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Gravity brings Tesla yellow taxis to NYC

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Gravity Inc. CEO Moshe Cohen talks transforming New York City's iconic yellow cabs to Tesla Model Y taxis.

Video Transcript

- Moshe Cohen, he's the CEO of Gravity. And Moshe, I think all of us who live in New York City and even beyond are excited about something like this because you don't really think of New York City taxis as having the latest when it comes to tech. But tell us just about-- you launched this in the spring as a pilot program. How is it progressing?

MOSHE COHEN: Yeah, so firstly, thank you for having me. It's great to be on with you guys. This is a first of EV fleets, not specifically Tesla. Tesla, as you know, has sort of been ahead of the curve with its development of cars and charging equipment. But very quickly, there's a lot of automakers that are catching up. We've seen the yellow taxi as an industry that has been a cornerstone of New York and of the country. And it's sort of had a bad 10 years. And there are a lot of great ideas that have been there, and it's a massive opportunity to integrate.

MOSHE COHEN: What we've done is we've worked closely with the city, with the regulators, with the taxi and Limousine Commission and the commissioner to frankly help amend the rules. The rules that were written for internal combustion engines that were written around safety somehow preclude some very safe electric vehicles. So, it's been a process. It's sort of having the commissioner and the Taxi and Limousine Commission work with engineering and understanding what is that world look like with electric vehicles. And they've authorized a pilot, a broad pilot, for a broad group of vehicles of which Tesla Model Y is one. But we expect there to be others.

- MOSHE, the one question that all New Yorkers ask this time of year with the taxis is does the AC work. I would assume in these vehicles, it does. But the potential for growth in these kinds of vehicles, it just seems like this is where it's going to head, yet regulations you just cited-- New York City, Chicago-- the cities are almost-- they protect the monopoly operators of the cab systems. How do you fight that?

MOSHE COHEN: Well, we've actually not seen that. I mean, firstly to your first point, Adam-- these cars that we've operated a luxury business in the city serving the very top. And you always hope when you start with luxury to be able to bring most of that to the general public. And the technology that we're bringing in these vehicles, I would say would rival the highest level of luxury. Not only is there AC, but as you can see, there's a custom 22 inch monitor that's connected to the car. So you'll have full control over the car. You can see there the drivers have AR recognition to monitor their driving behavior, distraction, to induce for safety. So, these taxis are going to really leapfrog ahead in terms of safety.

MOSHE COHEN: But to the second point, this is very different. I think five-ten years ago, it was very popular to be a disruptor, and everybody is disrupting. We're in a very different world right now with the introduction of electric vehicles. This is policy across the board, definitely with this administration and across the board with regulators. I think regulators are trying to get their head around it and make sure it's safe, make sure it's unleashed in the right way. But we've seen great cooperation. We work very closely with the utility, with state officials, with city officials. And it's really a partnership because this is a massive change to transportation and infrastructure. And it's going to happen working together.

- Is the infrastructure, is it up to speed with what you need in order to have electric vehicle taxis on the road?

MOSHE COHEN: Not at all. So, in fact, that's been a major block that's been overlooked. The taxi industry has gotten a lot of attention to parts of it. A big part of our business-- so, while this pilot was being considered, we have been infrastructure division gravity spaces where we worked again, in conjunction with the utility, major landlords, parking operators, to essentially activate every capable space for charging infrastructure, both for us and for the general public. And we are working currently on a very large number of sites, and we've sort of redefined what a charging space look like.

MOSHE COHEN: So, right now, New York is a charging desert. It's disaster. But we're going from being a charging desert, we're going from the taxi industry being sort of embarrassing, to the taxi industry being a leader in the country and in the world, as it were integrated with the tourism agency, part of the green recovery. And in terms of infrastructure, we're literally at a turning point where the new equipment that we're launching across sites throughout the five Boroughs, for ourselves and for everyone, is going to give everyone, meaning any car manufacturer, an experience that's as good as the supercharger at Tesla, or better.

- How do you deal with, you know, your industry-- the token issue, and then the drivers have to get the tokens. How did you guys confront that?

MOSHE COHEN: So, the business structure of the taxi industry is extremely antiquated. I mean, I'm a former finance professor. You don't need that. Economics 101, it was very antiquated, and frankly it very much disadvantage the drivers. The drivers essentially are the core of revenue. The drivers have to pre-commit a certain amount of weekly fee to be able to drive one of these vehicles. And they're scrambling on their own to try to cover that and make a little bit more. And they've been pushed down to the bare, bare minimum. We're changing that structure.

MOSHE COHEN: So, our innovation is essentially empowering drivers. It's empowering medallion owners through the use of our technology and in both hardware and software to make a lot more money and to be a lot more efficient. For example, our cars are connected. So, we're able to give direction to drivers to know where our pickups most likely, how are the cars going to get better utilized. There's just a host of technologies, both our own proprietary technologies and technologies that have been developed over the past five-ten years or so, that are dramatically changing the experience.

MOSHE COHEN: And in fact, to the previous point, we're finding literally widespread friendliness. There's plenty of medallion owners that have had a rough time from dying prices. That's the problem. We're not speaking to that. We're not a medallion owner. There's a lot of medallions that are just sleeping right now that are not being used. And a lot of these medallion owners are just looking for an opportunity for the industry to come back the way it was in the 90s, when every single movie has a taxi. Being a taxi driver is a great job. And there's a lot of excitement around that. And so, we are essentially facilitating much higher earnings, much better working conditions for the drivers and the medallion owners.