The Overtown Youth Center in Miami provides services to at-risk youth and their families. CEO Tina Brown sits down with Alex Roy to discuss how technology and mobility equity — or lack thereof — impacts communities she serves and how autonomous vehicles can potentially help bridge the gap.

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Episode Transcript

Alex:             Hi, Tina. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

 

Tina Brown:  Thank you.

 

Alex:             Tell us about the Overtown Youth Center and what you do in the community.

 

Tina Brown:  So thank you for having me, Alex. The Overtown Youth Center is a community resource center, and I say that because we started out as this youth development organization over 19 years ago. And our goal initially [00:00:30] was to bridge educational, social and emotional gaps and after quite a few years of being in the community, we’ve really become this critical part of this community, providing services to not just youth, but to families. So our goal now is to bridge educational, social, emotional health, economic, and opportunity gaps for young people and their families. Overtown Youth Center [00:01:00] provides a plethora of services starting with in school service support, after school services, summer camps, summer employment for youth, family programs and programs that provide support to young people ages 18 to 25. So the individuals we serve start at about five years old and goes up to 25 on a daily basis. But also, with our family work, [00:01:30] we serve community members of all ages. So from zero to a hundred, if you will.

 

Alex:             So I think a lot of people outside Miami don’t know where Overtown is, but I think there are people even inside Miami who don’t understand why the center exists geographically in the city and what happened to Overtown back in the day that led to it becoming the community that it is. This city [00:02:00] over time built highway, these highways, this is not unique to Miami. These highways often went through communities and destroyed the fabric of those communities. And as a result, divided people geographically and more than geographically.

 

Tina Brown:  Absolutely.

 

Alex:             So can you tell us a little bit about why the Overtown Youth Center was originally opened?

 

Tina Brown:  Yeah, so exactly to your point, [00:02:30] after the 395 was, was built, it really destroyed this once vibrant community, a community that mostly was comprised of African Americans. Back in the day, this is where Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Muhammad Ali, and just a lot of Black entertainers would [00:03:00] have to come and actually stay. So while they would perform on Miami Beach, they could not stay in Miami Beach. But as a result of that highway just kind of splitting this community geographically, socioeconomically, a lot of poverty began to set in. A lot of affluent or middle class, if you will, African Americans moved out, a lot [00:03:30] of houses were destroyed due to eminent domain. And so what was left was just the really low-income individuals, so poverty set in and then the community was ravaged by drugs and just kind of drug slash gang affiliated activities.

 

And for many years up until I would say recently, just because of gentrification, [00:04:00] this was, this became one of the oldest and poorest communities in Miami-Dade County. But this was once a rich in culture, very vibrant community filled with African American businesses. And so what we begin to see is, of course, poverty, low graduation rates, a lot of crime, a lot of drug activities. [00:04:30] And back in 2002, a local real estate developer said, hey, I want to make sure that young people in this community have a safe haven. A place where they can go and not fall victim to gun violence or drug abuse, but a place that they can go and surround themselves with caring and nurturing individuals. [00:05:00] And they can play in a safe space and they can get help with their homework.

 

And they can also have access to arts programming and things like that. And that was the impetus for the Overtown Youth Center. And so that local real estate developer, Marty Margalese, at the time sought out Alonzo Mourning, who was playing for the Miami Heat and said, hey, if this is going to be home, you need to care about what’s happening in the backyard [00:05:30] of the Airlines Arena. And Alonzo was like, yeah, I want to do that. And realizing a what was happening to young people, Alonzo wanted to make a difference for sure. And fast forward almost 19 years later, we really have perfected, if you will, this holistic and comprehensive program that was specifically designed for making sure [00:06:00] that we could actually become that safe haven, bridge those educational, social, emotional gaps in hopes that many of our young people would thrive and become positive contributing citizens of our community.

 

Alex:             So breakdown how the center actually operates. You have a building.

 

Tina Brown:  Yes.

 

Alex:             But you also do things out in the field.

 

Tina Brown:  Yeah.

 

Alex:             Walk us through some of the programs [00:06:30] you run in your facility and the ones you operate in the community.

 

Tina Brown:  In the facility during the day, very little happens because we are out in the community. We partner with Miami-Dade County public schools, where we actually provide staff that goes into a number of schools in and around our community. And the purpose of our staff going into those schools are to ensure number one, kids are in school every day. And if they aren’t getting the school, why aren’t [00:07:00] they getting the school and what can we do to assist? We provide mentoring opportunities throughout the school day. We make sure we gather data to ensure that kids are performing academically and if they are not, what are their deficiencies and how can we help. Any after school programs. And so after school is over, back in the day, we would bring students to our facility, which is a 18,000 square feet facility [00:07:30] located in Overtown here.

 

And we would bring them there. Kids would do their homework. We would offer things like art, music, dance, drama, culinary, all sorts of STEM related activities. Feed them dinner and then bus them home. And so that’s really sort of a day in the life of our program. But outside of that, I mentioned [00:08:00] working with our families. We provide a lot of family workshops. So we invite families in, we invite a lot of our corporate partners in to provide a lot of workshops with families around financial literacy, health, wellness, and things like that. And then out in the community, we like to call ourselves first responders of our community too. So while we have this program model that focuses on making sure that kids graduate and [00:08:30] that we help families with employment opportunities, we listen to our community and what they, what they foresee are the most pressing needs, we try to address those.

 

So for example, during the pandemic we were all shut down. Everybody was working remotely and a lot of our family members became unemployed or under employed, so accessing food [00:09:00] was difficult. And so what we did was we set up a food distribution center, right at the corner of Gibson Park. And we would provide food five days a week to families. Over 4,000 meals a month. We also got out into the community, again, finding out what the needs were. And so a lot of community members were having difficulty with technology.

 

So kids needed to do school virtually, but a lot of [00:09:30] kids did not have laptops. And if they got access to a laptop, they’d didn’t have internet service. So we actually began to create a drive to collect laptops or get donations to purchase laptops. And we did that. And then we found funding to make sure that families in our community had access to internet service. So outside of the building, we make sure that we’re meeting the needs of the community so that they can see us as a trusted partner [00:10:00] and that we can really serve the community in the manner that they most see is that they most see as the most immediate needs of the community and how we can help their families.

 

Alex:             Every one of the things you brought up required people going from A to B. So you mentioned kids being bused. Who provides the buses, [00:10:30] who moves the kids around? Who pays for that?

 

Tina Brown:  We do. So we hire contact at bus companies and we actually pick up a lot of our students from their schools. And transportation, honestly, is the single most critical reason that we are successful. Because a lot of our families don’t have cars. And so if it required the kid leaving school [00:11:00] and getting to our program, they wouldn’t be able to. So we had to provide the transportation service for them to get from school to our program, and then after programming was over, we would bus them home.

 

Alex:             And are these your buses or you’re contracting someone else?

 

Tina Brown:  We’re contracting these buses. And then for the families that work, and getting a little bit into why transportation was critical as well. [00:11:30] If you have a mom who works in, let’s just say, I don’t know, Miami Garden somewhere, or in another part of town, it will literally take that mom, dad, grandparent an hour or two to just get to the school to pick the kid up, to get to our program. So it just wouldn’t be advantageous for us to wait for parents who could get their kids from school to get them to our program because of just the congestion [00:12:00] of traffic in Miami. And so it’s just advantageous, hey, let’s get buses and let’s have these buses circulate within a three to five mile radius, get the kids to our program and start programming.

 

Alex:             So do the parents have to pay anything for this service?

 

Tina Brown:  They do not. All services are free.

 

Alex:             What about the food distribution stuff? Are there people who walk to the food distribution points?

 

Tina Brown:  Absolutely. There are families who are walking [00:12:30] and that was one of the things we struggle with because we, that we had quite a bit of families who would not be able to drive up. And originally at the start of this pandemic, it was designed to be a drive and go. And we were like, we’re going to have families who walk up and we had these big food boxes and things like that. And we were like, how are they going to take these food boxes back home? So in a lot of situations, [00:13:00] families would come with shopping carts up to our food distribution. And then in many instances, we have four 15 passenger vans that we own. We would actually, for the parents who needed a box and extra boxes to get them through the week, we would have our staff to drive those boxes to the homes of the family. So they can put them in their refrigerator.

 

Alex:             And these people are coming [00:13:30] in the sun, in the heat or the rain. Doesn’t matter.

 

Tina Brown:  Doesn’t matter. Really sad. We’ve seen some situations where I’ll never forget. We were out there one morning and you’re from New York, so you may not quite fathom this, but for me it was freezing.

 

Alex:             Was it 60?

 

Tina Brown:  It was probably about 50.

 

Alex:             Oh, wow. Brisk.

 

Tina Brown:  And it was windy that day. [00:14:00] And this mom came up with her baby and she was pushing a stroller and she came to get food. And she came at the tail end of the food distribution and we were all out. And her face, we looked at her and we were like, get in the van. We’re going to take you to the grocery store to buy you the food that you couldn’t get today. And so we’ve seen a lot of those situations where [00:14:30] families would come up walking, like you said, and when it’s hot in Miami, it’s hot. That’s another thing. So families would come out in the S sweltering heat with their kids walking up and down Third Avenue to get the food. So with the meal distribution, it was a great help, but because of transportation issues, it was challenging for many people [00:15:00] to get out food.

 

Alex:             Challenging is a diplomatic word for people who don’t live in Miami. Having moved here last year and experiencing the heat, even if you have a car, if your air conditioning is not fully functioning, that can be … and if you just get into your car when it’s parked and it’s not already, it’s hot and just getting … It’s tough. During COVID, what were people in the community doing about going to get tested or even [00:15:30] getting vaccinated towards the tail end of COVID?

 

Tina Brown:  I think a lot of people in the community were relying on community popups to get tested. And I can say that there were a lot of organizations who created popup test sites. As part of our work, we actually partner with a foundation and we were able to provide [00:16:00] COVID testing on one of our school sites. So we offer that to our community, as well as individuals that were served all year long, you through our programs. And again, they had to have these popup sites in Overtown for the reasons of lack of transportation. Because individuals living in Overtown [00:16:30] could not get to far locations to get a COVID test. So test sites in Overtown was critical to keep our community safe.

 

Alex:             Tell me a little bit about how you guys raise money and to pay for these programs. Is it private individuals, Alonzo Mourning, plus the city plus or who supports your group?

 

Tina Brown:  So of course, Alonzo Mourning is a big supporter of our work. [00:17:00] But we are about 60% grant funded and we raise about 40% through individual giving, corporate giving, foundation giving and some other small events that we do throughout the year. Right now, our budget is about 5.3 million on an annual basis. And we are also in the middle of a $20 million [00:17:30] capital campaign, just due to the demands for services. We had to demolish our old facility, and now we’re building a 56,000 square foot facility. And we thought it was time because we wanted to ensure that we could expand our services to the community, realizing that we have begun to play an integral role, not just in the lives of children, but young adults, older adults, [00:18:00] and elderly.

 

Alex:             You talk about owning vehicles and subcontracting for drivers, vehicles for your programs. Are you going to be growing these fleets, your transportation budget? What’s that going to look like?

 

Tina Brown:  So that’s a tough one because pre-pandemic, we were spending close to $200,000 a year in contracted bus service. And now that we’re going to be expanding our services, [00:18:30] we don’t know what that’s going to look like. So my first thought is we definitely have to make some changes internally to our transportation policy. Who are we picking up? We’ve talked about a number of things. If you live within a, I don’t know, half a mile radius you would need to come pick up your children, but we know that that’s going to create some difficulties. So we don’t know what’s going to happen. [00:19:00] I can tell you after the pandemic, trying to go back to contracted bus services after bringing all of our students back to their schools, it’s been a challenge. So we found in the last month that a lot of the contracted transportation services don’t have drivers.

 

Alex:             Okay. I’ve heard this, I’ve heard this from a number of people in different cities.

 

Tina Brown:  So they don’t have drivers anymore. [00:19:30] and the price for contracted services has gone through the roof. So pre-pandemic, we were almost at $200,000. The prices per bus routes are almost double now. And as a nonprofit organization, I don’t know how sustainable that will be in the future.

 

Alex:             Cost aside, when you were running at peak before pre-pandemic, [00:20:00] were you operating routes only inside Overtown or were you connecting other neighborhoods to Overtown?

 

Tina Brown:  So we were running routes primarily in Overtown. We had a number of routes outside of Overtown because we provide services to students in locations as far north, as Miami Edison or the Little Haiti area. But now we’ve expanded our services and we have kids [00:20:30] that are coming from Miami Gardens.

 

Alex:             So when I moved here, I looked at a map and I tried to figure out where transit went. And, as a new Yorker, I just spoiled we have great transit. Of course, even when it doesn’t run on time, it’s still pretty great. Are you talking to, do you talk to the city transit authority about their schedules and routes and what you do and [00:21:00] see how they might connect or compliment each other?

 

Tina Brown:  It’s funny you mention that. So I haven’t really spoken to the city about just kind of our routes and what we need, but I have gone to the city with some ideas about how they can help keep kids safe in the city. So utilizing the underutilized transportation system [00:21:30] to bus kids to meaningful after school and community based programs. So when I think about even in this community, and sometimes I look at the bus routes and I also, now in this community, they have a trolley system, I think about where are those trolleys going and why aren’t those trolleys filled in the afternoons? We could potentially use one of those trolleys to transport kids from school, [00:22:00] to our programs. So I have explored with the city, is that a possibility. How can we help parents? How can we actually get those trolleys or underutilized bus services to help transport kids to programs or help transport them home?

 

Alex:             What would be your wish list of transportation solutions that help [00:22:30] you run your programs better and help the community

 

Tina Brown:  Efficient, reliable transportation solutions

 

Alex:             That show up on time?

 

Tina Brown:  Yes. That help individuals to get programs like the Overtown Youth Center. Efficient, reliable transportation services that can help parents [00:23:00] get to work on time, picking their kids up on time from whether it’s school or programs like Overtown Youth Center with affordable solutions. Even for us, when I think about our program, as much as we want to help families and help children, transportation plays a major role and it is expensive. And so how do we solve for [00:23:30] very costly but critical service that is of great need in our community? So for me, it’s affordability, it’s efficiency and its reliability.

 

Alex:             It’s called the Overtown Youth Center, but obviously helping young people helps families and helps everyone. Do you also run employment or job training programs, helping kids come out of school?

 

Tina Brown:  [00:24:00] Yeah. So that’s a big part of the work. I mentioned when we started, we started a long time ago bridging those educational gaps and we realized quickly, you can help kids in school, you can help them with homework. But what about number one, making sure that they graduate and sure that they have viable and sustainable career paths [00:24:30] to mitigate generational cycles of poverty in our community. And so we do that. We help with ensuring that our young people have access to college, our opportunities, vocational opportunities, and also our families. We are right now providing job training programs, employment, assistance programs for [00:25:00] our families and, and older adults in this community. I think economic mobility is critical to the critical, to the success of our work and also strengthening our community.

 

Alex:             The hashtag Miami tech scene dominates Twitter. Everywhere I look, everything I read, Miami tech’s amazing startups. Miami tech is the most diverse startup scene there is. And [00:25:30] I’ve been to events and it is clearly more diverse in other cities. How much of that, if any, has benefited Overtown?

 

Tina Brown:  I must say that we’re getting there or as a city. And I want to say that there’s been a lot of opportunities that have been presented to young people and families in our community [00:26:00] on the tech scene. We have been able to put some of our young people through cybersecurity training programs and connect them to companies like Amazon and Google. And so I believe that this tech buzz in Miami is really sparking an interest in a lot of our young people and our families. And [00:26:30] I foresee in the long run that our community will take advantage of this tech scene. We’ve also seen a number of nonprofit organizations that have come online to offer specialized programs in the areas of technology, which I think is great.

 

Alex:             Have companies reached out directly to-

 

Tina Brown:  Companies have reached out. We’ve had a number of companies [00:27:00] reach out. We’ve had a number of funding opportunities in the area of tech. And those are all pretty exciting. Especially as a growing nonprofit, we’re looking for opportunities to expand our work. And I believe that that tech has proven to be one of those new avenues for funding for the work that we do.

 

Alex:             If autonomous vehicles were available affordably [00:27:30] in this community, how would you want to use them?

 

Tina Brown:  I would want to utilize them to ensure that kids are getting to school on time. Kids are getting home safely. Families are getting to work without hiccups and families are getting back home safely. [00:28:00] I would want to see, especially in this community, that families are getting to quality grocery stores to get quality food.

 

Alex:             Because food deserts often overlap with transit deserts.

 

Tina Brown:  Correct. And they’re not walking to local convenience stores and transportation is not a barrier to getting good food.

 

Alex:             Are there any quality supermarkets in the area? I think one just opened. Am I right?

 

Tina Brown:  Yeah. A [00:28:30] Publix just opened.

 

Alex:             But it’s still on the close on the edge. It’s all the way on the border.

 

Tina Brown:  It’s kind of closer to downtown. So if you live north of Overtown, if you will, it’ll be a little walk.

 

Alex:             It’s a long walk.

 

Tina Brown:  And the other thing too, is how do you walk to the grocery store and walk back with 20 bags of groceries? So you need some, you either need [00:29:00] transportation, or you need a shopping cart to leave the groceries, sort of walk all the way home. So transportation still plays a major factor.

 

Alex:             What questions might you have about autonomous vehicles that I could possibly answer?

 

Tina Brown:  When I think about autonomous vehicles, just tell me, I’ve seen the Argo vehicles in Overtown, proud to have seen them driving around in Overtown. What [00:29:30] is that experience like? Because I haven’t been in an autonomous vehicle.

 

Alex:             So I’m told that you will be getting a ride very soon.

 

Tina Brown:  I hope so.

 

Alex:             So maybe even by the time this episode airs I ride in the Argo test vehicles pretty much every week. And I’ve also visited other cities and ridden in vehicles from Waymo, which is Google self-driving company. And it’s [00:30:00] funny because they’re a lot more cautious, at least our vehicles, a lot more cautious than most, certainly most ride hail drivers. You’ve taken an Uber, a Lyft in this town, it can be pretty exciting. Not always in a good way, but it happens. So we’re very cautious, sometimes more cautious than I would be. A really weird thing that happens is sometimes they will break or [00:30:30] steer and in the moment you won’t know why until you get 50 more feet and you’ll see that they saw something that I might not have seen as a passenger, or even if I was driving. And at makes me a lot more humble about my own driving.

 

I’m a safer driver after riding in an autonomous vehicle. Because it makes me just more aware of, wow, I really, I don’t pay attention all the time. I used to be a great driver. Everyone says that, but they usually say it in the present. I know that I used to be much better than I am and I’m turning 50. [00:31:00] And so having once been a skeptic, I’m a lot more open minded about it. It’s the only reason I actually work for such a company. When I saw my own skills declining, I suddenly became a lot more impatient to see these things on the road. Also, my mom’s turning 80. And I imagine you’ve seen in the paper every few months is a story of some older person, like [00:31:30] my mom, I love her. God bless, love you mom runs into a crowd of people somewhere. It happens. And it’s a tragedy on a hundred levels, but they’re not given a choice. We’re not giving people older people an alternative to get places in communities where cars are the only option. And that’s a big one for me.

 

Tina Brown:  So when I think about autonomous vehicles, [00:32:00] and I think about our work in particular around youth, around families. And we were talking earlier, you had asked me a question if I had kids and I do have kids. I have three young kids, my oldest being 14. And even as a mom, transportation for me, it’s kind of the single most stressful thing. [00:32:30] So, how do I get from Hollywood … and this is the dilemma for a lot of families. I want my kid to have a better education than I had. And I want him to go to a school that may not be in our area. And we’ve had the opportunity, as the Overtown Youth Center, to [00:33:00] actually get our students in some of the best schools here in Miami. But the problem has always been, the parents can’t get the kids to those schools.

 

Alex:             They can’t take time off of work.

 

Tina Brown:  Well, they can’t take time off from work. And just, if you when I think about our family sizes. The families that we serve three to four to five kids, even me with three kids, I have two that are similar [00:33:30] in age. So I go to two different schools. But when I think about like, hey, I got to get these two kids to this school. And then I got to get this other kid way down in Coconut Grove. And now he’s 14 and I’m thinking about, man, it would be great if I could afford a driver or I could afford a Lyft or Uber or something. And so when I think about autonomous vehicle, I’m thinking, okay, how will this change the landscape of [00:34:00] solving for some of those issues where families really do want their kids to go to really great schools and families don’t want to have their jobs jeopardized because they need that time.

 

I was reading an article earlier and it was just talking about the average person here in Miami spends a minimum of 35 minutes in their car. And we’re talking about minimum. And I was having a conversation with my friend earlier. And we were like, we wish we were in the car for only 35 minutes. We’re in the car [00:34:30] for like an hour 35 minutes. So how will autonomous vehicles change this dynamic of just basic things? I’m a mom, I need to get my kids to school and a 14 year old now, will they have the opportunity to have an autonomous car and drive themselves to school and can I afford it?

Or are there opportunities to create innovative ways for families to share or to in autonomous vehicles [00:35:00] to access better education? Or if I decided I wanted to move out of Overtown and move to a different neighborhood, I have to also consider transportation. How does autonomous vehicle change? How do you foresee changing or improving making decisions for the greater good of just your family. [00:35:30] I know that was loaded, but I have so many ideas.

 

Alex:             There are things that I can answer and things in which I can only speculate. What is the goal? The goal is that autonomous vehicles are as affordable, reliable, ubiquitous as electricity or air. That’s what we want. From a technical standpoint, they’re like anything else. [00:36:00] Inventions become innovations by becoming affordable at scale. Anybody can use them. Anybody can invent something, but if you can’t buy it and it’s not popular, it’s pointless. That takes time. And from a technical standpoint, it takes it just to work in one place before it works in more places. And eventually it works in a lot of places, but that takes time. It can take years. It can take decades. The [00:36:30] airplanes were a pipe dream. 20 years later, there was commercial service. And now we didn’t even think about it. Trains too, cars too. So autonomy will be like that.

 

The other component is even if it does work, when it does work in most places people want to go, generally someone else figures out how to make it a business. And there are many [00:37:00] businesses to be built around vehicles that can drive themselves. When you say you want to be able to get your kids to school safely over distance, a bunch of things have to happen. The technology itself has to be safe getting from A to B. There needs to be an app that allows you to book a ride, but optimally, a bunch of kids want to go to that same place, they ride together and costs are cut for the parents. And then there is [00:37:30] a minimum level of service that gets them, not just safely, but on time. And that’s a lot of moving parts.

 

Companies like Argo are starting out of the gate with commercial fleets that they operate and maintain and multiple partnerships with other companies in different cities with certain services that [00:38:00] may not look the same in different cities. So Argo is launching with Lyft. A robo taxi service in South Beach that will expand. I’m as impatient as anyone else. As a parent, I would love to be able to put my daughter, she’s three, so in a couple of years, in a vehicle potentially with other kids to get to school. Because I do the math like you do, like anybody. How many hours a day will I have to take off? [00:38:30] How many fewer hours of sleep will I have because I don’t have better choices? So the only answer is patience. These things are going to happen. Just patience. And eventually in some future date, people might even own a vehicle that’s capable of autonomy. When we say autonomy, meaning you don’t have to sit in the driver’s seat, which is different from what a [00:39:00] lot of people call self-driving, which is, it kind of helps me, but I still have to do something.

 

Tina Brown:  So, Alex, when I think about just kind of communities that we serve and the income levels of many of our families, what are your thoughts on just the affordability of an autonomous vehicle in communities like Overtown or Liberty City or Little Haiti.

 

Alex:             I think [00:39:30] that they will be like almost any other technology which was considered a luxury item in the beginning, like electric light bulbs and planes and even cars. And as more of them are manufacturer, the cost will come down and like almost everything we use today, the costs come down to the point where anyone can afford to use them. But that’s going to take time. If one can’t build a business around [00:40:00] operating a service, then no one can use it. And every company has to start somewhere. But there were people who made fun of the Wright brothers, like, oh, these rich guys building a plane, but actually the Wright brothers, they built bicycles before they built planes. That’s what they did. And interestingly, the Wright brothers weren’t even the ones to build a business and make flying affordable.

 

That was many other companies actually figured it out. And elevator is another great example. [00:40:30] I’m fascinated by the history of elevators because I think it’s maybe the closest to autonomous vehicles. Elevators were a luxury item for hundreds of years and they were not that safe. And it took a bunch of things to happen over the course of 20 years for them to become ubiquitous. And there’s a wonderful book and the author is on this podcast talking about out the book called Lifted a Cultural History of [00:41:00] Elevators and Andreas Bernhard. And he studied how they arrived in Europe, the United States, it was different. But prior to the elevator, buildings generally topped out at seven floors. The wealthy lived in the ground floor were a half step up because there was trash in the street and horse manure in the great and the servants lived on the upper floors and had to do the work of walking upstairs.

 

Sewage, communication, [00:41:30] all of life for the working class was upstairs in an urban center. And the concept of a tenement, that’s where that was from. So when elevators arrived that inverted. Suddenly, the wealthy wanted to live on top and everyone else was pushed down, which would’ve been considered a luxury for a long time. And elevators would not have become possible at all if the current war [00:42:00] over electrical grids between Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse had played out differently. Edison wanted every building to have basically a power plant downstairs or nearby. And Westinghouse wanted alternating current with which transmitted power over distance. And you could imagine, like what happened with highways tearing through this neighborhood and separating people. What would’ve happened if you had to start tearing down buildings and rebuilding them from scratch only to serve [00:42:30] the wealthy and the top floors.

 

And actually that did happen a lot of places. That’s what some gentrification looks like. But today elevators are commonplace. They are in buildings that need them where there’s demand there. Supply and autonomous vehicles I imagine will fall out exactly the same way. If people want them, someone will figure out how to build them affordably and make them affordable. What do we all want? To be safe and get places. And our loved ones too. So [00:43:00] I’m an optimist. I’m a skeptic, but I’m also an optimist. People usually figure it out. And if you think about even the phones we use and basic things we have. We’re lucky in a lot of ways. It is interesting when one considers mobility, you said is essential [00:43:30] to physical mobility in space is essential to upper mobility, economically. People will always find a way. If give them a carrot, they’ll take it, eat it and build a farm.

 

Tina Brown:  Absolutely. And just like you said earlier, when you think about the math of it. And so when you put things into perspective, and I know affordability was my initial question, [00:44:00] but when you think about the cost of sitting in traffic for thousands of hours a year or having to forego certain because of transportation, you really do the math. And you think about the long term benefit of a kid being able to get to school anywhere for [00:44:30] a better education. And you do the math and you think about, okay, the cost of an autonomous vehicle for some people we can do the math and say it’s worth it. And then for others you have to is it really, can you afford it? So there’s a question to of is it worth it? And then the question of can I really afford it?

 

Alex:             Well, it’s not worth it unless you can afford it. It’s not a good business. Time is wealth. The parent [00:45:00] who can’t sleep, the parent who can’t read the kid who has to drive himself. These are all being stolen from us.

 

Tina Brown:  Yeah. Yeah. So, no, I’m optimistic. And when I think about just autonomous vehicles, I think about them changing the dynamics of how we make decisions in our everyday lives to our greatest advantage.

 

Alex:             Well, the real original [00:45:30] definition of autonomous is freedom. So any vehicle that can move you better enables your autonomy. At least I hope that’s how it comes to be understood.

 

Tina Brown:  I’m hopeful. I’m excited. And I can’t wait to get a ride in one of these autonomous vehicles.

 

Alex:             Thanks so much, really enjoy talking to you.

 

Tina Brown:  Thank you, Alex.