When NY Times columnist Kara Swisher announced she was giving up her car for good, some said the idea was crazy. Famed host of Recode Decode and Pivot joins Alex and Bryan to discuss how that’s played out, if and when autonomous vehicles will take over, and whether private ownership will really go away. Stay tuned to learn about Kara’s political future, her No. 1 secret to surviving as a mom without a car, the technology bet that Uber’s hedging its future on, and what it takes to change American hearts and minds forever.

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Episode Transcript

 Alex Roy

Welcome to the No Parking podcast, a show that cuts through the hype around artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, robots, and how technology will actually change our daily lives. I’m our resident skeptic and contrarian Alex Roy, with my co-host, roboticist and CEO of Argo AI, Bryan Salesky.

Bryan Salesky
How you doing?

Alex Roy
Today we’re going to discuss the topic of whether or not anyone will need to own a car in the future, and to discuss that question, boy do I have some opinions, we’ve got a great guest. We’ve got Kara Swisher, the co-founder and editor at large of Recode. She’s one of the most important journalists in the world, not just in technology, and she also likes to wear dark aviators, which is one of the few things we have in common…so Swisher was really interesting.

Bryan Salesky
She was. How’d you like meeting her? Was it cool? You looked like you were a little bit starstruck, I’ve got to be honest with you.

Alex Roy
That pretty much defines the episode, doesn’t it?

Bryan Salesky
I think it does.

Alex Roy
Well, I was ready to lay into it with her, but she had a lot to say and…

Bryan Salesky
She was great. She came in firing as she always does, but I got to tell you for the first time ever, I’ve found your weakness, your kryptonite.

Alex Roy
Well, I don’t always agree with her, but I’m a fan of hers. It would’ve seemed injudicious to interrupt her. Some say…

Bryan Salesky
Perhaps, perhaps.

Alex Roy
Let’s roll right into it.

Bryan Salesky
Let’s do it.

Alex Roy
So you expressed at one point the desire maybe to run for mayor of San Francisco—

Kara Swisher
Yes.

Alex Roy
You live in San Francisco and you recently stated, in the War On Cars, that you believe private car ownership is going to go away.

Kara Swisher
Okay, go away is a little too far. What I wrote in the New York Times was that owning a car is going to be like owning a horse. A lot of people will have them and they’ll be interesting for people that are hobbyists and things like that. But I meant for the vast majority of people, car ownership doesn’t make any sense in terms of the insurance and everything else. And the actual owning of it and selling it and buying a new one is just an antiquated business model that doesn’t make any sense for most people. Especially as autonomous cars and other things come into being. I don’t think that people will not own cars. It’s not going to be the thing you have to have and, just like a lot of things we’ve stopped buying, there’s lots of things we used to own that we don’t own anymore and that we rent or we use for a period or we have a subscription. A car is going to be like that in a number of ways, by the way. You’ll be driving sometimes. I think it will be eventually all autonomous, but I’ll be long dead. But I think most cities are not going to be able to sustain the amount of cars that come into them at this point.

Bryan Salesky
A monthly lease in Manhattan is $800 a month.

Kara Swisher
For a car?

Bryan Salesky
For a car and if it’s an exotic car, you’ve got to pay another $200-some.

Kara Swisher
Yeah, it just doesn’t make any sense. From an insurance of view, from every point of view, there’s such a more efficient way. And I’m not like a woo woo person. I remember the head of Lyft, John Zimmer I think it was, said to me at one dinner party, he’s like, “80% of the car is not in use.” And I get it, he came at it from a very social justice kind of way when they started Lyft, but he’s right. I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, isn’t it terrible for the environment.” I was like, “This is so inefficient, it’s ridiculous. It’s so inefficient how it’s used.”

Bryan Salesky
It really is. But you were also realistic in that, you said, “Look, you’re not talking to the rancher who uses an F-150 to feed the cattle in the morning.” Right?

Kara Swisher
I think that’s going to be autonomous. I do think that’s going to be autonomous or electric or some of this stuff that Rivian and Tesla are working on. You can discuss the economics all you want, but what I like to think about is what is the general trend-line? So everyone right now is arguing about, “Is Tesla economic?” It doesn’t really matter. That’s where it’s going. Electric is where it’s going and then it’s going to autonomous and that’s all you have to really know. Now, how you get there is going to be a bumpy ride for a lot of companies. It’s not going to work for others. But from a trend-line perspective, it’s absolutely the way it’s going to go.

Alex Roy
So I just had a baby and I know you did too, and as a New Yorker I could easily see living my whole life in New York without a car.

Kara Swisher
Yes. I have a Doona. Do you have a Doona?

Alex Roy
Actually I do have a Doona.

Kara Swisher
Doona’s the best.

Alex Roy
And she just outgrew it and it’s making me crazy because there’s no other folding stroller with the wheels carriage that it folds into. What did you do?

Kara Swisher
Right, yes, there’s isn’t. With my other? I have previous children, my kid is small, my baby’s small. But my other kids, they started walking. That’s what they started doing. The whole idea of dragging kids around in strollers always bothered me, especially in San Francisco. When they were old enough to walk, they walked. There were big hills and pushing them up a hill was not my goal in life. And sometimes I had like a cheap umbrella stroller and they were super light and I bought it wherever, the pharmacy, and I used that. The amount of stuff we haul around with kids is somewhat insane. They don’t need all that stuff. They just don’t. I didn’t go as many places for awhile until they could walk better.

Kara Swisher
And so we had a car, we definitely had a car and used it a lot, but I kept trying to pull back on car usage for a long time and started to rethink what you really needed a car for. I get it if you’re living in a suburb, I get that kind of thing. It won’t work until all the stuff’s in place. All the autonomous is in place, all the electric is in place. And so, there will be this transition period where obviously you’ll use cars and you use them, but I do think we rely on the car just like a lot of things, like using food or Consumerism. There is stuff you can cut back on and make it much better. Not just in environment, but a much better life for yourself without doing stuff. So I will say, the baby has to be small.

Alex Roy
How small?

Kara Swisher
She’s 12, 13 pounds. She was born early, a premature. But eventually, they’ll have to figure something else out. Because the New York subway system is terrible in terms of stairs. Here in D.C. it’s not, when I’m in D.C. with the baby, it’s great. When I’m in San Francisco with the baby, it’s great because the escalators tend not to be as broken. New York is a particular challenge for a lot of people with kids, for sure.

Alex Roy
So, I don’t object to autonomous vehicles, I mean, I believe in them because I drive and I’ve been in crashes and people have-

Bryan Salesky
You’re also working for an AV company now, so…

Alex Roy
Yeah, but I’m the first one to say that I want the freedom to choose whether or not to use one. And what I object to, and what I’ve seen a lot of leaders of other companies say is, “We’re just going to ban driving. People are not going to have a choice.”

Kara Swisher
No, they’re not going to do that. That’s just their shtick, so they can get into going that way. Everyone’s like, “Oh, the car has this relationship to the American people.” Lots of things had a relationship with the American people that went away. It’s such a mythology that we create around ourselves. Everyone’s like, “Everyone has to eat meat.” You know what? Fish and other consumption is up, there’s Impossible Foods, all kinds of things. These are myths about Americans and I think once you have an ability to have an alternative that works well, people shift. Americans, one thing they do do is shift really quickly to things that work better. And so I think eventually, you will happily use an autonomous car and they will work well.

Again, maybe you’ll be dead by then. I don’t know how long it will be, but at some point it’s going to be not just an economic necessity, it’s going to be an environmental necessity and a congestion necessity if you live in cities, because every demographic is showing that big cities are where everyone’s going to be living. And then there will be people in the rural areas and they will keep their cars, they will keep their vehicles. But in the big city, it’s painful now to drive a car in a big city. It’s painful. It wasn’t as painful as it was, it’s more painful than it’s been, and it’s going to be impossible to drive a car in a major city in the next 10 years.

Alex Roy
It definitely seems to have gotten a lot worse in LA. When I go to visit LA, I just don’t want to go-

Kara Swisher
I think it’s actually better than New York. New York is insane.

Bryan Salesky
New York’s insane. It really is. Cabs have push bars and they get used. They push vehicles out of their way.

Kara Swisher
London is terrible. I use a lot of scooters and bicycles and stuff now. You look at a city like Amsterdam and they have their unique issues around the canals and everything else, and of course they have one area where there were bikes piled on top of bikes, which was also kind of disturbing and dystopian. But there’s other ways of transporting yourself, and that’s what I’m interested in.

Alex Roy
So in San Francisco, this whole mess unfolded when the scooter companies arrived and…

Kara Swisher
Yes, of course. Initially, yes.

Alex Roy
… the permit problem. So, when autonomous vehicle fleets arrive in cities, they have…

Kara Swisher
I don’t think they’re going to be rolled out quite the same way those were, but…

Alex Roy
That’s my question.

Kara Swisher
No, no, they’re not going to just dump these cars anywhere. No. In this case, there might be some errant companies that are mavericky and try to do this kind of car. But with cars it’s a little different story. Scooters are easy to do that with and that cleaned itself up pretty quickly. Everyone was going crazy about that. I’m like, “Oh, it’ll go away.” And also by the way, figuring out the economics of these things is still happening. I was just noticing a lot of the companies, of course they’ve disappeared from certain cities because they don’t have economics, they did a spray and pray method, but the scooters are much more robust. I just saw a new Skip that looked so different from the old Skip, because obviously it’s a rough road out there. And so, you’re going to see these things calm down and figure out which ones, there’s not going to be 10 companies, there’s going to be two, and two are going to have a hard time making a great business out of it.

Bryan Salesky
Do you think ride share just can’t work in certain cities just because just people were never going to adopt it?

Kara Swisher
Well, I think we’ve gotten a free ride from VCs and investors. These are subsidized rides.

Bryan Salesky
I think the idea at the time, at least a few years ago was, “Well, we’re going to grow, grow, grow, and we’re going to make money in the cities we can make money in to subsidize the cities we don’t, in the hope that they come along.” Is that just not happening?

Kara Swisher
I think it’s just that they’re subsidized. Ultimately, you can’t keep subsidizing a business. Right? It has to be based on the price.

Bryan Salesky
So they’ll retreat to the profitable cities and that’s it?

Kara Swisher
Yeah, they will initially and then they’ll try it again. I just think the mentality of the people who used to run Uber is like, “We’re going to win everywhere.” Which, I don’t mean to be rude about men, but it’s such a masculine way of like, “Let’s just get everything.” It has no subtlety whatsoever and fine, it raised a lot of money for them. Right? That’s what they did it for. It was all bullshit. And so they weren’t ever just justifying because if capital is this low, why not?

Bryan Salesky
You and my mom would get along really well. She basically said the same thing. She said, “You men, it’s never reasonable.”

Kara Swisher
I shouldn’t do that because I have two wonderful sons.

Bryan Salesky
No, it’s fine.

Kara Swisher
Raising sons has given me a lot of insight into men. It’s like, “Whoa, let’s just run, let’s run or break or scream.”

Bryan Salesky
She had three boys, she just rolls her eyes.

Kara Swisher
Yeah, exactly. And so, these are anecdotal things but the fact of matter is they were trying to grab every bit of landscape they could, every bit of territory they could, and it doesn’t make any sense. Now unfortunately Dara Khosrowshahi, he is literally having to clean up the mess. But, he has talked about the idea that ride share is at the heart of their economics. I think it is if it’s correctly priced and they understand the costs of doing business with these drivers, until the autonomous comes and then replaces those drivers. There’s costs here and they have to pay them now, unfortunately.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, and the cost structure does change with autonomous driving, but you don’t regain all those economics because there’s the cost of the technology, the cost to map, the cost to test, all of that.

Kara Swisher
Of course, but eventually that does zero out just software, every additional sale is gravy. I think with the drivers, you always have to keep paying the drivers. Years ago, I did an interview with Travis Kalanick when he started Uber and he committed an act of honesty, which was not his favorite thing to do, on stage where I said, “What’s your biggest challenge for your business?” And he goes, “Oh, the people in the front seat, we got to get rid of them. And the minute we get autonomous cars…” Literally there was a sharp intake of breath and I was like, “and continue.”

Bryan Salesky
What year was that?

Kara Swisher
It was many years ago, it was about five, six, or seven years ago, I forget. But when he said it, I was like, “Thank you, thank you for telling me what you really are thinking.” And he was like, “This is where the cost is. Once we get rid of that, it’s fantastic, it’s gravy.” And I was like, “Yes, thank you, you awful human being.” That is the truth. That is the truth. And that’s what it was. And I think everybody was shocked when he said it, but I think he was correct in that, if you want to have drivers, you need to pay them a living wage, you need to not treat them like servants, to suck economics out of them in order to pay rich people to drive around in cars.

Kara Swisher
The shift of money between rich people and poor people is really depressing, what’s happening. Whether it be these people that bring you your food or deliver your Amazon stuff, they’re not being paid the wage that they’re worth, they’re just not. And you are the beneficiary of it, of what’s happening. The music will stop at some point for this.

Bryan Salesky
So, do you think there’ll be… I mean the sharing economy in general is going to have a day of reckoning, is what you’re saying.

Kara Swisher
They have to justify the costs. They have to put the real costs in there and people cannot work as serfs to other people. Eventually, just like with California, there’s going to be laws passed like AB-5. We have to figure out what employment is anymore. And that’s the bigger thing is, what is employment? Is it working for a company? How does your health insurance travel with you? It’s a bigger question about our economy in general is, what is a job anymore? And that’s something that we have to face as a nation, which we’re not going to do right now because we have a president who’s screaming at Nancy Pelosi at a prayer breakfast because he’s a big giant baby. Nobody’s thinking of these big problems that are really… They’re not problems, they’re just the way things are. And we have to think really smartly about how we’re going to manage employment in the future.

Alex Roy
So this notion that you were once going to run for mayor of San Francisco…

Kara Swisher
Yeah.

Alex Roy
All right. Autonomous vehicles, they “work.” What does the ecosystem of improving San Francisco’s transportation and also the housing problem look like? How do we use these new technologies to improve it?

Kara Swisher
Well, it’s interesting, what do you do when you don’t need parking garages? Well, that’s housing. There’s all kinds of creative solutions. The reason I wanted to run for mayor of San Francisco is because you have to take one city who does things that are really great creative, really just goes out on a limb and starts to say, “You know what? No more cars downtown.” Which I think they just did in San Francisco. I think they just…

Alex Roy
Market Street.

Kara Swisher
Market Street. Right? At first I was like, “This is a pain in the ass.”

Bryan Salesky
They did a similar thing in New York City and people hated it initially, and one week later, “It’s the best thing ever.”

Kara Swisher
Right. Exactly. Well unfortunately with San Francisco, the mayor doesn’t have the power the New York mayor has. So there’s this city council that’s there driving people crazy. It’s a worse situation in terms of governing, because there’s no executive power, so it would have to be charismatic power or something. I am not really clear. It’s really hard in San Francisco. But there’s got to be a city and I think there’s a lot in Europe that do this that say, “You know what? We’re not going to have any cars downtown and then we’re going to figure it out.”

Kara Swisher
Or, if you’re thinking even bigger, why not have trucks go under the city and deliver at night? Why don’t you start to really start to rethink it? Now every juncture you’re going to make these changes, you’re going to come up against entrenched interests, like delivery people that want to do it when they want to do it, that’s most economically efficient. And you’ve got to put the hammer down and say, “This is the kind of city we want. We want a livable city.” It’s so systemic, just like with the housing crisis in San Francisco, it’s not just about housing and building affordable housing, it’s about drug intervention, it’s about dealing with mentally ill people, it’s about… Everything is linked to everything else. And so…

Bryan Salesky
Education.

Kara Swisher
Education. Some too permissive laws, some that are… When Trump was complaining about San Francisco. Did you know other cities ship people to San Francisco because they’re assholes. So, should we act like an asshole and ship them to another city? That’s not really an option for the people of San Francisco. They don’t want that. They don’t want to be those people that ship people around, ship indigen people around the country. And so, you have to approach it in a systemic way. Housing is just the tip of the iceberg of what you have to solve there.

Kara Swisher
In terms of cars, you have to say, “We’re going to make these 10 streets car free and we’re going to come up with solutions and we’re going to have everyone involved in coming up with solutions on how we’re going to deal with this, including people that…” I did an interview with Bill de Blasio and he talked about, “what do you do with elderly people?” Okay, what do we do with them? What is the actual problem? How many elderly people do need care? Talk about it in data. How many people do need care? Okay, what can we do to ameliorate that problem? And so, I think that the problem is a lot of this is heavy lifting for people.

Bryan Salesky
So if we removed vehicles from San Francisco, let’s say that we could get a measure through that accomplishes that, what are the first two or three things you would look at in order to feed the mobility need?

Kara Swisher
I think working with private and public entities to figure out, first of all, the transportation needs. You have to slow roll this thing in. What are the actual trends? Do real studies of how people move around. What do they need? How are people moving around a city? Then design something that has both public and private. There’s an opportunity for profit here if you do it right and deliver it. Obviously, the government has never been the best at monitoring private spending, like giving contracts out, but you have to involve the citizenry of the entire city in the stakes. It also removes apathy from people just putting up their hands and going…

Kara Swisher
That’s one of the reasons I thought about running. I’m like, “I sit around and complain, but I don’t do anything. I don’t contribute ideas. So, I should shut up complaining if I’m not going to do anything.” And so, you have to involve entrepreneurs in it. San Francisco’s a city of entrepreneurs. They have so many people there and the divide is so stark from an economic inequality situation. Why not involve everybody in making San Francisco? Just pick a city, I don’t care what the city is, but San Francisco seems to be a perfect city to do that except for the hills which present…

Bryan Salesky
Well, you’d be able to put together a heck of a coalition, I would think, that’s pretty well-funded to put together a very thoughtful data-driven transportation apparatus, whether that be buses or something else.

Kara Swisher
Yes, and then they have their NIMBY problem. San Francisco doesn’t have an overall city plan. It’s incredible. I was just sort of like…

Bryan Salesky
They don’t have a master plan like a lot of cities?

Kara Swisher
No, they don’t.

Bryan Salesky
Really?

Kara Swisher
There’s all these neighborhoods. It’s such a fascinating city in that regard.

Bryan Salesky
And such a small city too, it really isn’t that big.

Kara Swisher
It is.

Bryan Salesky
A lot of people don’t realize.

Kara Swisher
And so everyone complained about the Google buses and I get it. I lived in a neighborhood where those things came barreling through, but it was a solution. It just wasn’t…

Bryan Salesky
A lot better than adding 10,000 cars.

Kara Swisher
10,000 cars, right. But I was like, “Okay, the concept is correct. How do you move all these tech workers downtown?” Well, what they did is Google just came and did it themselves. And so, okay, maybe that didn’t work because they clogged up this at the same time. There were ways to do that in a way that was better. And so, what Google and others just did is like, political leadership wasn’t stepping forward to do anything and so they stepped in. And then it created chaos, a little bit of chaos, not that much, but enough, and then protests and everything else. And you sort of could have guessed how that was going to go. But to me it was, at the heart, was the city leadership that didn’t want to deal with it.

Alex Roy
So, if you have autonomous vehicles and scooters all operating in an urban ecosystem, to really optimize traffic, there has to be some degree of data sharing. The city has to know what’s going on. People have raised…

Kara Swisher
Sensors, et cetera.

Alex Roy
… the question that this becomes a privacy issue. You’re a big privacy advocate.

Kara Swisher
Yes, I am.

Alex Roy
How do you balance the necessity of data sharing between fleets and city?

Kara Swisher
Well, it’s protected. I think, look at this thing in Iowa that just happened, it’s just a perfect storm. They just rolled this thing out without any checking. I jokingly at the end of that column said, “Let’s just let Tinder do voting because it…” And I had done this on a panel, I think it was like Meet The Press and all the Washington people were like, “Tinder, why should we let Tinder do it?” And I’m like, “Well, Tinder works.”

Bryan Salesky
Oh, I missed this one. I got to go back in the archives.

Kara Swisher
I was like, every day we get a Google map, every day we get Amazon delivered, every day Tinder works. It can be done, it just can’t be done the way we’re doing it.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah look, this is not difficult. I mean we have the technology, it completely exists, yes, come on.

Kara Swisher
It’s not these data sets in Iowa. They’re very homogeneous people there and this could have been done in a way, but they didn’t.

Bryan Salesky
I’m pretty sure they could have used Slack and like a polling app and figured it out faster with more integrity.

Kara Swisher
Exactly. Right, exactly. You have to wonder. I’m going to just talk about voting because everyone said, “We can’t have online voting.” I’m like, “Yes we can. If we design it. We have air gap things, we have paper trails.” Be thoughtful about what you’re going to do and the same thing with the data that you’re going to collect. You can’t make decisions about transportation without having data, so at some point you’re going to have to track things, track the movement of vehicles, at least. Not people, vehicles. How are the vehicles moving? And track people on them without collecting their personal data. You can do that. Smart people can do that. And in some cases, yes there’s going to be a little bit of privacy violation, but it’s not a violation if everyone understands it going forward and what it’s for.

Kara Swisher
I think that’s what happens is, everybody is now in this twitchy environment where they’re like… Believe me, I’m very nervous about facial recognition. But they’re like, “Facial recognition! Privacy violation.” I’m like, “Is it always? Let’s talk about where it’s good. Let’s talk about where it’s bad. And then we ameliorate the bad part and we focus on the good part.” There are some parts of facial recognition that are good, not that many at this point, but there are. There are ways that it is better. And the question is, what people consent to and what they know is happening with it. And then what are the cybersecurity measures you take to make it as safe as possible?

Alex Roy
Let’s talk about autonomous vehicle design. There are companies that have bet that they’re going to deploy, in San Francisco first, vehicles that literally look like a living room. People face each other.

Kara Swisher
Yeah, I’ve been in them.

Alex Roy
And then you’ve got vehicles that are more evolutionary that look like…

Kara Swisher
They look like cars, yeah.

Alex Roy
So would you, daily, share a vehicle where you faced strangers?

Kara Swisher
Yes. Why not? Why not? Or you could have your own. You could pay more. It’s like Uber Black, Uber Share. Yes. People do it all the time in Ubers. People are very willing to do stuff like that, especially if they’re going in the same direction. You could work with companies that if people all live in a neighborhood. Everyone knows where people lives in a company, why not move people based on that? Carpools work really well. If you go to San Francisco, people have organized, just on their own, these carpools where you go and you get in a car so you can cross the bridge with a certain amount of people. People do it themselves on their own. So yes, I think people are…

Bryan Salesky
Plus, this is another place where you’ve got to look at the data though. I mean if you look at some of the results that Uber publishes in some of the major cities, Uber pool, Lyft Line, they’re only on the routes that are really dense and where there’s lots and lots of demand.

Kara Swisher
Which makes sense.

Bryan Salesky
So it’s not going to be profitable across an entire city. It just isn’t.

Kara Swisher
No, but these cars could be. Again, the more data you have about people’s usage and if they consent to put what they want to do in, that is great. And I do think, there’s still going to be the Wall Street Journal article about boob grabbing in autonomous cars, sexual harassment. I can see that headline. That’s going to happen because that’s what’s going to happen. It’s anticipation of consequences, which Silicon Valley never does well. I talk about this all the time.

Bryan Salesky
What happened to you, Alex? You’re awfully quiet on this, I don’t understand. You have an opinion. Share.

Alex Roy
We rarely have someone with a personality stronger than mine.

Bryan Salesky
I mean, that was a very leading question, Alex. I have to pull this out of him, Kara. I don’t know what the hell happened to him. Go ahead, please.

Alex Roy
So how do autonomous vehicle companies build trust?

Bryan Salesky
No, no, no. Hang on, hang on. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back to the design of the car. Back to the design of the car.

Alex Roy
You want to go back to the design?

Kara Swisher
You don’t want to be in a living room with other people.

Bryan Salesky
You don’t want to be in a living room with other people. I would say there’s a lot of people who don’t want to be in living a living room with other people.

Alex Roy
I’ve taken, in New York City, Uber Pool at some hours of the day.

Bryan Salesky
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past weeks. Just last night you were like, “I don’t want to be sitting…” You want to have a partition or something, right?

Alex Roy
I wanted a wall.

Bryan Salesky
Some privacy? First off, so I guarantee you this, there were a bunch of people in that ride share that wanted a partition from you while you were on the phone doing whatever it is that Alex Roy does. I can tell you that 100%.

Alex Roy
I’m getting the quiet car.

Kara Swisher
So then get your own car. There could be quiet cars. There could be quiet cars, just like on trains. I was on the Amtrak, I was in a quiet car. This is just about creativity. What are you going to do? Either pay more for your own car, your own living room, you get to have it by yourself or with your friends? Or you go in the group one and you understand that. I don’t ride Uber pools in San Francisco because I literally get stopped by all the entrepreneurs who know who I am and they start talking to me. I don’t want to talk to them necessarily.

Bryan Salesky
That’s got to drive you nuts.

Kara Swisher
It doesn’t drive me nuts, I just don’t want to. You know what I mean?

Alex Roy
It’s funny, when I get stopped, I love it.

Kara Swisher
Do you? I never. I don’t love it. I don’t love it so much, but it’s fine. I want to talk to people when I want to talk to them and so I understand your pain about a pool.

Bryan Salesky
Alex likes to tweet out his location so he can have his fan people come and just assault him on the street corner.

Kara Swisher
Oh, I don’t. I turn off all my location. I turn off every location possible. So, I think it’s just what do you want? That’s what these companies have to provide. Like, “Okay, I want my car to myself.” Well, it’s going to cost $24 versus $8, so pay $24 for that. And if you don’t want to pay for that then you have to sit with people.

Bryan Salesky
Well, you’re very pragmatic though, what you’re saying is we should give people a choice. What do they want?

Alex Roy
Yeah, I always say I’m pro-choice in the war on cars.

Bryan Salesky
Whoa, there you go, nice.

Alex Roy
It’s true. We have to ask this trust question. What do you think it’s going to take for autonomous vehicle companies to earn trust? People get in the vehicle and they trust it more than themselves or strangers?

Kara Swisher
Well, look, the fact of the matter is, humans are the problem in cars. I’m sorry, I would trust a computer driving any day of the week compared to people. There’s just no way that I don’t trust computers more. Now, are there going to be accidents? Absolutely. Likely it will be a human involved, there’ll be some sort of human issue. Eventually, these cars will figure it out. They will. Someone smart told me that a million autonomous cars, one gets in an accident and a million learn from it. One person gets in an accident and nobody learns from it, including the person who got in the accident because you do the same thing again.

Kara Swisher
Human beings should not be driving cars. They make all the wrong decisions. They create traffic jams, even just pumping the brakes can cause… I sat one time in a traffic center in Northern Virginia and one person pumping a break caused a backup 10 miles. It’s fascinating. It’s actually flow physics or something. There’s studies of how traffic patterns work and it’s always humans that are the problem.

Bryan Salesky
Absolutely. We see it every day on a modest fleet. We have a fleet of near one hundred cars and we see people racing yellows, running reds, blowing through stop signs.

Kara Swisher
Cars don’t do that.

Bryan Salesky
Autonomous vehicles will not do that.

Kara Swisher
They have no ego. They have no ego. They have no rage.

Bryan Salesky
That’s right.

Kara Swisher
They’ve got no exhaustion. They’ve got no ridiculous behavior. They’re not emotional.

Bryan Salesky
They never get distracted. They don’t get tired. And the skill doesn’t atrophy with age. They always get better to your point about the million learning from the one, right. But why are people…

Kara Swisher
There will be accidents. Let’s just say, the fact of the matter is there’s so many more with humans.

Bryan Salesky
But why are people so numb to the state of driving? That’s the thing.

Kara Swisher
Driving sucks. Driving sucks. It really does. Unless you just love getting on the road in the country and driving around with the top down.

Alex Roy
I’m that guy.

Bryan Salesky
I like that too. Do you like driving when it’s like a… Do you ever take a classic road trip type of thing?

Kara Swisher
Yes, yes. But then do that, then have that available to you. Rent a car for a weekend and drive around. You can do that. I think it’s just a question of, for most mundane commuting things, you really don’t need to drive if you don’t have to. Any solution that you don’t have to drive, whether it’s public transportation, autonomous vehicles, walking, scootering, is so much better than commuting in a car. Hands down, nobody likes commuting in a car, they just don’t. It’s an economic opportunity to fix that problem. Going in the country? Go ahead. If you want to have a big truck and throw hay on it… Dwindling numbers of Americans are doing that by the way, dwindling. And that’ll be all done by robots anyway, eventually. So, I think we’re romanticizing something that is no longer romantic.

Alex Roy
Have you heard of the Cannonball Run?

Kara Swisher
Yes. The movies?

Alex Roy
Yeah.

Kara Swisher
Of course.

Alex Roy
I did that.

Kara Swisher
Oh, did you? Wow. Oh, wow. I watched all the Burt Reynolds movies with Sally Fields and all those.

Bryan Salesky
It turns out that that’s not representative of the actual Cannonball. I had no idea until I met Alex, yeah.

Kara Swisher
Is it?

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. They were not trying to get a lion or something on the other side of whatever they were doing.

Alex Roy
What I really want is to be the first person to ride cross country in an autonomous vehicle and set that record.

Kara Swisher
Well they’ve tried that. Interestingly, someone I used to be married to did that in Australia. They had a challenge to do a solar vehicle across the Australian Outback, which I thought was cool.

Bryan Salesky
It’s really cool.

Kara Swisher
I mean, it’s interesting. Just because autonomous vehicles will be the way people get around, doesn’t mean you cannot drive yourself in a car. I just don’t think you’re going to want to do it. You can bungee jump sometimes, but you’re not going to do it all the time. It’s going to be that kind of experience eventually and otherwise it doesn’t make any sense for most people, in terms of the efficiency of time, the things they can do in a car, whether they watch entertainment, they text, they want to drink, drink if you want. You’re not going to kill people. It solves more problems than it creates.

Alex Roy
All right. And then here’s a question, our last question because we’re running out of time. Why is it that autonomous vehicles seem to have been caught up in this hype cycle more than almost any other technology since blood testing?

Kara Swisher
By the way, whatever you think of her, that was a great idea. Let’s get to that. So who can do that?

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, the objective no one would quarrel with.

Kara Swisher
100%. If you go back and look at stuff around planes in the early days, so much hype. Cars, so much hype. I always think of things in terms of directionally. Directionally, the hype in the long term, the hype is under-hyped. In the short term, it’s over-hyped. It has to be hyped in order to get people excited to get there, I think. And I think, of course the greatest hyper in the world is Elon Musk. But you know what? He’s built some amazing cars.

Alex Roy
I’ve got one.

Kara Swisher
He’s done it.

Bryan Salesky
It’s another one where you can’t fault the vision at all.

Kara Swisher
Well no, he has a vision and we can argue with his vision. He has a certain amount of vision, and so do others. But more people doing it creates all kinds of interesting visions. He’s not the only one. He’s certainly spurred everybody else to do it, so that’s good. If Mercedes is working on it, or Ford with Cruise or anybody is working on it, what’s wrong with that? That’s the kind of thing I think about. And the focus on like, “Oh, Tesla’s stock…” Who cares? Who cares, honestly? So what? And some day when everyone’s in these things, the cost would have been de minimis that you lost or gained in Tesla stock. It won’t matter.

Kara Swisher
What matters is someone was there to say, “We need to…” Just the way they were with trains, they were with planes… It’s a story I tell all the time about the Wright brothers. Think about if you were that person in the beach in Kitty Hawk and they take off and they go, they flew for like 17 seconds or something like that, like 10 feet.

Bryan Salesky
It was extremely short. That was a fascinating biography, by the way.

Kara Swisher
And it was like two feet off the ground, whatever. It wasn’t very impressive. But it was flight. You don’t want to be the person sitting on the beach and saying, “That was only two seconds and two feet off. What the hell? It didn’t fly 20 yards.” What? You don’t want to be that person.

Bryan Salesky
So the McCullough biography, I’m pretty sure it was McCullough right?

Kara Swisher
Yeah.

Bryan Salesky
Was a really good read. What I found was interesting is, so this is an era of obviously no social media, no cell phones, no internet. And people don’t…

Kara Swisher
You know there would have been tweets like, “Oh, that sucks.”

Bryan Salesky
Well here’s the thing, people did not believe that they accomplished it. Not until they showed up for these demonstrations they eventually had the courage to do, did people say, “Oh.” And then it was immediate, “Okay, we need these things for war. We need them for transportation. We need them for everything.” Right? But no one believed it. Nowadays, if you tweet something, it’s like…

Kara Swisher
Yeah, but it does get in the way, so you have to have a hype cycle on the other side. Same thing with Tesla, the real Tesla and Edison. They had terrible fights. They had demonstrations. Electricity, this is going to be this way. Who cares? We like electricity. Who cares? They’re dead. It doesn’t matter. Guess what? We have electricity and poor Tesla didn’t get his due, but now he has a car company named after him. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t, that’s the whole thing.

Alex Roy
That’s a great tweet.

Bryan Salesky
That’s a really good one, yeah.

Alex Roy
That’s a great tweet.

Kara Swisher
But you know how it would be. I’m trying to think of something like when Edison did the first telephone, someone tweeting it, “I’m unimpressed.” What? Are you unimpressed? Really? You know how that would go. So, I’m good with the direction it’s going. But one thing, and I’ll finish on it. It’s got to take government commitment to this stuff. That’s really what’s lacking is our government functioning as it should in terms of helping. All our great things that have happened, our inventions, have government. Whether it’s the internet. Whether it’s the solution of the AIDS crisis, which is now a manageable disease. It was killing people. Everything has to have an element of government attention and community attention to it. It can’t be just private companies doing this.

And transportation and the environment are two things that have to have the backing and help of the government to get there. And that’s what’s missing right now, because literally we have the most dysfunctional government going. The government is our problem now, it’s so twitchy and partisan and I lay it completely at the feet of Donald Trump. I mean he’s just a twitchy, non-interested, non-curious person at the head of our government. And so what we do is we engage in these ridiculous, stupid back and forth short-term narratives that aren’t going to matter in a hundred years. And countries like China and others are going to get far ahead of us.

Bryan Salesky
Well it’s definitely a messy time. We’re here in D.C. actually making the rounds, talking to some folks on Capitol Hill and we’ve met this week actually with a number of very forward leaning Congressman who…

Kara Swisher
There are a lot.

Bryan Salesky
… want to see transportation problems get solved, whether it be with an infrastructure bill that actually does something meaningful, that actually solves, that allocates the capital correctly.

Kara Swisher
Are we having infrastructure week again? When is infrastructure week?

Bryan Salesky
Exactly, exactly.

Kara Swisher
It never happens.

Bryan Salesky
And then also of course, with autonomous vehicles, I was here simply not to lobby but to just educate. What are the questions? What do you want to know? What are the things it can and can’t do? And when I give the explanation about and show a video or two, then they see, “Oh, wait a second, this thing detects far more pedestrians and vehicles than I ever detect. Holy cow.” They start to see, “Oh, this is maybe a little more important than we realized.”,

Kara Swisher
Of course it is. And once we get our bearings again, we will do a great thing. That’s the thing. I think we’re engaging in this period of ridiculous frivolousness and dangerous frivolousness and I think that’s where we have to get from. And this kind of thing is exactly what we need the government to get behind and figure out together with the private sector and citizenry so that we have something. In 30 years, we actually have a transportation system that pulls less from the environment, pulls less from fossil fuels, and is safer.

Bryan Salesky
Well, I actually heard quite a bit of support, but unfortunately as Washington works, there’s a number of lobbyists and other influential groups that have other interests.

Kara Swisher
There used to be a lobby for a lot of things. Red dye number two had a lot of lobbyists and then they didn’t.

Bryan Salesky
That’s exactly it.

Kara Swisher
Juul, look at lots of things.

Bryan Salesky
A congressman told a pretty funny story yesterday about the fact that his great grandfather or something would obviously use a horse to get to where he’s going and he mentioned about how, at least with the horse, if he fell asleep, it would get him back home at night. And we’ve come full circle with autonomous vehicles.

Kara Swisher
I’m a little worried that his grandfather had a horse, it would mean he was 400.

Bryan Salesky
Well, I say, however long ago, but it was pretty comical.

Kara Swisher
We’re not going back to horses, I’m sorry.

Bryan Salesky
Well basically he was saying was, we’ve gone backwards in terms of technology. The horse knew how to get him back home.

Kara Swisher
True.

Bryan Salesky
So, anyway.

Alex Roy
Well, we’ve got a present for you.

Bryan Salesky
So Kara, we know that you had a baby.

Kara Swisher
Yes, I did.

Bryan Salesky
And we want to present you with an Argo onesie with a very special hashtag that we find hilarious.

Kara Swisher
Oh my God. Oh my God. I just got one from the Star Wars people that said, on the back it said, “The dark side.” And it said, “Storm Pooper.” So…

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, so I assume it is self-pooping.

Kara Swisher
This is fantastic. This will work because she’s not quite this big yet. This is great.

Bryan Salesky
There you go, will grow into it.

Kara Swisher
I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Bryan Salesky
Well, thank you for coming on the show. It was really awesome.

Kara Swisher
No problem. Thanks.

Alex Roy
Thank you so much.

Alex Roy
Thanks for joining us this week on No Parking with our guest Kara Swisher. If you’d like to be a guest on No Parking or recommend a guest, please email us guests@noparkingpodcast.com. Please follow us also on Twitter @NoParkingPod where we encourage you to post questions or comments, but if you want to come at us with hate mail, my Twitter is @AlexRoy144, please bring it. You can also subscribe to our mailing list www.noparkingpodcast.com, where you can also read a transcript of this and all our episodes. We’re one of the few podcasts to publish a transcript of every episode, so please take advantage. This episode was produced and edited by Dave Chekan. I’m Alex Roy, and I look forward to seeing you next week to cut through the hype around AI, self-driving cars, robots, and how technology will actually change our daily lives.