We’re excited to welcome former FedEx executive Gloria Boyland to Aurora. As an advisor to the company, Gloria will leverage her extensive industry experience and logistics expertise as we continue to build out our products, strategy, and partnerships throughout the transportation ecosystem.
A Fortune 50 Senior Executive, Gloria most recently served as the Corporate Vice President of Operations and Service Support at FedEx, one of the world’s largest logistic companies. There she oversaw the strategy around how advanced technologies could improve FedEx’s operations. Prior to her 15+ years at FedEx, she held a variety of positions in customer experience management, business development, and acquisition integration. Gloria serves on the board of Chesapeake Energy Corporation and in 2016 was named to the U.S. DOT Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation.
We had a conversation with Gloria about what interests her about self-driving technology and why she’s working with Aurora…
What about Aurora specifically excited you?
I continue to be impressed by the character of Aurora’s leadership and the principled way in which they develop safe products and approach their business. I like to say: “Slower now, faster later!” If you get the foundation right, you can “lego it” by continuously adding pieces, which ultimately means your solution will offer higher utility for partners. That’s the Aurora way.
I’ve seen too many companies say “yes” at all costs, even when the technology isn’t quite ready. But you risk alienating stakeholders down the road and impede your own ability to deploy your technology broadly. Aurora intuitively understands the cost of building one-off products, and instead, considers a partner’s needs alongside its own approach to product development. This is the more mature approach, and it requires expertise to have that discipline.
There will likely be more than one winner in the AV space, and Aurora will be one of them.
What interests you about self-driving technology?
Self-driving is the next huge leap for personal mobility. As former United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has said, autonomous driving is an opportunity to democratize transportation toward economic and social equity. We can “blue sky” the next transportation transformation. For example, you can repurpose unused or abandoned spaces in marginalized neighborhoods as transportation hubs; all of a sudden you’re investing in under-resourced areas.
This technology will be critical for lower-income citizens, the elderly, and so many others. You’ll now have the ability to provide transportation at a lower price point, perhaps giving people the freedom to hail a car for the price of a bus pass.
You’ve talked about the benefit of moving people. What about autonomous goods delivery?
We take the movement of goods for granted, assuming that we can get things we need easily and quickly. In many parts of our country, that’s not true. In 2019, the trucking industry hauled 72.5% of all freight transported in the United States. But there are inherent limitations with human drivers, as we all saw during the beginning of the pandemic when our supply chain became clogged and slowed down.
To the extent that autonomy makes the supply chain more efficient, faster, and more flexible, you’re talking about a huge shift in our ability to ensure people have what they need when they need it.
Aurora has a unique approach to partnerships and is pursuing an independent path to commercialization. How do you think about the tradeoffs between building self-driving technology for a specific vehicle and use case vs. a platform-agnostic one that can be deployed across multiple vehicles and industries?
If you have a great product, the OEMs will gladly adopt it. I think about it like baking a cake — with eggs, sugar, and salt as crucial ingredients for every cake. Aurora is building the Aurora Driver that will be used in every “cake”.
Said another way, Aurora is the “little black dress” of self-driving. It’s essential and can work with anything. By making an agnostic Aurora Driver that works with any class and any make and model, you’re vastly increasing the value of the solution and you’re able to capture a massive market, not just a small piece of it.
Some say there’s a game of musical chairs going on right now and if you’re a company without an exclusive OEM partnership when the music stops, you’re doomed. What’s your take?
When the technology is truly ready for deployment, you will see companies begin to make serious choices. For now, we’re seeing a lot of headlines about partnerships, but many of them are low-risk engagements.
I have no doubt we’ll get to a self-driving future, but there will be multiple shifts and realignments along the way.
Drawing on your time at FedEx and logistics, how do you see the transportation ecosystem playing out. Can you give us an example?
There are many players in the transportation ecosystem and there are pieces that partners will want to outsource and pieces they won’t. An agnostic platform gives you flexibility.
An infrastructure provider might want data as an ancillary service to provide real-time information about traffic patterns, accidents, and congestion points. The data flowing from integrated vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication systems can tell an infrastructure owner about its system’s own maintenance needs. Autonomous trucking could equalize access to data and truck supply, changing the competitive dynamics in logistics.
A traditionally non-asset based third-party logistics provider (3PL) may use a diversified autonomous truck fleet to give it the stable capacity customers demand, while AV-supported event and performance data enhances its ability to provide the service support customers already prize.
An asset-based company owns its fleet, but may want a flexible solution set that offers data — a one-stop-shop for asset tracking, asset security monitoring, telematics, and more.
It’s not a one size fits all, so if you have the flexibility to provide different services to different companies, or even different divisions within the same company, you’re positioned to win.
When you’re not thinking about the future of transportation, what are you passionate about?
Education and equity. The human mind is our most valuable asset and education helps develop and protect that asset. Knowledge in and of itself is not as highly prized in our society as knowledge that has been validated by education.
Equity benefits the whole of society; it is more than being equal. It means there has been an intentional decision to provide what is needed to overcome continuing unevenness caused by human behavior, policies, and other interventions that disadvantage some over others.
You’ve had such a successful career already. What’s your best piece of career advice?
Be brave by taking action in the face of risk. Personal growth and significant business progress come from managing, not avoiding risk. That principle applies to a career and the same is true of life.
Which Aurora value do you most connect with and why?
“Win Together.” I have been guided by an idea not invented, but memorialized in the book “Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation”. The authors present the business case that innovation requires creating an environment where the goal and desired outcome is clear, everyone is expected and allowed to contribute, and everyone is heard and accountable. That definition of success fabulously aligns with Aurora’s “Win Together” value.
– Aurora is hiring. If you’re interested in helping us solve a once-in-a-generation technical challenge, visit our Careers page to apply for open positions.