Innovative Technologies
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Innovative Technologies

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Innovative Technologies

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Innovative Technologies

Asking the Right QuestionsAlain L. Kornhauser, Ph.D.Professor, Operations Research & Financial EngineeringDirector, Program in Transportation Faculty Chair, PAVE (Princeton Autonomous Vehicle EngineeringPrinceton UniversityJinan Foreign Language School Jinan, Shandong ChinaMay 25, 2013


I am pleased and honored to be here with you on this day of transition.

For each of you it is the end of one journey and the Commencement of another

Your first journey was guided family who instilled in you

a foundation of knowledge, collection of skill and set of values from which your mind created dreams, visions and perspectives that govern your views of the world.

Your new journey has many different possible paths filled with challenges, opportunities and achievements, but you will follow only one.


The contribution that you make to improve the world as you travel along your chosen path will involve the many choices that you will make as you approach each of its many branching points.

Those achievements

will be all about

your choice

as to what body of knowledge you wish to enhance, what skills you wish to improve and what values you use as the basis for choosing and pursuing your path through life.


that will empower you to realize your dreams, achieve your visions and make your contributions that help create a better world, a better place for all.


now on it is about

your choices


your desires


your leadership



35 years, I had the great pleasure and honor to visit and lecture in China as part of one of the very first Scientific Exchanges following the normalization of US-China relations. In my intervening visits I have observed first-hand the enormous transformation that has occurred. Only a two lane road with few vehicles led to the small Beijing airport terminal.

Only buses, bicycles and pedestrians occupied the streets of Shanghai.

Since 1978 monumental change has occurred on a scale that the world has never seen. China’s human resources were mobilized to rapidly catch up to the ideas and designs of the industrialized world. China is now the leading producer of the world’s goods. While monumental, this may have been the easy part. This transformation involved the mobilization of Over the next 35 years, it will be each of you that will have the opportunity and the responsibility to lead China through an even greater transformation of a new and even better world.



famous Harvard


Joseph Schumpeter




[I]n capitalist reality…, it is not [price] competition which counts but the competition from the new commodity,

the new technology

…- competition which commands a


cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms but at their

foundations and their very lives



pioneered the development of one of those disruptive new technologies: getting directions on how to get there. For the first 100+ years of the automobile, everyone used a paper map to figure out the directions on how to drive from one location to another. Every car had at least one paper maps. Cars had map compartments.


McNally was

the pre-eminent map


It was

as well-known as Coca-Cola.


I became convinced that paper maps, while inexpensive were not convenient, reliable nor easy to use. A better way would be to combine GPS, a digital map database, a routing algorithm, communications and a portable computing environment. Many thought I was crazy. 15+ years ago I put the first nation-wide turn-by-turn GPS navigation systems on the market in the US. I was 1st on iPhones and Android. I believed that the product provided a decisive quality advantage over paper maps. I pursued my dreams, my passion. CoPilot, my product, and other similar products now guide most motorist. Today, few if any cars have paper maps.


My innovation with CoPilot is but a small example. You have witnessed many other transformative technologies, technologies that have struck at the very foundations of existing firms. Digital photography versus film, Streaming video/audio content versus CDs/DVDs, Smart wireless phones versus land-line phones, Flat-screen TVs versus tube TVs.


We are today sitting at the verge of what is another revolution in technology: the automation of road transportation vehicles. Automated highways are not a new concept. What is new and revolutionary is the incorporation of sufficient intelligence in the vehicle so that automation can drive the car avoid all collisions without requiring any changes in the infrastructure. To date, Google has been the innovator. Google saw that 93% of roadway accidents involve human error. 32,000 are killed each year in the US, in China the estimate is 97,000. Google out to develop crash avoidance technology focused on the vehicle. Focusing resources on the software and sensors that could substantially reduce these fatalities (81% fewer fatalities, 65% fewer injuries, 71% fewer crashes).


The brilliance is in the approach. By focusing the intelligence on the vehicle rather than the infrastructure, the development can be done in a “garage” by a few creative, innovative and motivated individuals. Once perfected, duplication cost of the software is essentially free and the computer hardware behaves as Moore’s Law These are ingredients for viral growth. This is about to happen. It has Schumpeter’s decisive quality advantages: in safety benefit, in comfort - not having to drive the car and eventually in the ability to take the driver completely out of the car so as to create the ultimate in public transportation: autonomous Taxis for all.A fleet of 1.9 x106 aTaxis would serve all 32 x106 daily trips in New Jersey save 500 lives/year, no congestion, use half the energy, half the pollution. This is disruptive technology


Over the next 35 years,


that will fuel China’s continued transformation with the new disruptive technologies that


will pioneer.


will you come up with the ideas, concepts, and innovations. There is no magic formula, except asking/formulating the challenging question. One must always ask questions, even the ones that at first might seem the most silly. 17 years ago, people said to me: “you want to replace the simple map with all of that hardware and software. That’s crazy!” I tenaciously disagreed.


encourage you to remained focused to your vision and tenacious in your

visionary effort

even if many

suggest you

are crazy.

Listen to the advice, but make your own decisions, follow your own path. In your way

you will be


as Bill Gates was


computing environment, Steve Jobs in


ways we enjoy music, communicate and


Henry Ford


the ways we do manufacturing…


By asking questions, challenging the status quo, you will

accelerate China’s transformation

and create a better world for all.