The most commonly asked question I’ve received in the past 24 hours is: “Were you nervous?”
But I can honestly tell you that my 10-minute one-on-one conversation with The President of the United States, while being the pinnacle of my communications career, was remarkably comfortable.
Wednesday afternoon I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explain to President Barack Obama how the company I work for, ZF, will impact the lives of millions. And he listened. I explained how autonomous technology, such as advancements in new camera technology, will change the way we live and drive.
The conversation was very fluid and President Obama asked a number of questions about what existing technologies he could find in the market, and how driver-assist functions such as active cruise control and lane departure warnings already were using the building block technology of autonomous driving.
The president also wanted to know how companies such as Google and Apple are impacting the industry and its future ways of doing business. This really reinforced his interest in how tech companies will affect the automotive supply base and companies like ZF. From a personal side, President Obama mentioned how someday he will have the “driving conversation” with his mother-in-law, but that ZF’s technologies could help her maintain her independence just a little bit longer.
We continued to discuss driving scenarios and how safety has to play a critical part in every decision that is made by a computer and/or a driver -- including how future autonomous technologies could reduce accidents and save lives. An hour later, I was inspired to hear the president present the exact same message to a crowd at the UAW-GM Center.
At the end of the day, it was a great feeling knowing that The President of the United States left Detroit embracing the innovative technologies that ZF is bringing to market and recognizing the impact they will have.
Bryan Johnson is senior manager of corporate communications for ZF North America Inc., a unit of Germany's ZF Friedrichshafen AG. ZF last year completed its acquisition of U.S. safety technology supplier TRW Automotive Holdings Inc.