Von der Study Tour des CAS Digital Leadership in San Francisco bloggen Roger Azigbo und Derek Klemenz:

The  2nd day of the HWZ Study Tour looked quite impressive with a line up of great companies to visit and already mark the first peak of our stay: To kick off, a stop over at Renault Innovation was planned followed by a closer look into the holy grail of social media giant facebook at their headquarters at 1 Hacker Way. To round up the day, we made a final stop at Swisscom’s innovative Outpost in Silicon Valley. But lets start from the beginning.

Renault Innovation

The day started at 8.30 am at the meeting point at the corner of Pacific and Sansom Street. Our Study Tour bus driver was already ready to take us on a ride to Silicon Valley. We now got the chance to get out of San Francisco and explore the Silicon Valley by road. The weather was on our side and apart from the bumpy driving style the ride was quite enjoyable.

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We arrived at the Renault Innovation offices in Sunnyvale, where we were warmly welcomed by Nikhil Gowda, Autonomous Vehicle Researcher at Renault Innovation. We were allowed to enter the business premises and stay in the meeting hall. Like most of the tech companies, we were offered to take anything we liked to eat or drink from the fridge. Fruits, chocolates of various sizes and brands, drinks, … whatever you wished for! We could also take pictures from some of the research vehicles, play table tennis or just hang around in some of the lounge seats before the official part started.

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A unique environment to do business

After a short introduction round by all students, Pierre Delaigue, Innovation Project Manager Driver Monitoring & IOT started his presentation with an insight into the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of Silicon Valley: All car manufacturing companies are represented in a range of 60 km with their own offices and labs, making it very convenient to exchange during events and conferences or to discuss partnership and collaborations. The office in Sunnyvale is a research center of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and marks a strong market presence in Silicon Valley since 2011. The main focus is on connected services, autonomous driving, and new businesses in mobility and advanced user experience. Nissan has 45 people working on engineering challenges and hire where requested local talents. Renault is more into building up partnerships, exploring start ups and entering into collaborations with the  Stanford and Berkeley Universities. One of the main enablers is to have cross functional Teams, that cover the entire value chain and range from product development, technical expertise to user experience and marketing know-how.

Competition is fierce in the automobile Business, where new disruptors like Tesla are changing the game. With software updates all 3 months, Tesla brings in added value to the car and  actually increases the value of the car constantly. Traditional car manufacturers are facing loss of value of the car as updates are made in an interval of 3 years! Renault Nissan tries to replicate the model of Tesla, in order to be faster in providing updates. Pierre also admitted that Tesla is years ahead of Renault in the development of electric cars, especially in the production of batteries. Renault has still a more focused vision / strategy on the digital car and autonomous driving and has no broader vision like Tesla to have a profound impact on the various aspects of life like housing / clean energy production through tiles and new charging battery units.

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In the Q&A session, Pierre explained more detailed the 5 levels to autonomous driving as follows ( definition and source: by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

Level 0

This one is pretty basic. The driver (human) controls it all: steering, brakes, throttle, power. It’s what you’ve been doing all along.

Level 1

Most functions are still controlled by the driver, but a specific function (like steering or accelerating) can be done automatically by the car.

Level 2

In level 2, at least one driver assistance system of “both steering and acceleration/ deceleration using information about the driving environment” is automated, like cruise control and lane-centering. It means that the “driver is disengaged from physically operating the vehicle by having his or her hands off the steering wheel AND foot off pedal at the same time.“ The driver must still always be ready to take control of the vehicle, however.

Level 3

Drivers are still necessary in level 3 cars, but are able to completely shift “safety-critical functions” to the vehicle, under certain traffic or environmental conditions. It means that the driver is still present and will intervene if necessary, but he is not required to monitor the situation in the same way he does for the previous levels.

Level 4

This is what is meant by “fully autonomous.” Level 4 vehicles are “designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip.” However, it’s important to note that this is limited to the “operational design domain (ODD)” of the vehicle—meaning it does not cover every driving scenario.

Level 5

This refers to a fully-autonomous system that expects the vehicle’s performance to equal that of a human driver, in every driving scenario—including extreme environments like dirt roads that are unlikely to be navigated by driverless vehicles in the near future.

Pierre mentioned that Google is working since the beginning to reach Level 5 whereas other car manufacturing companies take a less aggressive approach and more time to reach that point. Today, ordinary cars have level 1. To drive an autonomous car, you need a certified person to drive it today.

Time was up too quickly and the students were still highly interested in knowing more about Renault Innovation. We closed our visit by having a short tour through the research center before we headed back to the bus.

Facebook – Welcome to THE campus

Arround 2 pm we arrived at 1 Hacker Way: Facebook! Visiting one of the “Big Five” – the expectations were high.

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The four ladies Erica, Ann, Jacky und Julia, from the marketing department of Facebook, were showing us the campus and they answered all our questions very honestly. We felt the spirit of innovation and inspiration.  Facebook is providing a very good enviroment to its employees, so they don’t need to care about disturbing things like buying lunch, doing laundry etc. The free ice cream on this sunny day made us feel a little bit like an employee of Facebook 🙂

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Picture: Thierry is writing on the Facebook Wall @ Facebook Headquater

Swisscom Outpost – Finding nuggets!

Our next and last stop was at Swisscom Outpost. Peter Lucas, who is working in the digital unit of Swisscom, kindly welcomed us. He started with a short presentation of the silicon valley’s history and why it’s so different to any other place of the world. swisscom-lukasIt was very interesting for us to see the different approaches of the valley. It starts already at the Universities. In Switzerland, the students (for example @ HSG) were told to make a career in a big bank or in a famous consulting company. Here in the valley the students are encouraged to be entrepreneur and to start their own start up. This, the unique network of important and visionary People, that are all reached more or less within an hour drive and of course the accumulated Technology, know how to make this place so special.

Why is Swisscom here with an outpost? Most of their products are reaching the end of their lifecycle. In the nearer future, there is no big new product or innovation to be launched. Even worse, Swisscom is already disrupted by other companies. Therefor it is very important to find new business models and partners, especially start-ups, to work with.

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So what is the right way to setup a corporate innovation outpost in the valley?

  • Stage 1: Be there with on person to understand the ecosystem, establish partnership, assess investments and acquisitions.
  • Stage 2: Invest, Invent, Incubate, Aquire
  • Stage 3: Build Products in the valley

Lukas would categorize Swisscom somewhere between stage 1 or 2. This means, the digital transformation at Swisscom has already started but there is still a long way to go. Nevertheless, Swisscom is going new ways and released with coop a new digital market place called siroop.ch. The interesting thing about this “project” is, that they have just started the journey without knowing where it ends. The journey is the reward! A completely unfamiliar attempt in Switzerland.

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At the end of Lukas’s presentation, he mentioned a few challenges of his work in the valley.

  • Nobody knows Swisscom in the valley
  • Often people from Swisscom are coming to visit him just for a kind of teambuilding event
  • There is not much money he can “play” (at the moment)
  • Often people are going home “enlightened” but as soon as they are it the daily routine they are not implementing the gained insights from the valley

The time passed by too quickly and we wanted to ask much more questions. However, it was a an extremely interesting visit. Thank you Lukas for sharing your knowledge.