The Los Angeles Auto Show marks the beginning of the major automotive shows around the world each year.  AutoMobility LA is technically the preview event that lasts nearly a week for the global press corps before the doors open to the public.

We bring our cameras, laptops, microphones… and personally, I still bring an old-school notepad and pen.

Big announcements are made, the future is predicted and shiny new products are rolled out with much fanfare.  It’s a spectacle.  And it’ of electric vehicles, autonomous drivings and more.

The future of mobility was on display in full-force… or at least some predictions and possible samples of it. Clinton “The Professor” Quan and I review AutoMobility LA and some of the LA Auto Show in this iDriveSoCal Podcast.

Click play to listen below, scroll through the pics and enjoy!

Black Byton M-Byte concept car parked at the LA Auto Show's Press Days as part of the iDriveSoCal 149 Podcast banner promoting AutoMobility LA - LA Auto Show's Press Days coverage

***Transcription***

Recorded December 3, 2018, @ Benztown Studios in Glendale, CA

AutoMobility LA 

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. I say it sing-song-y because it’s a pretty great place to live here in Southern California.

Clinton Quan: Absolutely.

Tom Smith: I mean, we pay for it, right?

Clinton Quan: We definitely pay for it.

Tom Smith: Financially. Mentally, with all the traffic we gotta deal with. But thankfully, if it wasn’t for all that traffic maybe iDriveSoCal wouldn’t be in existence, right?

Clinton Quan: Maybe it…

2018 LA Auto Show @ LA Convention Center - exterior of Convention Center entrance with attendees

Tom Smith: At any rate, thank you, Professor, for joining me. That is the good professor, Mr. Clinton Quan that you here there. Thank you for tuning in. I shouldn’t really say that, right? Because it’s a podcast. We’re not on the radio. But, whatever I’ll say it. I’ll continue to say it.

This podcast, as you know by the label because you obviously clicked play either on Spotify or Apple Podcast or Google Podcast or whatever podcatcher you’re using. Or you clicked play from iDriveSoCal.com. You know that this is our overview of the LA Auto Show by way of the Professor and my experience at Automobility LA, which is the LA Auto Show’s press days.

“…it’s a pretty great place to live, here in Southern California.”

This was pretty much my first big experience. I kind of dabbled with press days pre-iDriveSoCal. The Professor has done press days for a few years I believe, right?

Clinton Quan:    Yes.

Tom Smith: Basically, what the press days are is its industry focused. It’s what’s going on within the industry of the automotive business which is now really automotive as well as technology as the way that we move, i.e. mobility kind of comes to a gore point if you will. A convergence.

The Trade Show within the LA Auto Show

It was really, really interesting on a number of levels. The press days started on Monday, I didn’t attend Monday but there were some events going on Monday that were women in the automotive industry.

Then, I believe their start-up competition… not the start-up competition, code… I did a podcast on this with Alexis Evans and it was the hackathon but they’re not calling it the hackathon. It’s a hackathon that’s not called a hackathon was part of Sunday/Monday.

Byton M-Byte Concept on Stage @ AutoMobility LA 2018 - Crowd snaps cell-phone pics during presentation

Tuesday I was there all day. Wednesday I was there all day, as well. Then, Thursday we were there together.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Monday night you attended.

Clinton Quan: I attended the two receptions that took place on Monday night. Those were the kick-off parties for Automobility LA.

Tom Smith: Food and drink and all the other press junkies at the press junket.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Tuesday was an interesting day because… So the press days take place primarily in these two huge tents that are outside of the Convention Center.

“…what’s going on within the industry of the automotive business which is now really automotive as well as technology…”

The Convention Center, of course, for anybody listening outside of LA, the Convention Center is right next to Staple Center where the Lakers play and the Clippers play and the Kings play and lots of concerts and what not. Right downtown LA. They call the area LA Live.

They put these two huge tents outside that house the press days because the first few days start there and then Thursday opens up the inside of the Auto Show and that’s when basically us press folk…

Byton M-Byte Concept Front-view w/ white

Clinton Quan: Wednesday.

Tom Smith: Wednesday?

Clinton Quan: Yeah. The major press events took place on Wednesday.

Auto Industry Meets Tech Industry

Tom Smith: Okay. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. That’s when they open up and we transition from the tents outside to actually inside for the Convention Center where the Auto Show is for the masses, where you may be going to the Auto Show. Maybe you’re on your way to the Auto Show right now as you’re listening to the podcast.

Byton M-Byte Concept Passenger-side front-view - Futuristic white lines enhancing headlights

The press days were super cool and kind of coincide with one of the reasons I started the iDriveSoCal podcast and website and that is this crazy convergence between automotive and technology.

Big discussion was, and Professor you weren’t there for this, and I don’t even think we’ve talked about it yet, but a big discussion was around V2X. Software and hardware that focuses on V2X.

What that is is vehicle to whatever communication. As we advance in autonomy, cars starting to drive themselves, our cars are going to be talking to many different things. It was fascinating.

Byton M-Byte Concept Driverside Profile w/ AutoMobility LA attendee examining vehicle through driver's window

I’m gonna have some podcasts where some of the heads of these companies, because they are start-up companies that are doing this. Nobody is really doing it. But the start-up companies are partnering with the big manufacturers and what not.

But the concept that our car is going to talk to the city’s grid. Our car is going to act as… But nobody knows anything for sure. It’s all theory. That’s the crazy thing, right?

“…one of the reasons I started the iDriveSoCal podcast and website and that is this crazy convergence between automotive and technology.”

I went there thinking, the solid plan is going to be laid out or the solid plans are gonna be start to laid out. But they’re not because nobody knows.

Nobody Knows Nothin’

William Goldman is a Hollywood screenwriter and he’s known as a Godfather as Hollywood screenwriting. He wrote “Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid,” I think I’m getting his name right. He coined a term or a phrase that I think applies to so many other businesses and so many other states of the industry. To paraphrase, “Nobody knows nothing,” is what he said…

Byton M-Byte Concept Full Dash Digital display and digital steering wheel disaply

Nobody knows nothing is what William Goldman said about the Hollywood business, about how movies get made.

I think we’re definitely in an area right now where everything is being figured out about mobility, about the autonomous element of mobility and it’s happening, for sure. It’s the how of it but everybody is working on it now.

All the major manufacturers are working on it, the major technology companies are working on it, you got the Waymos doing their thing out there, you got Uber doing its thing.

“…a big discussion was around V2X… What that is is vehicle to whatever communication.”

The whole concept that your car is, well, it’s a computer on wheels already. New cars are. They just are. But your car is going to talk to other things.

Your car is going to talk to other cars, your car is going to talk to the parking meter, your car is going to talk to parking structures, your car will act as a credit card, your car will talk to your phone.

Byton M-Byte Concept Digital Dash display showing driver and passenger images, heart-rate and digital monitor in dash replacing rear-view mirror

The other concept of car sharing where I’m going to walk up and access a car that isn’t mine, that I’m basically renting. That one I have a hard time wrapping my head around because – and we’ve talked about this, Professor – you’ve got a ton of stuff in your car. I got a ton of stuff in my car.

Clinton Quan: Oh yeah.

Are You Going to Share Your Car?

Tom Smith: My wife has a ton of stuff in her car. My son’s car seat. How that whole car sharing is going to do, I don’t know. I think we’re always going to have cars.

Anyway, that was my take on press days. It was a lot of fun to talk to some of these companies, and again, we’re going to do a podcast where it’s the vehicle talking to other things. The crazy thing is, the crazy realization is really nobody knows anything.

Byton M-Byte Concept Digital Steering Wheel Display showing climate status for each of the vehicle's four seats

Everybody is up on stage with their theories. And if you read between the lines.  Some of the panel discussions that they had in some of these sessions, people were experts but they were experts on stage saying two different things. Two different theories. We’re going two different directions.

Clinton Quan: Oh yeah, I’ve heard the same thing, too.

“Level 5 autonomy is… go anywhere on its own at any time… not only streets but perhaps off-road…”

Tom Smith: For instance, this is something that I’ve shared on the podcast before and that someone opened my eyes to. One of the CEOs of one of the software companies of the V2X technology. We were kicking around the idea of how autonomy is gonna be rolled out. Level five autonomy is cars gonna go anywhere on its own at any time.

Clinton Quan: Yes, that’s fully autonomous.

Tom Smith: That’s a long way out because that means a car has to recognize not only streets but perhaps off-road even, that’s literally what level five autonomy…

Byton M-Byte Concept Rear-view - Futuristic red lines for brake-lights

Clinton Quan: They have to be able to do everything by itself.

Tom Smith: That’s what level five autonomy is considered by way of the standard understanding that everybody is accepting of the levels of autonomy as described by the SAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers. I have a podcast on that explaining the levels of autonomous driving.

Autonomous Driving and Big Brother

Level four autonomy is more realistic. That is it can find area where the car is able to operate on its own but only within that confined area. When you think about where we are right now as a society, it’s like, that confined area could be a city, right?

“…but they were experts on stage saying two different things. Two different theories… going two different directions.”

In theory, and this goes back to the conversation I was having with this one V2X CEO, in theory, our car pulls up to the city. In order to enter that city, our car needs to have the capacity to communicate with the city’s grid. We’re hands-off as we enter the city, the car is being run by the city grid.

So, in theory, level four autonomy that makes perfect sense, right? He posed an interesting question that I hadn’t thought of. What about the big brother factor? You really want the city running your car?

Byton M-Byte Concept Passenger-side front-view - Futuristic white lines enhancing headlights

I thought, “That’s interesting.” I don’t know that that’s right or wrong. Nobody knows what’s right or wrong but what I was thinking is that’s a good point. Maybe my idea of my car, your car, everyone’s cars communicating with the city grid is a big brother-ish kind of issue. However, right? I know…

Clinton Quan: It could be. Maybe not.

“Maybe… my car, your car, everyone’s cars communicating with the city grid is a big brother-ish kind of issue.”

Tom Smith: But, then as I’m going to the next day of the Automobility LA, driving there, I got into the express lane, which I pay for. Isn’t that kind of along the same lines of big brother-ish kind of issue?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: I don’t know. I share that because people ask me all the time. They’re like, “You do this podcast thing in iDriveSoCal and future mobility, what do you think?” The interesting thing is, nobody really knows.

Autonomous Driving Levels 4 & 5

Clinton Quan: That’s true. No one really knows. There’s a lot of theories out there. There are people out there who think that maybe it will happen in just literally a few more years.

Realistically, I don’t see that happening. There is just so many other factors involved. When you’re talking about fully autonomous vehicles, you’re talking about having cities maintaining the streets properly and if that doesn’t happen, the cars won’t be able to fully drive themselves.

“There are people out there who think that maybe it will happen in just literally a few more years.”

Tom Smith: By fully autonomous in a city, you’re talking about really level four, not level five. Level five is going anywhere any time.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, but we’re talking about cities, counties…

Tom Smith: Yes. Because the car has to communicate with the road. It has to communicate with obstructions. It has to communicate with everything.

Infinti Concept Driver-side front-view 2018 LA Auto Show - Sleek, gray low-profile, one-seat and no windshield

Clinton Quan: They have to be able to detect the lanes, the barriers, signage, road markings, speed feedback signs, all of that.

Tom Smith: All of that and then some. And it has to make decisions.

“…fully autonomous in a city, you’re talking about really level four, not level five. Level five is going anywhere any time.”

Clinton Quan: It has to make decisions.

Tom Smith: Another podcast I did with Consumer Watchdog Group earlier this year and they posed an interesting question.

The car has a decision to make, does it potentially hurt somebody outside of the car or does it potentially hurt somebody inside of the car? An accident and impact is imminent, it’s going to happen. Who does the car put at risk?

Infinit Concept Rear-view 2018 LA Auto Show - Sleek, gray, low-profile and no windshield

To put it more bluntly, I think John Simpson was the gentleman’s name who I did the podcast with from Consumer Watchdog Group and he said, “Who does the car kill?” Kind of a morbid way of looking at it but it’s one of the many factors. That’s why…

Autonomous Transition and New EVs

Clinton Quan: That’s not something a lot of people are talking about because everyone thinks with fully autonomous vehicles, we’re gonna have zero deaths.

Tom Smith: Right. But there’s gonna be growing pains getting there.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

“The car has a decision to make, does it potentially hurt somebody outside of the car or does it potentially hurt somebody inside of the car?”

Tom Smith: That’s the thing. That’s what society has to accept and embrace and in theory, I think I have said those two words together many times in this podcast but in theory, that’s great. As long as it’s nobody I know, care for, or love.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Anybody getting hurt or worse is unacceptable but it’s just fascinating.

We’re at a time right now in history that we’ve done this before. When horses were going away and buggies were going away and horseless carriages and cars were taking over the roads.

It would be interesting to go back and I don’t even know who would have any historical data on that. Maybe AAA?

Infiniti Concept Passenger-side profile 2018 LA Auto Show - Sleek, gray, one-seat and no windshield

Just how issues were addressed and dealt with back then. Obviously, those were simpler times. That was far less population, far less technology, far less … But, nonetheless, there are some parallels, some similarities that can be drawn, right?

Clinton Quan: Absolutely.

Tom Smith: So, that was the one thing that I really wanted to point out about press days. Other than that, you have some really interesting electric vehicles that are being introduced.

“We’re at a time right now in history that we’ve done this before. When horses were going away and buggies were going away and… and cars were taking over the roads.”

Not the first electric vehicle companies to be introduced that make a big fanfare and then maybe we hear about and maybe we don’t in the future. Interesting nonetheless.

That kind of falls in line with a whole bunch of really cool concept vehicles that were out there in the show.

All-New Hondas and Toyotas 

Because at the end of press days, we got to go walk the floors just like everybody else will be able to and is doing right now. I guess the take away for the concept cars overall is just really electrification and automization.

Is that a word, automization? It is, right?

Clinton Quan: I think it is.

Tom Smith: If not, I just made up a word.

Tom Smith: But the idea of your car not only being electric but being more of a living room sitting area, which, again isn’t new.

1930's Auto Show Cartoon that could easily apply to auto shows of today

If you go to concept cars back 40-50 years ago, they were theorizing that that was gonna be the case, right? It seems we’re getting closer.

Clinton Quan: Yes, we are getting closer.

Tom Smith: As we mentioned, the Honda Passport, cool one that is coming out. The Passport is gonna be between the Pilot and the CR-V. We’ve done a podcast about that. That was a cool thing from Honda. For a shout out to our friends at Rock Honda.

White 2019 Honda Passport

Tom Smith: The Toyota Rav4, new one coming out, when is that going to be available in dealerships?

Clinton Quan: I don’t know if a date has been announced yet.

Gray 2019 Toyota RAV4

Tom Smith: So, we’re probably assuming…

Clinton Quan: I would think it’s gonna be some time…

Tom Smith: Late Q1, early Q2-ish, something like that.

Clinton Quan: If I were to guess at this point. It was also shown at the Orange County International Auto Show.

History of the VW Beetle 

Tom Smith: So, we’re theorizing on that one. Volkswagen, I did a sit-down podcast with Mark Gillies who is the senior product communication manager for Volkswagen America.

iDSC's Tom Smith & VW of America's Mark Gillies in front of a vintage black Volkswagen Beetle

We did a really cool podcast during press days at the Volkswagen booth which is still being constructed and we did a piece on the history of the Beetle as the Beetle rounds the last year that the Beetle is gonna be available for Volkswagen.

Those are my takeaways from the LA Auto Show and Press Days as I hog the first many minutes of this podcast, Professor. Thank you for chiming in on your thoughts but what were your takeaways on what you saw?

Blue & white customized VW Race Buggy lifted w/ off-road tires

Clinton Quan: Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time during press days as I’ve done in the past but as always, I always enjoy the kick-off receptions that took place on Monday.

Tom Smith: Professor doesn’t miss a party that has to do with cars.

Clinton Quan: Yes. Didn’t see a whole lot of cars at those two events but definitely lots of food and drinks and entertainment so that was a fun time.

Gray 2019 VW Beetle Convertible w/ top down and show attendees pointing and taking pictures

Then, in terms of Thursday, there were a few press events. I didn’t go to most of that but I did walk around the floor of the Convention Center and I got to check out a number of new vehicles so that was exciting as always and mingling with the other media as well.

Tom Smith: What cars stick out? You know, we’ll hold the top five for now.

Clinton Quan: Yes, we’ll hold the top five but definitely there was a…

LA Auto Show Top-5

Tom Smith: We’re gonna do a podcast on the Professor’s top five of the LA Auto Show which will bring us full circle because a year ago, that was our first podcast that you and I did together was your top five.

Clinton Quan: The very first one, yes.

Tom Smith: We’re gonna do that in another podcast but we’ll tease that in this podcast.

Clinton Quan: Yes, we’ll tease that. Well, there’s definitely been a lot of attention for the mostly Porsche 911.

Tom Smith: It’s getting a nice spread. Boy, do we have a nice lunch at their booth, huh?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, that was a really, really nice reception with the turkey and the sea bass and they had numerous Porsche 911s there and that’s actually a 2020 model. There’s also been a lot of talk about the all-new Jeep Gladiator. There’s been a lot of press coverage about that. That’s their new midsize pick-up truck and that’s a true…

Tom Smith: Midsize but it looks really long.

Clinton Quan: The one that they had smack dab right in the center, that one looks longer because the gate was down and then they also had the off-road bikes on there. I saw another one right next to it and that one looked shorter and I was told they are actually exactly the same length.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: But it is a midsize pick-up truck

Tom Smith: You just jogged my memory, I gotta butt in with one other thing that I wanted to note about press days. Volvo, day one of the show being open had no cars at their display.

Clinton Quan: Correct.

Volvo Services & Car Contracting

Tom Smith: A huge display and no cars because they wanted to focus on all the services. The fact that Amazon will be able to deliver to your trunk of your Volvo.

Google Android, I believe, is it Android or is it just Google? Anyway, Google/Android has an operating system that is kind of running everything on the car.

“…manufacturers have tinkered with subscription services like our phones… Your insurance is covered, the maintenance is covered, everything is covered…”

Then, of course, they have their subscription service which may or may not live on. It’ll be interesting to see. I know rumor had it, Cadillac subscription service.

And for those of you that don’t know, the subscription service is some of the manufacturers have tinkered with subscription services like our phones. Like all in one. Your insurance is covered, the maintenance is covered, everything is covered, the car is covered.

“…Cadillac is suspending theirs as of December first. Rumor had it.”

Clinton Quan: Yeah, they have a program where you can swap out different vehicles. I think it was something like $1,900 a month or something.

Tom Smith: But Cadillac is killing theirs.

Clinton Quan: Correct.

Tom Smith: Excuse me, not killing, Cadillac is suspending theirs as of December first. Rumor had it. Well, I guess…

Clinton Quan: From what I heard, yeah.

Tom Smith: I guess we would know that by now because we’re recording this on December third. Obviously, suspension means… but that at the same time, it seems Porsche, what they’re doing is going well and they are gonna charge more for it.

Clinton Quan: That’s completely different though.

Tom Smith: Different buyer, different car.

Clinton Quan: It’s a completely different segment, yeah.

Tom Smith: You can switch out the little pocket rocket that you get to drive from time to time.

Clinton Quan: When you’re talking about Porsche, you’re really talking about more of a boutique automaker.

Would You Subscribe to ‘Own’ Your Car?

Tom Smith: Enthusiast.

Clinton Quan: Yes, enthusiast and people in that segment that are looking for a car in that segment, they’re looking for something different all the time, right?

Infiniti Concept Front-view 2018 LA Auto Show - Sleek, gray, one-seat and no windshield

They have so many different vehicles in their garage and just look at the 911. Look at how many iterations they have, right? They’re constantly coming out with a brand new 911. They want the latest.

Tom Smith: Yup.

Clinton Quan: Cadillac, that’s completely different because they have an entire range of luxury vehicles, but quite honestly, the typical Cadillac buyer will not wanna spend $2,000 a month.

Karlman King Passenger-side Profile - Looks like cross between a stealth bomber and a SUV Batman would drive

Tom Smith: Yeah. I think that might have been GM’s attempt to kind of reach and maybe not the right way for their buyers, the younger tech-savvy market. I don’t know. It makes sense that Porsche is having success with it and Cadillac is struggling with it.

Karlman King Passenger-side front-view - Looks like a cross between a stealth bomber and Batman's tank-like SUV

Clinton Quan: If you’re spending that much on a Cadillac, you’re probably just gonna wanna drive the top of the line CT6, the Escalade and then maybe the CTS-V and you really probably aren’t gonna care for any of the other vehicles, quite honestly.

“It’s a really cool thing. We’re at a time, a transitionary time where we know change is afoot.”

Tom Smith: And for that much money, if you put enough down, you can probably buy or lease two of those vehicles, two of the three that you would be driving, right?

Clinton Quan: They’re probably gonna get two of those. Yes. Easily for that price.

Karlman King Front-view - Looks like a stealth bomber meets a matte black tank

Tom Smith: Yeah. So, we slid off topic. Well, not really off topic but the Volvo subscription model, we’ll see. It’s interesting.

Again, this goes back to what I was saying earlier. In so many things it’s like, nobody really knows. But that’s the exciting thing. It’s a really cool thing. We’re at a time, a transitionary time where we know change is afoot.

Vertical Take-Off and Landing Vehicle

Clinton Quan: It’ll be interesting to see five years down the road who is right and who is wrong.

Tom Smith: Yep. I’m sorry, that just jogged my memory again on something else. Flying cars. I know.

Clinton Quan: I think we’re even further away from that. Quite honestly.

Tom Smith: Agreed. But there was one, and I gotta sync up with this guy. There was one CEO from the start-up competition because part of Automobility LA, they had a start-up competition and they did the top ten start-ups and then they whittled it down to three and then the number one.

Tom Smith: One of the top ten was a company called EVA or Eva, I believe. It was a former Tesla engineer, he lives in France and his company is based in Toulouse, if I’m pronouncing that correctly.

“…it’s a vertical take-off and landing vehicle… where the wings tilt up for vertical takeoff and then as the wings rotate, the vehicle is propelled forward.”

They have, it’s not a flying car, it’s a vertical take-off and landing vehicle that basically takes off and lands like an Osprey. An osprey is a military vehicle where the wings tilt up for vertical takeoff and then as the wings rotate, the vehicles is propelled forward.

Supposedly they are going to be test flying in both France and up in Silicon Valley within, I think he said three months, six months, maybe really soon.

Clinton Quan: Wow, that’s pretty soon.

Tom Smith: I chatted with him. He agreed to do a podcast with me and he agreed to invite me to the Silicon Valley test flight. But it was interesting.

He had no real images or no real video of the vehicle actually flying. I know Professor, I’m super skeptical on all this stuff too, but it just jogs the fascination.

Clinton Quan: Is he gonna do a test flight down here to SoCal? And pick you up?

2018 LA Auto Show Press Days

Tom Smith: That might be…

Clinton Quan: Would you go?

Tom Smith: I don’t know. Probably not. Now that I’m a dad. No. I think I want them to iterate a few times to make sure that we have some serious safety precautions before I go.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Monitor displaying AutoMobility LA 2018 text over blue-sky and white-cloud background

Tom Smith: So, I’m sorry. I took us off topic a couple of times. What were other takeaways that you had had from the Automobility LA which was the precursor to the LA Auto Show?

Clinton Quan: Let’s see, we talked about Porsche, we talked about Jeep. The other vehicle that got a lot of press coverage was the Mazda 3 which comes in both sedan and hatchback. It’s got a real premium feel to it so it really is in a class in itself among the compact vehicles.

“…stay tuned for the Professor’s Top-5 picks from the 2018 LA Auto Show.”

Tom Smith: Yup. All right. Okay, well Professor, unless there is anything else, we’re gonna wrap this one up. But, stay tuned for the Professor’s Top-5 picks from the 2018 LA Auto Show.

For iDriveSoCal, I am Tom Smith, that was the Professor, Mr. Clinton Quan. Thank you, as always, for tuning in.