Successful director and screenwriter Peter Berg joins Alex & Bryan to discuss what drives the characters in his films, fatherhood, risk, freedom, self-driving cars, boxing, and the greatest WWII movie that has never been made. Fresh off his first experience in an autonomous vehicle, the director of “Friday Night Lights,” “Patriots Day,” “Very Bad Things” and “Deepwater Horizon” breaks down his approach to storytelling, how to raise hundreds of millions for a crazy idea, and gives us the low-down on the Hollywood Blacklist.

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Episode Transcript

Alex Roy
On this episode of No Parking Podcast, we have … We’ve had some awesome guests. We have director Peter Berg, who was the director of Deep Water Horizon, Lone Survivor and –

Bryan Salesky
Very Bad Things, my most favorite movie ever.

Alex Roy
Oh, that’s a great movie.

Bryan Salesky
It’s an incredible … I love dark comedy. It is special.

Alex Roy
That’s a really good one.

Bryan Salesky
Sorry to interrupt, Alex. But I was so excited that I heard that the director of Very Bad Things was coming to our show.

Alex Roy
It’s funny that that’s the one you think of, because for me, it’s Lone Survivor. All his movies, so many of his movies are about one guy, an everyman that has to step up and does, and that’s crazy.

Bryan Salesky
It is. But he did Very Bad Things.

Alex Roy
But he also made Battleship.

Bryan Salesky
I know. But there was also Very Bad Things.

Alex Roy
That’s a great … Battleship cancels it out, but I love Battleship. I brought him a present. We bought a Battleship for him to … I wanted him to play against you on the show, and as soon as we started recording, we just went right off the rails right off. We skipped playing Battleship.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. It turns out he’s a pretty engaging character, so he didn’t have time for that.

Alex Roy
And he’s here, because he’s making … He’s producing and directing a film about the future of transportation, and we were lucky enough to have him come down and take a ride in one of the Argo self-driving vehicles. Should we just jump right into it.

Bryan Salesky
Let’s go.

Alex Roy
Peter, do you want to talk about autonomous vehicles, or do you want to talk about which movies you’ve made that we have questions about?

Peter Berg
I prefer to at least start by talking about the vehicles. Yeah, Argo … It’s my first time. I just got out of the vehicle. I’m a little hyped up, I guess. Even though you described it as one of the … Ideally, in success, when the vehicle works it’s an extremely boring, underwhelming experience. I found it to be pulse-pounding. I felt like I was in an action movie. Every second I was like a little kid asking a billion questions, and fundamentally blown away by how well that car worked.

Bryan Salesky
That’s awesome. Well, that’s good to hear. So you’re saying that it was thrilling, but it was safe and it worked?

Peter Berg
Yeah. It totally worked.

Bryan Salesky
Okay. That’s good. That important.

Peter Berg
It was quietly thrilling. It was a low key thrill. I noticed … We had an instance where a guy just ran a stop sign blatantly in front of us, which I thought was interesting, because the car’s pretty clearly marked as a self-driving vehicle, and this guy … I thought he might be like … I think you have to watch out for people that are look for … take the hit, right? Because I thought he was trying to catch a little hit, create an accident. This guy really belligerently ran a … And the car responded very well to that.

Peter Berg
There were three girls, high school age, staring down at their phones standing on the sidewalk, and I was watching them. One of them made a step forward with absolutely no self-awareness, and the car picked it up and slowed down. I asked the driver did they see this girl moving, and the answer was yes, and obviously you know this. But for me, I was … I just thought it was awesome. Really cool.

Bryan Salesky
The action tends to be created by the other drivers on the road who are consumed in their smartphones or are doing whatever it is they’re doing other than driving. The car is fairly patient and will allow this stuff to play out…and safety first. But in order to move in really congested city traffic, it does need to assert itself at times, as well. So it’s finding that balance. Did you-

Peter Berg
Yeah. We talked about that. I’ve worked in Boston for a couple of films.

Alex Roy
You’re from Boston, is that right?

Peter Berg
I’m from New York.

Alex Roy
Okay.

Peter Berg
And in Boston, the drivers are called “Massholes”. That’s what they’re called, and they’re the most aggressive drivers. It’s kill or be killed on the streets of Boston. You have to be aggressive. You have to push your way into lane changes and turns, and you have run … We were talking that with the drivers there, your test … What do you call them?

Bryan Salesky
Test specialists.

Peter Berg
Your test specialists, who were great guys. They were like, “Look, the car has to be predictive in understanding the culture that it’s driving in.” I thought that was fascinating, and that different cities have different rules regarding left turns, I know, and certain cities are more aggressive. And certain cities have more birds, like Austin, and civilian activity. And so I think the challenges facing you guys to not just create safe driving cars but cars that can react, interpret and react to the environments they’re in is … I’m glad it’s on your desk and not mine. I have enough problems.

Alex Roy
I always thought it was amazing that we get into taxis all of the time with people we’ve never met before and trust them implicitly to drive us safely, because their life is on the line, too. And yet, we have no idea if these people are … Why do we trust these people, but we’re skeptical of machines?

Bryan Salesky
You’ve lived in New York City. You can tell me. When did they start putting push bars on the front of New York City taxi cabs? Because most have them, and you can tell they get used.

Peter Berg
You mean bumpers? Like contact bumpers?

Bryan Salesky
Like the cop type of push bar. That tells you something about what it means to drive in New York City, doesn’t it?

Peter Berg
I think you’re absolutely right. I was just in New York this morning. I’m not going to draw a line of judgment between-

Bryan Salesky
Judge away.

Peter Berg
Say, well, Uber drivers and New York City cab drivers. I think … I guess I believe this. Especially if you’re paying for … I don’t know what the different categories of Uber are, but medium expensive to fully expensive. Generally, there’s an assumption that drivers … And it seems to me that drivers appear to be relatively sober, relatively sane mentally and functioning. Under the regular … No. Now cab drivers in New York … I mean, I was just in a cab-

Alex Roy
A yellow cab?

Peter Berg
Yellow Cab about two days ago. The driver appeared to be on multiple phone calls in multiple languages. Visibility was nonexistent from where I was because of the plexiglass. Seat belts weren’t …

Bryan Salesky
It’s like being in the back of a cop car. Not that I would know, but I presume that must be what it’s like?

Alex Roy
Right.

Peter Berg
A cop car that’s moving fast and that you’re not seat belted in.

Alex Roy
You grew up in New York City. Where did you grow up?

Peter Berg
I was born in Manhattan, and then raised in Westchester, a town called Chappaqua, New York.

Alex Roy
So how old were you when you got your driver’s license?

Peter Berg
16.

Alex Roy
Did you go to driving school?

Peter Berg
Yes.

Bryan Salesky
Was that required by New York? Did you have to do it?

Peter Berg
I think so. I think it was required by my high school. I don’t remember much. I remember feeling as though the driver … Not sure that my driver had a license or my instructor had a license.

Bryan Salesky
I hope so.

Peter Berg
I’m not sure that my instructor was over 18. It was all a formality. I don’t think I learned anything. I learned how to drive by stealing my parent’s car when I was 12 when they weren’t home and sneaking it around my neighborhood and driving further and further away from my home.

Bryan Salesky
That’s like most of Detroit area.

Peter Berg
That’s how I learned how to drive.

Alex Roy
And so do you consider yourself a good driver? Have you had a crash?

Peter Berg
No. I haven’t had a lot of crashes, but I’m definitely guilty of texting and driving, talking on the phone. I’m guilty of distracted driving, and I have to … I don’t take it lightly. I really work to try and avoid that. But when I think about how distracted … I just did a film in Atlanta. It’s almost a requirement that you’re on your phone, texting while driving. You’ll study the culture of Atlanta when you want to go there. Cars are weaving all over the freeways, everyone’s on their phones.

Peter Berg
I certainly think it makes an argument for why your system is every bit as safe as taking your life into your hands and driving in Atlanta.

Bryan Salesky
So what’s your take on the micromobility movement with these scooters and eBikes and stuff like that? Because Atlanta has a bunch of those, don’t they? I’ve seen pictures of these just laying around everywhere, all over the city.

Peter Berg
My son is going to school in Austin now. He’s a freshman at the University of Texas, and I have to say, it’s really fun to get on a Bird and cruise around Austin sober. The reality is, nobody’s doing that. Everybody’s wasted, everyone’s drunk out of their minds, smoked up a lot of weed and they’re flying around on these things.

Bryan Salesky
It’s an orthopedic surgeon’s job security, from what we’ve been told.

Peter Berg
Or a neurosurgeon. Absolutely. Orthopedic at the best. I mean, I don’t understand how … I’ve seen kids black out drunk, barely sober enough to scan their phone to the code on the Bird or the … And now, there’s like 100 different companies. They’re fun if you’re sober. If you’re not, and most of those people aren’t, I think … I just think it’s going to be really bad in the next couple of years, and people will get really hurt on them.

Bryan Salesky
What’s your son going to major in? Does he know yet?

Peter Berg
Film school.

Bryan Salesky
Film school?

Peter Berg
He’s going to the University of Texas Film School at Moody School of Communication.

Bryan Salesky
That’s awesome. That’s exciting.

Peter Berg
Very proud of him.

Alex Roy
When you were younger and you were making movies, did you always know you wanted to be a director?

Peter Berg
My dad was an advertising guy. He grew up on the east coast. My dad was a product … He worked for the account manager for P&G for Grey Advertising. He worked for JIF peanut butter and Tide, and those were his accounts. That was the culture I was brought up in. It was a little post-Mad Men, but Mad Men-esque, and the idea that anybody in my family was going to go into the arts was just very foreign to everybody in my family and our family’s friend group.

Peter Berg
So I secretly knew that I had a real attraction to film, to acting. I used to go to a lot of plays of Broadway when I was a kid, but I kept real quiet about until I was a senior in high school, and then I started to make my move.

Alex Roy
So one of the things that Bryan talks about with our team … Let’s assume the technology works. How do you convince to trust other people? How do you convince people to trust the machine? Your movies have a common theme, which is an everyday guy has to step up, and other people have to have faith and trust. These themes are common to humans and machines. So where does that come from? I know where it comes from from Bryan, because he wants the world to be a better place. He really does. He want our roads to be safer.

Alex Roy
Your movies, this theme … It’s common through all of them. Why?

Peter Berg
Yeah. I don’t know exactly why I’m drawn to what I’m drawn to, but I’ve always … I’ve thought about it, and my attraction tends to be towards, first and foremost, nonfiction. I like real stories. I think I got that from my father, who was a war historian and pumped the whole idea of nonfiction down my throat in a way that didn’t feel forced. I always found more than enough drama in nonfiction. Most of my stories start with that. I look for real stories.

Alex Roy
Was he in the military, your father?

Peter Berg
My father was a Marine. Yeah. My father was a Marine in-

Alex Roy
Korea, right?

Peter Berg
Yes. My father’s buried at Arlington Cemetery. I was just there last month, had a very long talk with him. We were able to finally get some words in that I wasn’t always able to get in when he was alive. But he was a great man, and taught me a lot. I got most of the … The love of the stories that I make a generally around themes like law enforcement, military, proletarian work forces, athletes, people that put themselves in real risks, often times physical risks. I have an equal amount of respect for people … Like what I’m seeing here at Argo, who are putting themselves under a different type of risk.

Peter Berg
I appreciate the challenges and the pitfalls and the risks and the rewards of what you’re doing here, and I find that to be very inspirational. But generally, I like focusing on real people who are laying it all on the line for something, whether it’s to try and start a company, try and change and disrupt a pattern of behavior or trying to put out an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and prevent one of the biggest man-made disasters in the history of the planet. The human-ness of those stories is something that’s just always been very appealing to me, and I’m just not a guy that’s a Marvel … I appreciate Marvel’s stories, but I’m not a guy that’s … I’m not a guy that grew up watching Spider-Man and Iron Man and Aqua Man and all of those guys.

Peter Berg
I respect them, it’s just not my thing.

Bryan Salesky
This is very inspiring for me, the whole concept of the everyman, the average Joe, and him being compelled to do something like a higher calling, that person knowing when their number is up and they need to go do something really big and impactful. That resonates.

Alex Roy
There’s a great scene in a movie which I think is under-appreciated, Battleship. There’s a great scene … You directed, and I love it. But there’s a wonderful scene. You hired an actor who was a veteran, who lost both of his legs, to play basically himself.

Peter Berg
Yeah. Greg Gadson.

Alex Roy
Yeah. And he leads … He’s up in the mountains, the aliens are there and they’ve got this kid with them who’s some geeky guy.

Peter Berg
Yeah.

Alex Roy
And they have to retrieve something from this building to save the Earth. The kid’s like … The guy, the veteran, says “You’re going in there. You might get killed. You’re going to get this thing, the McGuffin, to save humanity.” And the kid says, “I don’t have it in me.” I think the character says, “You will find it now.”

Bryan Salesky
But, see, that’s just the thing. Right? You may not be able to make a movie around all of that, but I’m a believer that every single person in life has that moment. It’s just a question of whether they take that leap or not.

Peter Berg
I call those moments “bridge moments”.

Bryan Salesky
Yes.

Peter Berg
When I was directing the movie Friday Night Lights, there was a scene where an actor, Derek Luke, had to find out that his whole dream was over, he was never going to play football again. His entire plan, all of his dreams were utterly smashed. It was the scene where he was told it was over, and he was trying to keep it together, and he had to get in a car with his uncle. This is a true story. He played a character named Boobie Miles, a real football player named Boobie Miles, who just went all in on football and blew his knee out and that was it.

Peter Berg
So we were getting ready to do this scene, and he has to really breakdown. So I’m trying to give him some direction, and I know that I want him to be very emotional, so I’m like, “Derek, I believe we all have these moments as men where we have a real opportunity and it’s like a bridge moment. We’re moving through a jungle and we come to a canyon. Most people stop, but some people, they can see a bridge. And if you can see that bridge and take it, you can get up and you can go to a whole new level.” And very people can see that.

Peter Berg
I said, “Derek, I think this might be one.” He stopped. He goes, “Pete, do you want me to cry?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He goes, “Just say cry, okay? Then I’ll cry.” And if you watch the movie, he bursts into tears.

Bryan Salesky
“You can skip the speech, just tell me what you need.”

Peter Berg
I gave him this whole fucking speech, and he was just like, “You can just say cry.” But I do believe that that is a theme that I am constantly drawn to. It’s like, “Look. You’re starting a business. You’re all in. You’ve been given a lot of responsibility and a lot of money, and you’ve got all of these people who are looking at you.” And I have a lot of respect for that and what that feels like to carry that water, and you know that you can only hide for so long. Eventually, you’re going to have to put up or get out.

Peter Berg
And I know what that pressure feels like, and that’s the kind of story that I’m attracted to.

Bryan Salesky
“It’s an immense pressure, but I feed off of it.”

Peter Berg
Yeah.

Bryan Salesky
It’s very, very motivating. Is there a bridge moment in your life you could share with us?

Peter Berg
Wow.

Alex Roy
Was it you going into film school, and just taking-

Peter Berg
Yeah. To a degree. Most people, when you make movies, you end up … It’s a crazy job. I have to convince you as a studio or a financier that I’ve got this idea, and I’m going to write it and I’m going to film it, and it’s going to somehow touch people’s hearts and souls and they’re going to pay a lot of money to see it. Can I have 100 million bucks, plus maybe another 40 to market.

Bryan Salesky
Right.

Peter Berg
“Can I have 140 million? I’ve got this thing.” Right?

Bryan Salesky
And you’re not sure you can execute on it. They don’t know if you can execute on it, and …

Peter Berg
No. You have no idea. Nobody knows anything, right? No one knows nothing. But you’re betting on yourself. You’re betting on your passion, you’re betting on your ability to have vision. You’re betting on your ability to somehow harness all of these different elements and create something which doesn’t have, actually, the job security the automated driving vehicle has … Automated driving vehicle?

Bryan Salesky
Autonomous vehicle?

Peter Berg
Self-driving vehicle. At least you know, in success, you’re going to get from point A to point B. You’re going to turn, you’re going to stop at red lights. Et cetera, et cetera. A movie? I have no idea whether it’s going to touch your heart and your soul. So every time we get ready to release a movie and you hit that moment of truth where you’ve bet on yourself, you’ve gotten a bunch of other people to bet on you and there will be a massive judgment-

Bryan Salesky
And you’re cutting some big checks with no idea if it’s going to work out or not.

Peter Berg
Yeah. And I’ve convinced … You don’t survive many flops in my business.

Bryan Salesky
Right.

Peter Berg
You have to produce something. Generally, money is preferred, but if not preferred, it better be a really good movie. Ideally both. So I find that I go through it every time a movie comes out. I have a friend who just struggled in taking his company public last week, and that was interesting, because there was a company that … A friend of mine who’s been building a company for 24 years, everything’s leading to this one moment and the judgment’s going to come hard and fast when he prices. They had to withdraw at the last moment, because it’s been a bad month for IPOs.

Alex Roy
That’s painful.

Peter Berg
And I looked at these guys … Yeah, it’s been a rough … But, fortunately, they lived to fight another day. I’m like, “Guys, this is what we go through as filmmakers every five months.”

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. Right. That’s a grind. Yeah.

Peter Berg
Most people spend their lives avoiding those moments.

Alex Roy
Yeah. It’s true.

Bryan Salesky
It’s true.

Peter Berg
Right?

Bryan Salesky
It’s true. It’s totally true. So all films should really follow the Blair Witch Model? That’s the alternative way to do it. Break it down to its core. Listening to you talk reminded me. There’s an example of ‘no idea what the result was going to be’ sure.

Peter Berg
Sure. Low risk, high reward. But for every Blair Witch, there’s literally 15 thousand just god awful.

Bryan Salesky
I’ve seen them. Almost all of them.

Peter Berg
I’ve seen a lot of them. And you catch watch them all, thankfully, now on Netflix. Just go through horror films and start going way down the menu and seeing Wolf Daughter 7, Slaughterfest 14.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. It’s tough.

Peter Berg
Even those aren’t safe bets.

Bryan Salesky
I’m adding these to my queue right now. Yes.

Peter Berg
But Blair Witch … Very rare you’re going to find a movie that you can make for, I don’t know-

Alex Roy
15K? 20K?

Peter Berg
I think probably a little bit more. Whenever you get a Blair Witch scenario, they lie wildly about how much they really cost. It probably cost 700 grand, and then it made all of that money and they’re like, “Oh, yeah. We made it for 4,200 dollars.” Which is not true generally.

Alex Roy
What’s the website in Hollywood of greatest scripts never made?

Peter Berg
Oh, Blcklist.

Alex Roy
Blcklist. So what is the film, or the story you’ve always wanted to tell you have not yet told?

Peter Berg
Whoa. I’ve got a couple of them. The sinking of the Bismarck.

Alex Roy
Oh. I have a Bismarck model at home. My father was friends with one of the only three survivors of the Hood.

Peter Berg
Oh, wow. Okay. Really?

Alex Roy
Because my dad followed World War II, and when I was a kid-

Peter Berg
They sunk the hood in 11 seconds, or something?

Alex Roy
Yeah. Three guys survived out of 1,700 or something crazy.

Peter Berg
More. But yeah, crazy number.

Alex Roy
And every summer, we’d go to Europe and visit my dad’s one friend, this guy, who was in the car business. He had a model of his own ship on the shelf, the Hood.

Peter Berg
Of the Hood?

Alex Roy
Yeah. So when my father passed away, I inherited his Bismarck model.

Peter Berg
Oh, wow. I’d love to see … Why did your dad have a Bismarck model?

Alex Roy
Well, he was … It’s a complicated family history. But he escaped the Nazis, joined the U.S., came to America in ’42, ’43 and joined the U.S. army and went back and fought. He was an interrogator of German POWs, and became friends with some of them. My mother is German, so on my mother’s side, her dad was in the German Army. He was killed in the war. So I grew up filled with World War II memorabilia.

Alex Roy
One of the things that Bryan and I bond over is military history. We talk about it all of the time. So I just happen to have …

Peter Berg
So you’re familiar with the story of the Bismarck and the sinking of the Bismarck and how violent it was, and obviously what they did to the Hood?

Alex Roy
Have you seen the movie, Sink the Bismarck, from ’64 or something?

Peter Berg
It could use a little bit of an update. There’s a great new book, it’s a couple of years old now, that I just read about the sinking of the Bismarck. I never realized that it was … They had the planes, I think they were called the Sandpipers, that had one torpedo. These 18 year-old kids would fly them out in horrible weather looking for them, and you’d get one shot. The wings were made of cloth so that bullets could pass through them. 90% of them would get killed on every sortie.

Peter Berg
What got the Bismarck was … It was like the 15th attack of Sandpipers. I think I’m saying it, Sandpiper, right. It’s the name of a bird, these planes. The last one … Every one gets shot down, and the last kid drops his torpedo. The Bismarck’s turning, the torpedo clips the rudder and renders it dead in the water, so all the Bismarck could do is do tight circles as the British … So I like that quite a bit.

Bryan Salesky
Talk about a money shot. Holy cow. Right? Yeah.

Peter Berg
That kid that clipped the rudder of the Bismarck?

Bryan Salesky
Yeah.

Peter Berg
Which, arguably, changed the entire complexion of the war in the Atlantic Ocean and-

Bryan Salesky
One shot.

Alex Roy
You guys have both seen the movie Midway, I assume?

Peter Berg
I love it. Yeah.

Alex Roy
And Tora, Tora, Tora?

Peter Berg
Yep.

Alex Roy
I’m still waiting for the Yamato movie.

Peter Berg
About the Yamato?

Alex Roy
Yeah. Because that was another crazy story.

Bryan Salesky
Isn’t it amazing how there’s still so many stories like this that haven’t been told?

Peter Berg
The Indianapolis hasn’t been told.

Bryan Salesky
Not well. There have been two terrible ones. One with Powers Boothe, which was made for HBO. It’s horrible. It’s called, I think, Attack of the Shark or Night of the Shark.

Peter Berg
Right. Right.

Bryan Salesky
There was recently one with Nicholas Cage playing the captain, which was even worse than the Powers Boothe one.

Peter Berg
Yeah. I mean, there are just so many great stories. Guadalcanal.

Bryan Salesky
Oh, gosh.

Peter Berg
So I’m interested in all of that. If you want to go way back … Do you know who John Paul Jones was? The founder of the American Navy, the man who said, “I have not yet begun to fight?” Who basically was a one man wrecking machine that the Brits thought that we had a 40 ship navy, but we really had this one rogue, bad ass, pirate, drunk, womanizing, awesome dude named John Paul Jones who George Washington knew and said, “You got the navy?”

Bryan Salesky
I don’t know the story.

Alex Roy
Tell us more.

Peter Berg
He was a marauder, John Paul Jones. I’m a big fan of his.

Bryan Salesky
Also, the Monitor and the Merrimack, where’s that movie? The Civil War, the first … The vessel with the turret, rotating turret, and then the Confederates come with the traditional design, 10 guns in a circular formation.

Peter Berg
Yeah. There’s a lot of great military history films that … Generally, I look to those. I like Dunkirk quite a bit. I think you could do something Dunkirk-esque, certainly, with The Bismarck.

Bryan Salesky
Dunkirk was such a simple film when you boil it down.

Peter Berg
Yeah.

Bryan Salesky
But it was impactful, boy. I watched that on the plane one time. I was almost in tears watching it. It was just, “Wow.”

Alex Roy
Like what you were saying about earlier about the movie you’re making, The Beast, it’s an A to B story. People understand things in motion, and you align our lives around a journey from A to B. Most people never find the B. They don’t even know what the B is.

Peter Berg
Yeah. Yeah, it’s good to have a B. It’s good to have a B. Most people don’t. Most people don’t have any sense of what the journey is they’re on, and what the ideal location is. Jeff Bezos has that giant clock that he’s got hidden in the mountains of Texas. Do you know about his clock?

Alex Roy
Is it atomic?

Peter Berg
Not, it’s not atomic. It’s solar-powered, but it’s the world’s largest clock. He built it in a mountain. You can’t see it. It makes a tone once a day. Every year, it makes … On New Year’s Day, it makes a long tone. Every 10 years, it plays a symphony. When you ask him why he’s done it, he say, “Basically, we’ve reached a point where we’re incapable of forward thinking. We don’t think about where we’re going to be. Maybe we think about an hour, a day, a week. Occasionally we plan a vacation. But what’s our five year plan? What’s our 10 year plan? What’s our plan for our children? We’re not thinking about it.”

Peter Berg
So he’s built this clock as a symbol of forward thinking, as a symbol of having a B.

Bryan Salesky
It’s part of his management thesis. He says, 10 years ago, he had a plan for what they’re doing right now.

Peter Berg
Yeah.

Bryan Salesky
To be honest with you, I don’t believe it. I don’t subscribe to it. I can make as many plans as I want, even a month from now, and it doesn’t perfectly go to fruition. But I think his point is, obviously, you need to set a compass direction for the future.

Peter Berg
So let me ask you, you’ve got this company and this vision that most people can get their minds maybe 30% around in terms of how this automatically driving, self-driving vehicle is going to really integrate into society. How much do you feel that you really have and see as a vision, and at what point do you just say, “I’ve got it up to here, and then I’m not quite sure. But it’s going to work itself out. I know it is?”

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. For us, the bright line is between operating in areas where we’ve tested and mapped and know really well, versus going to places we’ve never seen before. So building a machine, an intelligent machine, that can operate anywhere and everywhere without having every been there before is a really hard thing. It’s that line where I don’t think we know, as an industry, as a state of art, how to cross that.

Peter Berg
I know. We talked a little bit earlier about … I’d like to ask you again. If you’re going to talk to a group of people that don’t quite understand what you’re doing here, they don’t quite understand how it’s going to work, what will it feel like having a self-driving vehicle? How will we use it in its early stage of when it’s really first available for someone to wake up and use?

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. So I think this is important, because the cost and sophistication of the technology means that it’s going to be equipped on vehicles that are in shared fleets. They’re fleets that are owned by a company, maintained by a set of professional crew. Right? And what you’ll be able to do as a customer is ask for a ride and then get a ride in an autonomous vehicle.

Bryan Salesky
But you’re not going to own it. Maybe it’s a subscription service, maybe it’s something similar to what you have with a ride hail app today, and then it’ll be able to take you from A to B, or from A to B to C. Eventually, I think there’s a path for this to get onto personally owned vehicles, but I think that’s far less transformative in some ways, because if you don’t need to own a vehicle, that’s actually a huge burden lifted off of you.

Bryan Salesky
I think a lot of people forget that the second largest expense for most people is … Second only to your home, is a car. And then having fuel it, maintain it, drive it and so on-

Peter Berg
Insure it.

Bryan Salesky
Insure it. To avoid all of that is actually … Is really a wonderful thing.

Alex Roy
For a lot of people, owning a car is a trap, because if anything happens to it, they’re stuck.

Bryan Salesky
We’re focused on deploying these services in the inner cities, where it’s just cost prohibitive. There’s no parking for it. In fact, there’s now taxes and parking costs that are priced specifically to prevent people from making the choice to own a car. They want you to use … The city wants you to use shared services. When you think about it, that’s just a much more efficient use of that asset.

Peter Berg
Where are the first cities in the U.S. that you think you’ll be up and running?

Bryan Salesky
So one of the first that we’ve announced is Miami. We think that’s a great market. People have taken very positively to the vehicle. They ask a lot of great questions. The community has been super positive around it, and I think that there’s a great market for it.

Peter Berg
What about Austin? I heard Austin, also.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. Very timely. We just announced Austin. I think that will be among the first, as well. You were talking a little bit about the clientele there, and I think they’ll find great use in it.

Peter Berg
Drunk UT students riding Birds irrationally.

Bryan Salesky
Maybe we can put them in an autonomous vehicle?

Peter Berg
I would love it. To get his son off of a Bird and put him … I’d trust you much more.

Alex Roy
Here’s a question for you. We trust people when we shouldn’t. What would it take for you to trust a machine? What would could convince you to get in a car that doesn’t have even a steering wheel in it?

Peter Berg
I tend to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I jump out of airplanes and scuba dive. I own a boxing gym, and I like to fight people younger and stronger than me and see if I can survive. I get off on it. So for me, I think …

Bryan Salesky
Would you put your newborn kid in one?

Peter Berg
I’m of an age that I’m still suspect of technology. I’m still waiting to turn on my cell phone and find The Joker’s face and realize that the entire grid has been shut down and Apple no longer exists. But I have a lot of employees that are a lot younger than me, I have a son who’s a lot younger than me, I have people in my life who were just brought up with technology and are much more trusting. I think that you’re going to have some generational issues as far as trust goes, but I think you’re going to have an entirely new group of people who have learned to really have a different relationship with technology and they trust it.

Peter Berg
For anyone that’s flown in an airplane in the last 10 years, if you really go and sit down with the pilots and ask them how much work they’re doing versus how much they’re relying on technology, and you realize that planes are often taking themselves off and navigating through incredibly complex navigational … Whether it’s just night time, weather or combinations of both, being rerouted, dealing with air traffic and having to land on their own, people really know how much they’re already trusting automated systems, which I’m sure they will.

Peter Berg
I think the trust level will be higher as new generations of users who grew up with technology just fundamentally have more faith in technology. My mom still won’t go to an ATM.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, my dad won’t use Uber.

Alex Roy
My mother won’t either. She gets terrified. It’s crazy.

Peter Berg
But my son and his friends? “Hell, yeah. Let’s get in a self-driving car.”

Bryan Salesky
That’s because they don’t know what all of the failure modes are, I guess. I don’t know.

Peter Berg
The issue will be … I was impressed with how vigilant your drivers were today. It’s obviously that it is not a good time for anything to go wrong, right? If a dog runs into one of your vehicles and you’re completely stopped and parked, you’re going to have to have really good media control and marketing and crisis control, because people are going to just be gunning for … Like they were for the Uber crash, right?

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. Look, change is a hard thing to socialize. Right? It’s amazing how much headlines … Any sort of failure in automated technology, not just vehicles, how many headlines that gets, yet someone trucks through a four way intersection and kills a mom and-

Alex Roy
And it’s barely news.

Bryan Salesky
It’s barely, barely news.

Peter Berg
Someone was talking to me, a friend of mine. I don’t know whether there’s any truth, but they were telling me about the challenges that your industry faces, and one is negotiating the unpredictable patterns and movement with human beings, whether they’re on Birds or they’re walking. Right? Then he was talking about ethical decisions in which control could be taken over by a vehicle to … He was giving me some pretty wild scenarios. He was saying, “If a car had four people in it and was driving out of control and was clearly headed for an accident that was going to involve a lot of people, another vehicle could pick this information up, interpret it and make a moral decision.”

Peter Berg
The concept of morality in these vehicles. Is there any truth to that, or was he just talking a bunch of nonsense?

Bryan Salesky
The way we program these vehicles today, the concept of morality is not … The language we use to program these vehicles is not sufficiently verbose. It isn’t something that can be articulated. Morality isn’t something that can be articulated. And when you think about it as a human driver, how often do you get faced with these sort of decisions? It’s pretty much … It’s very rare that you’ve ever had to make a choice, “Do I hit A or B?” Usually, it’s there’s a C, a third choice, that allows you to avoid it altogether.

Bryan Salesky
I think that’s what a lot of these … We call them the “trolley problems“. You can look that up.

Alex Roy
Call it the Kobayashi Maru. If you find yourself in that situation, you’ve already made a mistake.

Bryan Salesky
And that’s the key.

Alex Roy
You allowed yourself into a fork. The moral decision is to have the skills and prepare a vehicle such that you do not enter a fork of doom.

Bryan Salesky
Right.

Peter Berg
Suppose … And this happened to me before. I’ve been driving in a crowded freeway in Los Angeles, and I’m in one lane and a car to my right just blindly doesn’t see me and starts coming at me, and I have to very quickly make a decision, “Do I let this car hit me, or do I swerve into potentially hitting another?” So there’s a decision.

Bryan Salesky
There’s a decision. What it will do is it will look for the path that prevents the collision if at all possible, or minimizes damage. In this case, most humans are probably thinking, “Okay, do I steer left or right?” When there’s another option, which is stop and allow the person to clip the front end, rather than-

Peter Berg
Interesting.

Alex Roy
Because most people don’t even know what the braking distances of their own cars are.

Bryan Salesky
Especially when they’re on a highway and you’ve been driving for, let’s say, an hour at that point. In stop and go traffic, your first thought is not necessarily to slam on the brake. It’s to steer. And this is the thing where we know we can at least program the vehicle to consider all of the space of possible options of control inputs that would minimize that sort of damage.

Alex Roy
You mentioned earlier that you’d seen the movie Rendezvous, the Claude Lelouch movie of the car going through Paris.

Peter Berg
Yeah.

Alex Roy
There’s … I’ve seen it hundreds of times. My dad loved that movie, too.

Peter Berg
It never gets old.

Alex Roy
It never gets old. There’s an interesting moment as the vehicle is passing underneath the Louvre, there’s a tunnel.

Peter Berg
Well pronounced.

Alex Roy
I lived there at one time.

Bryan Salesky
He speaks French. There’s an advantage he has.

Alex Roy
Of all of the dangerous moments in that film, and every second is wildly dangerous, that one is probably the most dangerous, because it’s a blind emergence from a tunnel. The driver has no way of knowing what is to the right, coming perpendicular from the right through the path of travel, and years later, Lelouch … who’s still alive, did an interview for French television where he said that that was the one place he thought that risk was too great, and so he had an assistant with a radio stand at the exit of that tunnel to radio him, in just in case there was a car.

Alex Roy
But the rest of it was okay. But that, after he finished the run safely, he found out the radio didn’t work. And so we do what we can to mitigate risk, but the ultimate decision … If you don’t want to leave your house, just don’t leave your house. But you’re never going to get anywhere.

Peter Berg
I would argue that was not the most dangerous moment in The Rendezvous.

Alex Roy
Which one do you-

Peter Berg
By far, the most dangerous was the very end. The very last shot.

Alex Roy
Oh, when he comes up to the-

Peter Berg
And he what?

Alex Roy
Kisses the girl.

Peter Berg
Kissing a girl … I mean, the idea that … Look what this guy did just to go kiss a girl. This woman … This is a very bad relationship, and the most dangerous moment for me in that movie was when I saw the power that this woman had over the man, and that he had gone through all of this and put so much at risk just to kiss a girl. The girl is the most dangerous part of that movie.

Alex Roy
But he married her. They had a daughter.

Peter Berg
Are they still married?

Alex Roy
No, that was Gunilla Friden, Ms. Sweden of ’67.

Peter Berg
Was that the driver?

Alex Roy
No. The driver was … I don’t think they ever … You would know, wouldn’t you? Did they ever establish who the driver was?

Peter Berg
Well, I know he was arrested. I know the filmmaker and the driver … I heard the driver was an F1 driver, that’s all I heard.

Alex Roy
Jackie Ickx. It’s a rumor. I think they kept it a secret so they wouldn’t all go to prison.

Peter Berg
But the whole point of the movie is the guy drives and puts so many lives at risk just to kiss a girl.

Bryan Salesky
That’s a good summary.

Alex Roy
We should wrap it up right there. Well, thanks so much for coming down.

Peter Berg
You guys are good. You guys should have a regular show.

Alex Roy
Yeah, we do.

Bryan Salesky
We’re thinking about it.

Peter Berg
How do you know each other?

Bryan Salesky
Oh, my god. It’s so awkward.

Alex Roy
Because I thought every one in this sector was full of shit, until I met Bryan Salesky.

Bryan Salesky
And I thought all the media were just total jackasses until I met Alex. Seriously, I went to his loft in New York City to do an episode of the Autonocast, which is another podcast. It’s really good. Very well-informed folks asking questions.

Alex Roy
And then I came here and asked you if I could get into a car, if you would remove the speed limiter from your autonomous vehicle, and if I could set the autonomous cannonball record.

Bryan Salesky
Right. And I said no.

Alex Roy
Yeah.

Bryan Salesky
I said, “You’re full of shit, but we should talk about other ways in which you could contribute to our company.”

Alex Roy
That’s right.

Peter Berg
So do you consider him to be the CMO of your company?

Bryan Salesky
In some ways, yeah.

Peter Berg
I like it.

Alex Roy
I like to say that I’m the entertainment division and devil’s advocate.

Bryan Salesky
Exactly. That’s what he is. Yeah.

Peter Berg
Everybody needs one.

Bryan Salesky
We hired the industry’s … Arguably one of the biggest critics, actually, of the industry. I think it speaks a lot that he joined us, but he’s also had a huge impact since being here. So it’s great.

Alex Roy
We need to wrap this up, gentlemen, because you’ve got someone to see in 3 minutes.

Bryan Salesky
I’m really enjoying this. Can we just … Real quick. I don’t know if we’ll use it or not, but can you tell us the story behind the boxing gym?

Peter Berg
I’ve always loved boxing and …

Bryan Salesky
I grew up with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and that whole thing.

Peter Berg
Yeah, me too.

Bryan Salesky
That was a bigger night than Super Bowl in my household.

Peter Berg
I was at the first Holyfield/Tyson fight. Not the ear bite, but the first one. When Holyfield beat him up. I’ve got the three greatest sporting events I’ve ever been to. That was one. USC/University of Texas national championship was another. That fight was so amazing, because … It was at Madison Square Garden. When Evander Holyfield walked in, everyone applauded. When Tyson walked in, everyone got quiet, because you really felt like you were about to bear witness to a homicide.

Bryan Salesky
Right. I got that sense as a kid watching it on TV.

Peter Berg
It was scary. It was like the third or the fourth round, because Tyson liked to finish people off quick. What we learned about Tyson is if he couldn’t establish his bully, thug intimidation, he started to have problems. I think it was third round, maybe the fourth, Tyson came at Holyfield with everything. Holyfield was just barely surviving, and you saw Tyson get tired for a second and tried to grabbing on to Holyfield, and Holyfield pushed him off and the place just erupted. You realized, in that moment, everybody actually wanted to see Holyfield win that fight and wanted to see the bully beaten down, and Holyfield won it.

Peter Berg
I couldn’t talk for three days from screaming, “Holyfield!”

Bryan Salesky
I bet. I bet.

Peter Berg
But in a long, long story, very short, I always have loved boxing. A bunch of years ago I had a little extra money, and I was thinking about doing something with it and starting a new venture. People were asking me to go into restaurants or bars or … that kind of thing that’s normally … I was just like, “All I can see is bad choices.” I believe not a lot of really good does happen after midnight, and these are …

Bryan Salesky
Yeah.

Peter Berg
And then I thought, “If I start a boxing gym, I’m going to have to do something healthy. I like the culture. I love the lessons that boxing offers for life,” and I started this boxing gym.

Bryan Salesky
I think it’s pretty cool, and where I was going to go with it is … Have you found that you’ve saved a bunch of kids by doing this?

Peter Berg
I don’t know that we’ve saved, but we have a lot of young kids.

Bryan Salesky
“Saves” a strong word, but what I mean is you’ve given them an outlet.

Peter Berg
We’ve given them an outlet. Everyone talks about diversity in Los Angeles, and it’s very hard to find a place like our gym where you’ll come in there and there will be African Americans and whites and Russians and Ukrainians and Latinos and Brits and Kiwis. Men, women. It’s a very eclectic mix. Pro fighters, blue collar fighters, white collar fighters, everybody gets along. I think we do serve as a very productive, healthy role model for a lot of … It’s not just that we’re saving young kids.

Peter Berg
I find adults come and get saved. I’ve had people come up to me and say that this place is their church. It’s a new family, it’s better than going to a psychiatrist.

Bryan Salesky
I love that.

Peter Berg
It’s a really great vibe. Come on down anytime.

Bryan Salesky
I’ve got to tell you, I could probably use that at a time or two. I’ve got to tell you.

Peter Berg
We all could.

Bryan Salesky
Let out the lead every now and then.

Peter Berg
We all could. Do you always have a Battleship game … (Alex nods yes) Okay. I was going to say. Good stuff.

Alex Roy
Thanks for coming down.

Alex Roy
One of the things I love about spending time with people you really don’t know anything about other than what you see on television, is that you find out that they’re … Some of them, Hollywood people, are actually living, breathing human beings. They’re not like you think they are, and they are just like us.

Bryan Salesky
Peter was a pleasure to meet and talk to, and he asked some great questions about autonomous vehicles. You could tell that he’s leaning way into this film that he’s working on.

Alex Roy
My litmus test for someone I want to be friends with or work with or for is if that … The nuclear attack happens or the zombie whatever, is this someone you’d want to have survive and be part of the group?

Bryan Salesky
That’s a great one.

Alex Roy
And Peter Berg absolutely passes that.

Bryan Salesky
He’d be among the first I would pick for that.

Alex Roy
Yeah, this guy … Yeah.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. For sure.

Alex Roy
Yeah, he’s got leadership quality.

Bryan Salesky
He’s also a fighter. He owns a boxing gym.

Alex Roy
Good dude. Thanks for coming by.

Bryan Salesky
Have we not done this before, Alex?

Alex Roy
If you would like to join us in the future as a guest on the No Parking Podcast, please e-mail us at guests@noparkingpodcast.com. If you would like to learn more about the No Parking Podcast, check us out at www.noparkingpodcast.com. Bryan, again, you’re still not on social media?

Bryan Salesky
I’m really, really busy.

Alex Roy
All right. You can follow us at NoParkingPod on Twitter. Check me out on Twitter, AlexRoy144. See you next week.