means you’ve got 50 different versions, 50 different places basically where people can decide what they’re going to do with driver training. If economics are down, then guess what comes out of school, comes out of whatever.

Alex Roy
Comes out of training.

Mark Rosekind
Yeah.

Alex Roy
Wasn’t there a push at one time to have a federal driver’s license?

Mark Rosekind
That’s come and gone a few times. It’s cycled through and again, that’s fraught with this problem that’s actually a state responsibility. And so you’d have to have the federal preempting, which is always dangerous depending on what you’re going after. And then the other part is the state, at least as hard as it is, they’re the ones with the resources when you come in the door. How do you get that?

Alex Roy
I recall there was also an effort in the early ’70s to come out with a like a master’s driver’s license? What was that about?

Mark Rosekind
Well, and I think it’s exactly the point you’re talking about is people realize that the base was really the floor and that if we wanted people to be safer, there had to be a higher level and that they could actually establish that. And just by redoing what already existed wasn’t going to work. Let’s take it up a level. I think you know what you’re throwing out here again is here’s this opportunity. With the station, it’s a blank slate right now and it’s very clear people are not educated even on the systems they currently have in their vehicles, let alone what’s coming.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
And so here’s this opportunity again, not just to retrofit the old stuff, but think about how would we redo, rethink and maybe modernize what education should be for this new wave of technology that’s coming.

Alex Roy
It seems to me that driver’s testing, licensing testing, should be much harder when level four AVs work in a fence. If you want to drive your car inside that fence, you have to pass a test. I recently went through Argo test specialist driver training and failed multiple times and was kicked out. Have you ever gone through or are you familiar with such training programs?

Mark Rosekind
We have it at Zoox.

Alex Roy
Okay, so have you ever gone through it?

Mark Rosekind
I am very familiar with many pieces of it. Did not go through to the actual grading part. And I’ll actually add that I can tell you our training even includes fatigue training, which I keep pushing. Everyone else was out there doing this stuff, whether you’re driving at night or not, there’s a lot of human factor stuff that you’ve got to make sure your safety drivers know about, et cetera. So, but anyway, yes.

Alex Roy
My takeaway from the headlines recently, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about the safety drivers and what happened last year. If you want to get granular about the differences between companies, it’s in how they train the people who are behind the wheel. If every driver on the road was trained to the degree that the good actors in the sector train them, AVs would be a much tougher argument and you might not be able to build as big a business case. But in the absence of that training, which I guess you say is never going to happen in this country, AVs become morally inevitable. The way I failed out was really pathetic. My mirror placement, how I held the wheel, I drifted over the speed limit a couple of times, like two miles an hour. I try to drive, in my own personal life, I try to drive inside the envelope of the law as the drivers in the good actors programs have to. And it’s almost impossible to do that without the threat of losing your job or public humiliation. To me that was the day that I really converted. Someday it will be impossible to argue against this. And human drivers will have to be superhuman if they want to maintain that freedom, that privilege. At NASA, what does the training look like there? I’ve seen the right stuff. Like is that real? Is it harder today than it was then?

Mark Rosekind
Very much. And I think it’s a fascinating environment because space is unforgiving. There’s actually a joke among the Astronaut Corps when you’re getting launched for a shuttle mission, there’s a certain point in the launch, everything’s shaking. You got a few G’s going and someone is required to say, “You know this entire operation went to the lowest government bidder.” Why is that? Because basically what’s interesting is they know the risk is like you won’t find any place else on earth. And yet at the same time they want to do everything possible to be able, not just to complete the mission but get home. And so yeah, NASA, there are a lot of high-performance safety, critical kinds of environments. NASA is unique just because again space is so unforgiving. And I think what’s interesting is most people don’t know, but there were numbers about how many shuttles we were going to lose per X number of launches. We did way better than that. If you’re an astronaut, you’ve decided to volunteer for that work knowing what the risk could be. And I think even within that, you never ever took anything for granted. When there’s a horrible tragedy, then you shut down the flying. That’s what you do. And by the way, that’s a military tradition. It’s happened for a long time.

Alex Roy
And yet people get in their cars anyway, every day, no matter what happens because they all think they’re better.

Mark Rosekind
That’s kind of where you’re moving here, which is at high risk places, it’s amazing to see the amount of training and safety, the filters and programs and whatever that goes in and the smallest thing, you ground everything, et cetera. And then you can get in behind a few tons of metal that’s incredibly dangerous with barely the education we’re talking about. And then for decades go out and be dangerous.

Alex Roy
And wing it.

Mark Rosekind
Yeah. Not to say everybody is, in fact, many people will follow rules, do whatever. 36,560 and those are the lives at 6.5 million crashes.

Alex Roy
All right. So just for those who aren’t familiar before you’re running NHTSA, you were at NTSB. NTSB stands for National Transportation Safety Board. In the last few years, NTSB has been in the news for investigating some car crashes. But in most of my life I recall NTSB investigating plane crashes and maritime and rail. So what commonalities or differences are there between these things? What have you seen? When did you start investigating car crashes?

Mark Rosekind
NTSB actually investigates crashes in all modes of transportation, including pipelines because they’re moving things. And why that’s relevant is because they’re actually required to investigate every aviation crash. So even the small private plane, et cetera, as well as the large ones. But that also means yes in every mode. So whether it’s on the water, et cetera, any American carrier basically the NTSB will be the primary investigator of that.

Mark Rosekind
What’s interesting is the Office of Highway Safety has primarily focused on trucks and buses. So that’s why the auto industry has not seen too many investigations by the NTSB.

Alex Roy
Why trucks and buses?

Mark Rosekind
My last launch as a board member was to Orland, California, where a FedEx truck crossed a median, hit a bus and eight people died. It’s usually buses and trucks where you see a large number of fatalities and that warrants a national investigation to say how was safety compromised? So the NTSB’s mission is to investigate crashes, to determine the probable cause, and then make recommendations so they don’t happen again. And so that’s why you go for, again, the big bars, where are you going to see most lives lost, et cetera. But that’s why there’s now an interest in autonomous vehicles. My comment that many people in the AV world don’t even know what NTSB stands for, let alone why they could be in your business doing an investigation.

Alex Roy
So in the past, when did NTSB say every car should have ABS? Were they the first ones to say it? What was the impetus for these? Does NTSB only show up after the fact?

Mark Rosekind
So what you’re bringing up is a general hardship of all of safety in auto. Really for 50 years, safety’s been reactive. You wait until somebody crashes, gets injured or dies and then you go and investigate to figure out what should we have done differently. So that’s a reactive safety culture. And I always distinguished that having come from NASA and aerospace, is they’ve really pushed a proactive safety culture. How do we prevent X, Y, Z from happening in the first place? And if we know about it, what can we do to prevent that? To your point, the NTSB almost always shows up after the fact.

Mark Rosekind
In fact, when I was on the board, there was a Boeing 787 lithium ion battery fire in Boston, I’m sorry, there was smoke in Boston, a fire in Japan. And we started investigating and actually got grief because nobody had died yet. But literally where there’s smoke, in Japan there was fire.

Alex Roy
It’s not funny.

Mark Rosekind
Yeah. But again the NTSB is investigating crashes after they’ve happened. But remember the mission is to make recommendations so they don’t happen again.

Alex Roy
Educate me on the timeline. NTSB came after NHTSA, which was created in 1970? Right? Because of the National Motor Safety Act of ’66.

Mark Rosekind
Yes, and actually they’re almost the same age. So the NTSB has actually just celebrated its 50th year and a lot of people, the 1966 Motor Safety Act actually talked about the creation of NHTSA as well. But it took a little while to get all of the things in place, including federal motor vehicle safety standards, et cetera, which came along.

Alex Roy
Are we happy about the Act of ’66? I had not heard of it until I entered the safety side of this sector and so it was unclear to me what were people thinking before? Road crashes, the deaths were hundreds of thousands of years a year, right?

Mark Rosekind
Yes. And I think you have to give Lyndon Johnson and a lot of the early safety advocates who were complaining about stuff. We need an agency to go out there and look after this. And I think it was actually a success on the side of safety advocates pushing that we can’t let… Now again, they’ve been going on for 50 years and finally somebody said no, we’ve got to stop and do something about this. And I think why your question is really interesting is as we now reflect on it, is this the way we would have set it up?

Alex Roy
Yeah. Because we’re talking now you said we’re talking about a blank slate.

Mark Rosekind
Right.

Alex Roy
When I look at car crashes and roadway deaths in the 1920s and ’30s, our whole language around this. The concept of jaywalking emerged from then and it’s hard to understand. Maybe it’s a function of the lack of democratized media or two way communication in media. How people could tolerate the deaths at the time because I guess news didn’t travel as fast or if it did, it was the highest level news.

Mark Rosekind
What you’re bringing up, which doesn’t often get discussed. You started approaching this a couple of times as we’ve been talking, which is how is it as a country and as a world that we tolerate a 100 people in the United States dying every single day? Why do we do that? Part of it, as you were suggesting, we all think we’re the best driver. There’s two other aspects of this I don’t think we think about a lot. One is because you’re talking about media and exposure, et cetera, is very often these crashes happen across geographically dispersed areas of the United States. And usually it might be one person or two people involved. That again, like with the NTSB is not necessarily going to get more than your local coverage, unless it’s a celebrity or some other thing, et cetera.

Mark Rosekind
And the other part related to ‘I’m such a great driver’ is the control.

Alex Roy
Agency.

Mark Rosekind
Yes, yes. Which is why we see a higher standard in aviation. I don’t know those people up in the front. I want them trained at the highest, in fact, I’m not sure this tube belongs in the air. So they better really know what they’re doing if I’m going to trust being on here. And so again, transparency of their training and experience and what simulators are done. All of that to make the system as safe as you can. We don’t have anything near that.

Alex Roy
Right. If planes were $50,000 everybody would have one. They’d crash all the time and they’d probably tolerate it.

Mark Rosekind
And to your point, 400 deaths or so every year in general aviation crashes.

Alex Roy
Right? Yeah, of course.

Mark Rosekind
It’s nine years without anybody in a large commercial crash in the United States, but every year, 400 plus lives typically in general aviation crashes. That’s your roadway equivalent.

Alex Roy
If cars were $1 million, everybody would have a chauffeur and it’d be great. Well, actually that’s the funny thing about AVs is sometimes you see these stories, what if AVs are only for the rich, well then it doesn’t work.

Mark Rosekind
That’s right.

Alex Roy
Then they actually don’t do their job.

Mark Rosekind
Right.

Alex Roy
They can’t be. It doesn’t make any sense.

Mark Rosekind
Right. But again, that takes for granted the model that somehow you buy it.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
Right. And I think again, we don’t know the models that are going to work. So there’s the shared version and the ones in the city and the delivery of packages and trucks. There’s so many models that are out here, which is the other thing to say, who’s going to be the winner? That’s hard to know because there’s a lot to win here.

Alex Roy
For me, I think the one that earns trust, regardless of the safety metrics, will be, and more than one will accomplish this, will be a winner. At the end of the day, people don’t really trust numbers. They kind of do. They trust a brand that’s backed up by good behavior and a brand can almost never recover from a bad thing.

Mark Rosekind
So that’s an NTSB thing. Again, I’ve got all these different lines after five years as a board member. We know in aviation, it doesn’t matter what paint is on the airplane than crashes cause the entire industry pays the price.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
That’s the point, and that’s what’s going on now.

Alex Roy
But do they?

Mark Rosekind
Oh yeah.

Alex Roy
The whole industry?

Mark Rosekind
Oh everybody, all of a sudden do I need to fly?

Alex Roy
Fly at all?

Mark Rosekind
Yeah. At NASA, because of the work I was doing, we literally, this is before 9/11, when it got much tighter, but we got to jumpseat all over the place, which is that really cool place up in the cockpit there where you get to really watch what’s going on. When anybody was like what do you do? And it was like, I do fatigue work, but keeping astronauts and pilots awake, et cetera. The next question out of their mouth was always, “Is it okay to fly? Who’s the safest airline??

Alex Roy
Who is the safest airline?

Mark Rosekind
Yeah.

Alex Roy
I’m asking.

Mark Rosekind
Yeah.

Alex Roy
You want to tell me?

Mark Rosekind
Yeah.

Alex Roy
Who is it?

Mark Rosekind
Well, I would say the United States has a great system.

Alex Roy
Right. Right. So any plane flying within American borders is probably among the safest.

Mark Rosekind
An American carrier flying according to the FAA rules, et cetera. And that’s why when it doesn’t work, like what we’re seeing with the 737, that’s again, when we got to investigate and figure out why didn’t it work in this situation so we can get that fixed.

Alex Roy
I think we’ll find that at the end of day management culture didn’t believe in that trust the way they once did.

Mark Rosekind
That’s what’s interesting about this conversation. We’re talking about all this technology and all these new tools we have, et cetera. It actually seems to always come back to people.

Alex Roy
Well, yeah, of course.

Mark Rosekind
Trust, the experience, the exposure, the culture, if it’s good or bad. When I was at the NTSB, we started using sort of safety culture is one of the things we would identify. And so we had a two day symposium on this and I remember one of my colleagues who’s the chairman now, one of his first question is, “So where’s the checklist?”. If I check off this, this and this, I’ve got a good safety culture. I got a bad one. Doesn’t exist. Again, this is about people and certain things and it’s not that we don’t have different elements to look for, but again, these are complicated and based on people, attitudes, behavior, etc. And those are a lot harder than just was the screw tightened the way it should have been.

Alex Roy
Yeah. I just read this book called Last Days of Night and the history of the electrical grid.

Mark Rosekind
Really?

Alex Roy
It’s fictionalized, it’s fun. It became a bad movie called The Current War. It’s about Westinghouse and Edison. But in the first scene, the first chapter, this guy on Canal street in Manhattan in 1888, true story, he was electrocuted working on the line. He’s not wearing his gloves. And all I could think about coming out of the office was, wow, their safety culture must have sucked. In what universe could a guy whose job it is to do this, not wear his gloves and so, done right, that could never have happened. You can’t run a place like that. That’s why we never heard of that company, The Brush Company, they got eaten by Edison and Westinghouse.

Mark Rosekind
Yep. Which, by the way we’re back to do you want blame or safety? You can either blame people or identify the lesson learned and then let’s change it. And decide is that education, is that regulation, what do we do to get us the safety that we deserve?

Alex Roy
Let’s unpack that for a second. You can blame people or you can choose safety. Is that the quote of quotes?

Mark Rosekind
You can have blame.

Alex Roy
Yep.

Mark Rosekind
Or you can have safety. So people will either spend their time blaming somebody and it’s classic in the old aviation model, the example I always give is look, we figured out the captain made a mistake. Well, if you do the full investigation, you find out he or she wasn’t trained. They didn’t have the right equipment, the signal that they should have had that showed them that they were too close to the ground didn’t get there, whatever it was. So what often happens is, if we fire the captain, we don’t have the problem anymore.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
So you can blame somebody or you can sit there and say, wait a minute, that human made an error. But they’re in a system and if we don’t fix those other elements of the system.

Alex Roy
Right.

Mark Rosekind
Right? That individual might’ve had their gloves on their waistband. Why didn’t they have them on?

Alex Roy
Right. I guess a safety is whomever you can trust twice.

Mark Rosekind
You don’t want to make the same mistakes.

Alex Roy
There’s the funny line in the Fly By Wire book where the Airbus guys go to visit the head of the French Transportation Safety Authority. And he’s like, so who’s fault was it? He’s like, well, obviously not the pilots. He’s like, so the mountain was wrong.

Mark Rosekind
You’ve got it.

Alex Roy
That’s what it is.

Mark Rosekind
That’s right.

Alex Roy
Well. Then we probably should wrap this up because we’re out of time, but I could listen to you tell stories for hours.

Mark Rosekind
Anytime.

Alex Roy
Thank you so much for coming. Dr. Mark Rosekind.

Mark Rosekind
My pleasure. Let’s talk some more.

Alex Roy
Bryan, remember in that old poster, recruiting poster for the British Empire was “We want you”.

Bryan Salesky
Yes.

Alex Roy
This is probably a good time to put in an idea. If you think you have what it takes to be a test specialist and monitor in an autonomous vehicle in the real world, then I encourage you to apply. What is it? Argo.ai. Is it the website?

Bryan Salesky
I know it’s tough to remember.

Alex Roy
Because if you could pass and I couldn’t, then wow, good for you. You can actually make the world a better place. We should wrap this up. If you want to come onto the no parking podcast, please email us at guests@noparkingpodcast.com. Check us out online at www.noparkingpodcast.com. Are you still not on social Bryan?

Bryan Salesky
Too busy.

Alex Roy
You can check us out on Twitter @noparkingpod. We look forward to seeing you next week.