Interview with Paul W. Smith

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PAUL W. SMITH, host: Not often do we get a chance to speak with the guy who is said to be the architect of the future, and the change of the automobile as we know it. That's what they're saying about this innovation from General Motors called Autonomy. And the Autonomy Program Architect, Adrian Chernoff, joins us this morning on WJR. Good morning, Adrian.


Mr. ADRIAN CHERNOFF (General Motors): Good morning.


SMITH: I've got to tell you, when I read about a car that doesn't have any pedals, no instrument panel, no steering column, I'm assuming no vroom-vroom engine sound, I say the guy behind this can't be from Michigan, could not have grown up, like I did, in Monroe, racing these cars and taking our mufflers off and making noise. Am I right?


Mr. CHERNOFF: This man grew up in New Mexico in the dust and the blue skies and—


SMITH: Creativity from New Mexico. Is this car, this concept car, which happens to be on the front page of the Free Press this morning, your earth-friendly car that makes no noise, that has no pedals, that has no steering column, that has no instrument panel, is it fun to drive?


Mr. CHERNOFF: And has no internal combustion engine.


SMITH: You're killing me, here. We've got a big skateboard here, what is this?


Mr. CHERNOFF: A master skateboard where all the—basically there are like, no moving parts now. You're talking about complete freedom. You've got a skateboard chassis that you can drop bodies on like you've never seen before. You can sit wherever you want in the vehicle. You can sit up in front like a helicopter pilot.


SMITH: You can—what? You mean you can sit in the back and like, not have a driver in front and it's still going to go down the road?


Mr. CHERNOFF: Well, you're the driver, maybe you can sit in the back. You can sit further back, but you can imagine--it's a Bi-Wire connection. You can sit and move anywhere in this vehicle body.


SMITH: I'm feeling a little—


Mr. CHERNOFF: What is—what is the bi-wire? Bi-wire means that, you know, like your mouse on your laptop computer, that external mouse. You can move that mouse around—you can move that —


SMITH: Watch people move their mouse around—their mice—and I'm a little worried that they're going to be moving their car around that way. Explain more about how this is going to work, because obviously, with no emissions, which means taking the car out of that whole bad side of the emission problem that people try to throw it into. What are you doing here?


Mr. CHERNOFF: What you've done is, you've reinvented the automobile. Basically, on premise, using fuel cells that provide power in a skateboard. Basically, power funnels its way out to the corners of the vehicle where there's motors (sic) in the wheels, and this propels the vehicle. Then the connectivity is that the bodies that are on top allow you to sit where you want, but that gives you—this skateboard chassis gives you a renewable power source that uses hydrogen. It's a long-lasting system, so it becomes affordable, economical, durable, long-lasting, so it actually impacts not only the U.S. markets but the whole world; a global vehicle.


SMITH: Adrian Chernoff, is the Autonomy program architect. What worries me about this, Adrian, is, that the companies now, the auto companies now don't just come out with concept vehicles that are pie in the sky. They really come out with concept vehicles that they really hope one day they can produce. This scares me. This looks like something you really want to produce in the next--in the foreseeable future.


Mr. CHERNOFF: Oh, it shouldn't scare you. This is—this is something that GM—this vision we believe in. This--we're serious about this. So don't be scared, this is great, this is freedom.


SMITH: But driving is something we like to do. You may have noticed in Detroit we don't have any mass transit, I mean major mass transit. We like to sit there with a steering wheel. Even if you put a fake one in that doesn't do anything anymore, we want to hold that steering wheel. I want to press that gas pedal; I want to hit that brake.


Mr. CHERNOFF: Well, here's something more. I mean, imagine you're sitting there. You've got—you've got the steering wheel in front of you, you just don't use your feet. But imagine today, you could switch during the lunch hour from a two-seat sports car to a minivan to pick up your kids from school at the end of the day. You could swap —


SMITH: Wait a minute...


Mr. CHERNOFF: ...bodies during time of the day (sic). That's freedom, that's flexibility, that's passion. You're giving customers something they don't even have today.


SMITH: What do you mean? It sounds like a Swatch watch

       where you change the little--


FRED HEUMANN, sportscaster: If I can swap a body, I'm in. That's not what you mean.


SMITH: Freddy's all for swapping bodies. And this is a realistic goal; this is something that you obviously believe can happen.


Mr. CHERNOFF: I believe this can happen. This is customer freedom. This is giving something to the customers like they've never seen before. This is freedom. This is—this is—this is—


SMITH: This is mind blowing.


Mr. CHERNOFF: This is reality in the making.


SMITH: Yeah, this is—this is the change of the auto industry as we know it, period.


Mr. CHERNOFF: Absolutely.


SMITH: And you're all set for that.


Mr. CHERNOFF: Oh, I'm excited for this.


SMITH: Some kid from New Mexico has come to the Motor City and he's going to change the world.


Mr. CHERNOFF: We're all going to change the world...


SMITH: Can you put a little recording of sound or something on it, so it'll sound like we've got a V-8?


Mr. CHERNOFF: You know what, we'll take your voice and maybe we'll do a pre-recording.


SMITH: OK. Vroom-vroom. (makes engine noises)


Mr. CHERNOFF: There you go.


SMITH: What about stopping at stoplights and revving up the engine and stuff? Oh, this is...


Mr. CHERNOFF: You can put sound into this if you wanted to.


SMITH: I fear Adrian has never done that. Adrian, good luck to you. Thanks for giving us a little insight into GM's earth-friendly car that is really going to change the world if it all comes about, the Autonomy. Adrian Chernoff is the architect. Thanks very much.


Mr. CHERNOFF: Thank you. Thank you very much.


SMITH: We appreciate it.




Date:         January 8, 2002

Time: 07:00 AM - 08:00 AM

Station:WJR-AM Radio (760 AM Detroit)

Location:Detroit

Program:The Morning Show II


 

WJR Morning Show: Paul W. Smith and Adrian Chernoff