Artificial Intelligence with Lex Fridman: Kyle Vogt of Cruise Automation

Full podcast here

  • There is something intrinsically interesting about seeing where things break. [Finding where the limit is.] [4:28]

  • I’ve always wanted to start a company. I think starting a company is a cool concept. The idea of creating something and exchanging it for value. [12:36]

  • Why did you leave MIT during your junior year? I always wanted to start a company. An opportunity landed in my lap. I went out to California on a one-way ticket and never came back. That business was Justin TV which morphed into Twitch. [17:12]

  • After Twitch I wanted to work on something that scratched an existential itch. Something that truly matters. I also knew whatever I did I was going to commit at least 10 years. When you think about things from that perspective you raise the bar on what you choose to work on. [23:19]

  • Setting deadlines - where you are in that moment of intense pressure - that’s sometimes where people do their best and most interesting work. [22:50]

  • The checklist Kyle used to decided what to work on next

    1) Hard technology problem. That’s what motivates me. 

    2) Had to have a direct and positive impact on society. 

    3) A big business. For the positive impact to matter it has to be a large scale. [24:30]

  • We worked on a highway Autopilot prototype. We had it working. We completely abandoned it. We went all-in on driverless cars. We couldn’t think of anything more exciting. And nothing more impactful. [27:44]

  • The reward system for Detroit is following processes and delivering the program on time and on budget. Risk-taking is discouraged in many ways. [31:22]

  • The Silicon Valley reward system is about solving these complex problems in any way possible. Coming up with crazy ideas - 90% won’t work - a culture of experimentation and continuous improvement. [31:58]

  • After having seen the scale and magnitude of industrialization that occurs inside of an auto assembly plant I’m very glad we don’t have to reinvent that work to make self-driving cars. [34:34]

  • You started and sold two companies for a billion dollars. What does it take to build a successful startup? Common threads that worked for me: I was passionate about the core technology. I’d lay awake at night thinking about them. Have a true passion for what you are doing. This helps you weather the inevitable ups and down. I also surrounded myself with good cofounders. And the last thing was having persistence and perseverance. [48:28]