How far in the future might our concept of transportation be completely different?

Mobility is being reimagined in seemingly all corners of the world – especially here in Southern California.  From start-ups to established companies; how we humans and are stuff gets from points A to B is evolving and everyone is getting in on the action.

In a prime example of old meeting new; The Petersen Automotive Museum recently partnered with Japan House, a new cultural center here in Los Angeles, for an evening event titled Reimaging Mobility in Los Angeles.  iDriveSoCal’s Professor, Clinton Quan, and I both attended.

Learn what might be in store for the future of mobility here in Los Angeles, and urban areas around the world, in this iDriveSoCal Podcast.  And check out those crazy contraptions in the picture gallery – whoa!

Picture of a robotic kangaroo sitting on the floor of an office as part of an iDriveSoCal 115 banner stating Reimaging Mobility The Future of Moving People & Stuff

***Transcript***

Recorded August 21, 2018, in Los Angeles, CA

Automotive History & The Future of Mobility

Tom Smith: It’s a futuristic looking, three-wheeled reverse tricycle that who knows what pieces and parts of that will actually make it into anything that’s mass produced but an interesting piece of possible future mobility. Moving on to the next gadget.

Clinton Quan: Think of it as a circular suitcase that just follows you wherever you go.

Tom Smith: The last little piece of robotic technology innovation prototype that they had.  If you can picture a cross between a skateboard and a robotic centipede, that’s what this thing is.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal the podcast, all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States – Southern California. Tom Smith here with the good Professor, Mr.

Clinton Quan. Say hello, Clinton.

“Think of it as a circular suitcase that just follows you wherever you go.”

Clinton Quan: Hi, Tom.

Tom Smith: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Today’s podcast, Reimagining Mobility For Los Angeles with Japan House, hosted at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

The good Professor and I attended this event just a few days ago and it was an interesting event because you think the Petersen Automotive Museum and obviously you think about cars and the history of cars and they have some phenomenal exhibits there, world-renowned. Literally, Petersen is one of the top automotive museums on the planet.

And so, and I did a podcast – if you haven’t checked it out, check it out sometime, with the Executive Director, Terry Karges almost a year ago now.

But, we just kind of did an overview but Terry touched base on how The Petersen is really embracing not only the past and what automotive has been but the future and what mobility might become.

And they’re doing that in a number of different ways, hosting this event in association with the Japan House is one of them.

The Petersen Museum Hosts Future Tech

The Professor and I attended the event and it was interesting, it was in the evening and they had a few different presentations and then a panel of discussion by the presenters. And the Japan House has, the Japan House is a new, well I guess it’s a cultural center, right?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, you could call it a cultural center.

Tom Smith: And it’s at Hollywood and…

Clinton Quan: A cultural center and I guess, a retail shop. At Hollywood and Highland.

Tom Smith: Okay, and they are, and there’s three of them so far and the country of Japan, the Japanese Embassy, I guess, has to do with it. And they have one here in Los Angeles, they have one in Sao Paulo, Brazil and they have one in London.

Prototype robot with wheels, legs and a camera that looks like an eye in front.

Skateboard Meets Robotic Centipede

A couple of the speakers were on hand and they were Japanese. One of them we could hardly understand, quite honestly but he also had the coolest gadgets there that they demoed later and they had three different robot kind of things.

Tom Smith: But Professor, why don’t you just kind of take us through some of the event and then I’ll chime back in as well?

Clinton Quan: Okay. Yeah, there were several speakers. One was a Professor Yamanaka and he showcased the, it’s basically like a three-wheeled vehicle but the two in the front – there’s actually two wheels in the front and then one in the back.

Tom Smith: Right.

Clinton Quan: Which was really, really interesting.

“…it’s basically like a three-wheeled vehicle but the two in the front…”

Tom Smith: So, it’s kind of like the Can-Am thing, right? The Can-Am…

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: The reverse tricycle.

Reverse-trike / Bird Scooter

Clinton Quan: That’s a good description on a much smaller scale.

Tom Smith: It’s like a cross between the Can-Am reverse tricycle and a Bird scooter, yes. Right? And it was interesting… The application, they showed us a video and the application that they had was a young student.

It looked like he was on a college campus and the three-wheeled scooter thing wanted to keep on following him. And it did and the idea, so the idea was an alternative form of mobility and specifically for urban areas and college campuses as well.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: But so this thing followed him around wherever he went.

And they almost, in the video, they almost displayed it as a pet kind of thing. It had a, it had… You’re giving me a weird look right now, Professor.

But it had, the video that they used to demonstrate and illustrate this thing, the way that it followed the student around the campus, they gave it like, a little bit of a personality.

Robotic kangaroo sitting on the floor

Reverse tricycle meets an electric scooter

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And like it was a dog that wanted to come to school with them or something like that. And maybe you have to be a dog owner to understand what I’m talking about.

Clinton Quan: Probably, yes. Since I don’t have any pets.

Tom Smith: But, so that was a pretty interesting gadget and then what was the…

“…it sounds like this is something that would be primarily used on colleges or university campuses or maybe a work environment that’s similar to that.”

Clinton Quan: Well, and I just wanted to mention based on my conversation it sounds like this is something that would be primarily used on colleges or university campuses or maybe a work environment that’s similar to that. Not…

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: Really something, it’s definitely not something that you would ride on sidewalks or in the street.

Imagination Capturing Mobility Technology

Tom Smith: I mean look, it was really cool.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And the first thing I thought of is like, yeah right, this thing, you’re gonna leave this thing behind and it’s gonna be gone before you turn the corner.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: I mean, there’s no chance this thing’s not getting stolen in an urban setting.

Clinton Quan: I don’t know what the weight is on it, I was also very curious about the range but I wasn’t able to obtain any additional information on that.

Tom Smith: You didn’t stay late and get a ride?

“I was also very curious about the range but I wasn’t able to obtain any additional information on that.”

Clinton Quan: No, no. I asked about it but they didn’t have any details.

Tom Smith: You asked about getting a ride on the thing?

Clinton Quan: No, no. I did, but they said yeah, there’s no demos allowed and they didn’t have any information on the range.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: And information on the weight either.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So then, the other gadgets they had there. I guess I think I came up – ’cause we don’t even, we couldn’t-

“Who knows if they’re ever gonna see the light of day from a mass production standpoint.”

Clinton Quan: Oh, the other one is the, it’s basically a cargo droid. It’s almost completely circular.

Tom Smith: Oh, wait a minute. Wait. Before we move on, the name of that one. And by the way, all these robotic things.

I snapped a pic of each one, we’ll have all three pics on iDriveSoCal.com so you’ll see what we’re talking about. They’re very futuristic, very interesting looking. Who knows if they’re ever gonna see the light of day from a mass production standpoint.

This is the kind of stuff that people are working on to address the problem of congestion and mobility in the future.

Motorized Suitcase that Follows You

And in the future in urban settings such as Los Angeles. So, I’m sorry, the name of this three-wheeled contraption?

Clinton Quan: Canguro. But it’s spelled C-A-N-G-U-R-O.

Tom Smith: Yeah, but what was the first part of the name?

Clinton Quan: Oh, I believe the full name is RidRoid Canguro. I believe that’s the full name.

Tom Smith: Okay. But before we turn the mics on, Professor’s trying not to say this, I’m trying to get him to say it but he’s trying not to say it. Is this actually what it was called or was this just what were you messing up the name?

“I believe the full name is RidRoid Canguro. I believe that’s the full name.”

Clinton Quan: I believe that’s what it’s called.

Tom Smith: Go ahead, say it.

Clinton Quan: RidRoid Canguro.

Tom Smith: That’s not what you were saying! Okay, so he was saying “the Ride Roid”.

Clinton Quan: Oh, you know what, I think you’re right.

Tom Smith: And I said “What?”

Circular plastic suitcase with wheels blue glowing lights.

Plastic circular suitcase that knows who you are and follows you around.

Clinton Quan: I think you are right.

Tom Smith: Three times, like what?

Clinton Quan: I think you are right maybe.

Tom Smith: I mean-

Clinton Quan: I’ll have to look it up.

Tom Smith: It sounds like something you need Preparation H for, obviously but okay. Nevertheless, the Ride-Roid Canguro.

“…think of it as a circular suitcase that just follows you wherever you go.”

It’s a futuristic looking, three-wheeled reverse tricycle that who knows what pieces and parts of that will actually make it into anything that’s mass produced but an interesting piece of possible future mobility. Moving on to the next gadget.

Clinton Quan: The Gita, which is a cargo droid.

Tom Smith: A cargo droid. So, this thing was interesting and you’ll see this posted on iDriveSoCal.com as well. It’s basically like a, it looks like a hard plastic beach ball that has-

Clinton Quan: Or think of it as a circular suitcase that just follows you wherever you go.

Creating Tech to Creating Tech

Tom Smith: There you go, okay.

Clinton Quan: Right?

Tom Smith: Right. And yeah, that’s actually not bad. A circular suitcase that just follows you around. So, the idea is you’re on the college campus or you’re in the urban setting and you-

Clinton Quan: Maybe you have a lot of books to carry, right?

Tom Smith: Yeah, or you’re walking around.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And – which quick sidebar, the funny thing about all these scooters, the Bird scooters and the Lime scooters and whatever, it’s like they’re trying to solve that problem of how do we fix the problem of the final mile?

The final mile, we can get people from 23 miles out by train or bus or whatever but that final mile, final mile, we got it and the scooters, oh my gosh, they’re the solution for the final mile. But I think that’s hilarious because of all the heart disease, obesity and diabetes and all the problems from inactivity.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

“You’re tailgating for a football game and you’ve got your Gita walking around behind you with your cold beers back there. That thing’s getting stolen real quick too.”

Tom Smith: We gotta find something for that final mile. Anyway, so the circular suitcase that’s on wheels, that follows you around. This is something that is designed, hey, it’s designed for you to walk around but it’s designed for carrying your items while you walk around.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, maybe you went to the grocery store, you have so much stuff or maybe hey, I have my son with me and I’m carrying him and the stuff from the market is in the, what is this thing called?

Clinton Quan: The Gita.

Tom Smith: The Gita.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Gita.

Clinton Quan: G-I-T-A.

Tom Smith: G-I-T-A?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Technology Extracted from Prototypes 

Tom Smith: The Gita. So, yeah. So, there’s this thing and the interesting thing about this. As I mentioned, one of the pieces that are actually, one of the pieces of technology that might be extracted from this – if not the whole thing. you would think that the Gita is – ’cause it’s not tethered, right?

Clinton Quan: No.

Tom Smith: It’s an electric motor that’s following you around. And you would think that oh, well you just put a receiver or something or transmitter in your pocket.

Or download an app on your phone and that’s the signal that it follows. No, that’s not actually the case.

They ran a video on this too which was interesting because it showed what the Gita sees. And it literally has sight, right? Electronic sight but…

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: I guess they were referring to this as AI, were they not?

Clinton Quan: I believe so.

“And it literally has sight, right? Electronic sight…”

Tom Smith: So, it identifies people walking-

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: And it identifies a dog walking but it sets its target on you and then you can walk into a group of people and this thing is going to constantly scan and see electronically, it breaks down to the math, right?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: It breaks down to the digits. This thing actually sees – and that’s the AI component of it, where you are, which people you are not and which people you are and follow you. So, that’s pretty interesting.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. ‘Cause imagine you’re at a major event such as a sporting event or a concert.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: And you’ve got… Or let’s say you’re at the LA Auto Show, right?

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tech Solutions that Create More Problems

Tom Smith: Yeah, a sporting event. You’re tailgating for a football game and you’ve got your Gita walking around behind you with your cold beers back there. That thing’s getting stolen real quick too.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So, yeah. Anything to add about that before we move on to the next one?

Clinton Quan: I’m wondering if there’s gonna be some sort of alarm on it.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: A security system.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: Somebody picks it up if it if there’s no more contact to the ground.

Tom Smith: Yeah. All this stuff you gotta assume LoJack is, or the concept thereof. Of course, you know the Bird scooters, those things are… Well, you saw it. Did you see the article recently? I want to say it was on Fox.

Clinton Quan: I know there’s been a number of articles about scooters lately.

Tom Smith: People are getting so frustrated with the Bird scooters in the Venice area-

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: That they’re throwing them in the Harbor, in Marina Del Rey.

Clinton Quan: Oh, I didn’t hear about that.

“I’m wondering if there’s gonna be some sort of alarm on it.”

Tom Smith: They’re burying them in the sand in Venice.

Clinton Quan: Really?

Tom Smith: They’re cutting them in half and throwing them in the Venice Canals. Yeah, people are getting creative with their destructivity, their destructive behavior towards these things.

Clinton Quan: So, this is their own and they don’t want it anymore or?

Tom Smith: No, this is the Bird scooter, the Bird scooter doesn’t … Are you familiar with the Bird scooter? They don’t belong to anybody.

Clinton Quan: Oh!

Tom Smith: You just download the app.

Clinton Quan: Oh, okay. I see what you’re saying. Got it, okay. I’m just thinking of scooters in general.

Interesting Tech – But What’s it Really For?

Tom Smith: No, no. You just download the app.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And you go in and you pick one of these things up.

Clinton Quan: Okay.

Tom Smith: And I think it was a dollar a minute.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And you’re riding the scooter. But, so people are destroying these things ’cause they’re so tired of them just being strewn all across the public places. So anyway.

“…it’s functionality was quite insane and it was, you gotta look at the picture but even the picture doesn’t do this thing justice because it does so much more than what you see in the picture.”

Tom Smith: So then the last little piece of robotic technology innovation prototype that they had – and this thing was kind of crazy because we were, it was really neat to look at and watch but it was kind of like, well, what application does this thing actually have?

Clinton Quan: It looked more like a toy.

Tom Smith: It did look like a toy. But it’s functionality was quite insane and it was, you gotta look at the picture but even the picture doesn’t do this thing justice because it does so much more than what you see in the picture.

So basically this last little robot is if you can picture a cross between a skateboard and a robotic centipede, that’s what this thing is.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: And it could, of course, roll forward or roll backward or it had many wheels, right? Like a centipede has many legs…

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: The skateboard had many wheels and it could turn, so it could kind of do obviously turns, curves, whatever, snake/slither its way down whatever terrain it’s going.

But then it could also flip on its axle, so each wheel is actually only on, it’s on an axle but then it’s open, the axle’s open on one side.

Fascinating Mechanical Functionality 

So, each wheel could literally pop up and then the thing is on its axle and the axle acts as a leg – it could walk around like it had legs but then it also could flip over to wheels.

And then they also demonstrated how it could take a stair and basically, it recognizes stairs and one wheel, one set of wheels pops up and then the thing… But, we were baffled at actually what it was, like, wow, that’s neat, you know?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: I mean, how many hundreds of thousands of dollars or perhaps more has gone into that. But again, this is all, you know, hey, what little piece of technology might come out of that, that could be applied to something else, could make a very interesting thing.

So, I guess all these things are on display not at Petersen Automotive Museum.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: The event was just there but actually on display at the Japan House, yeah?

Clinton Quan: I would think so.

Tom Smith: Okay. I know I saw them on their website.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

“…it recognizes stairs and one wheel, one set of wheels pops up…”

Tom Smith: We haven’t been to Japan House yet.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: I’m gonna reach out to them, we’ll do a podcast with those guys.

Clinton Quan: I’m not sure at the time we went to the event if it had been open yet to the public.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: But I believe by now it is. If not, then this coming weekend.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So, at any rate, interesting mobility event at, with an interesting mix, right?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Petersen has definitely given a nod to Japanese automakers.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: More than a nod.

Flying Cars Will be Real – Really!??!?

Clinton Quan: There’s a Japanese automotive exhibit.

Tom Smith: At Petersen right now?

Clinton Quan: Yeah. Some gorgeous and incredible Japanese classic cars. So, I highly recommend visiting the Petersen for this exhibit.

Tom Smith: Always, always a fun time to go to the Petersen. Actually, they have a nice restaurant in there now too.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. Drago.

Tom Smith: Yeah. And so there was one other that during the presentation, there was one other thing that struck me that I wanted to share. And that is the presentation that one person from the city of LA, the head of the Department of Transportation did a presentation and in the presentation.

“…one of the things that I thought was interesting was how they monetize it, is by saying, okay, different levels of altitude will be charged to fly at different rates.”

She, I think it was her presentation, but she theorized the way that as flying cars come about… ‘Cause flying cars a real thing, folks. This is going to happen.

But, obviously regulations and what not are huge hurdles. And not only that, but then how to monetize it, right? I mean, ’cause lawyers or politicians or – politicians and lawyers, usually one and the same or often times, they’ve gotta figure out so many aspects of how to make something legal.

And one of the things that I thought was interesting was how they monetize it, is by saying, okay, different levels of altitude will be charged to fly at different rates.

So, there will be more congestion.  Those of us that don’t have a lot of money, we’re still gonna be in our flying car, in congested airspace whereas those with a lot of money will be able to afford flying above it all, at a higher altitude. I just thought that was funny, how there’s thought of monetizing the different level that you fly at. Do you recall that?

The Automotive Capital of the World

Clinton Quan: Yes, I recall that yeah.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: That is quite interesting.

Tom Smith: Okay. Anything else to add about the, what was it called again?

Clinton Quan: Reimagining Mobility For Los Angeles.

Tom Smith: Reimagining Mobility For Los Angeles. And it’s not just Los Angeles, this is mobility everywhere.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

“Reimagining Mobility For Los Angeles. And it’s not just Los Angeles, this is mobility everywhere.”

Tom Smith: But we have the biggest problem, so that’s why – yet another reason why Los Angeles is the automotive capital of the United States and the world.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: There you have it. You good?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Alright.

Clinton Quan: I’m good.

Tom Smith: For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. Thanks very much for listening to this one, folks.