Electric motorcycles that not only outperform many ICE-powered machines but are safer through innovative use of sensors and AI
Riding a motorcycle is exhilarating!
If you are not used to it, you get to experience fear, pleasure, and freedom, all at once. At high speeds; you get to feel the wind hitting you, hear the sound coming from the engine, and on sharp corners, see yourself defying gravity.
However, a majority of people riding motorcycles don’t get to use them because they enjoy the experience. They do it because it’s the only means of transport that’s available to them.
One of the biggest challenges that faces almost all motorbike users is safety. This problem is magnified in cases where they have to share roads with cars and it has necessitated the need for a safer and smarter motorbike.
One of the ways to achieve that is to build an electric motorcycle that can scan its surroundings and warn the rider when they are facing danger.In this episode, the first part of two, Ed Bernardon interviews Jay Giraud, CEO and co-founder of Damon Motorcycles. An electric motorcycle startup aiming to make the riding experience cleaner, safer, and more exhilarating. He’ll share with us the progress they’ve made so far with their electric motorcycle.
Some Questions I Ask:
- What are the big problems that motorcyclists face that you’re trying to reverse engineer? (02:52)
- How do you use data from riders to enhance safety? (15:33)
- How did your career evolve? (20:35)
- Who helped you in building your first electric car? (24:30)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Why people push the limits of motorcycle safety (07:35)
- How Damon makes motorbikes safer (08:55)
- The time a rider or driver requires to avoid an accident (13:26)
- The paradigm that Damon Motorcycles is working to change (17:53)
Connect with Jay Giraud:
Connect with Ed Bernardon:
- Future Car: Driving a Lifestyle Revolution
- Motorsports is speeding the way to safer urban mobility
- Siemens Digital Industries Software
Ed Bernardon: Jay, in 1999, you were in a full-page ad on Transworld Snowboarding magazine and you were catching some big air, but your front foot, your front boot wasn’t in the binding. So, here’s my question: Did you forget to strap in? Or was that intentional?
Jay Giraud: It was my back foot that wasn’t in the binding, actually.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, okay. That’s probably a better choice.
Jay Giraud: A little bit better. That was intentional. I wasn’t the first one to come up with that stupid trick. But it was fun and I had the hang of it, so it was a popular one, got a lot of photographer attention, if you will.
Ed Bernardon: You landed it though, no problem.
Jay Giraud: Oh, you can’t do that trick if you’re not going to land it.
Ed Bernardon: Yeah, I wouldn’t be good on the knee, I wouldn’t think.
Jay Giraud: Or the hip joints and the femur. Your board will twist around like a helicopter propeller if you don’t land that one.
Ed Bernardon: It really draws on the skills there. So, same year, 1999, Robbie Knievel, son of the great Evel Knievel, actually jumped the Grand Canyon 200 feet.
Jay Giraud: Mine wasn’t nearly as impressive.
Ed Bernardon: Anything like that in the future maybe for the hypersport?
Jay Giraud: Does Robbie have a son?
Ed Bernardon: I don’t know. Maybe we should find him.
Ed Bernardon: There is no doubt motorcycles are certainly exciting. But they’re often also viewed as dangerous, which is not a surprise since in 2020, in the USA alone, there were over 5,000 motorcycle fatalities. And with over a billion motorcycle riders in the world, for many, the motorcycle is not only an affordable transportation mode, but often the only transportation mode they have. So, motorcycles are sure to play a key part in our mobility future. But, to do so, they must be safe and sustainable.
Today, we talk to Jay Giraud. He’s the Founder and CEO of Damon, a Vancouver based motorcycle startup that aims to make the riding experience safer, cleaner, smarter and more exhilarating. Jay grew up believing that all cars were electric and he had this lifelong goal of getting the world off of oil. This led him to become a pioneer in the world of electric motorcycles where he founded Damon that makes motorcycles that not only outperform many ice-powered machines but is motorcycling safer through innovative use of sensors and AI. By reverse-engineering engineering problems motorcycle has faced, Damon is driving a paradigm shift for riders.
I’d like to welcome the Founder and CEO of Damon, Jay Giraud to The Future Car Podcast. Welcome, Jay!
Jay Giraud: Thanks, Ed. Good to be on here.
Ed Bernardon: I want to start off talking a little bit about the motivation behind the company. You talk about this forgotten category of over a billion vulnerable road users — it’s called the motorcyclists — and the goal of Damon is to create this paradigm shift for safer, smarter motorcycling by reverse-engineering the problems that they face. So, what are the big problems that motorcyclists face that you’re trying to reverse engineer?
Jay Giraud: Well, so there’s about a billion and a half motorized people on two wheels. So, worldwide, about a quarter of the world population is motorized. And apparently, that’s going to grow to about 4/5th by the end of 2050, which is kind of crazy to think that the majority of the world is not motorized, most people are getting around on feet and bicycles still. But of those, that are – about a quarter of the world – 1.5 billion, more than half, are on two wheels. That’s not obvious to us here in North America, per se, but it sure is in many other parts of the world. And so you can then appreciate the extraordinary dependence and necessity that societies all around the world have on motorbikes. And they have two problems: One of them is safety, and the other is emissions or air quality. And we all know what the air quality problems fairly acutely — many people have traveled to parts of the world where you can’t see down the block because of poor air quality, where wearing a mask was a thing to do long before COVID. But if you were to actually spend time with people in those cities in the world, you’d know that they’re much more concerned about their individual safety on a motorbike even before the air quality, which makes sense – there’s a slow way to die, which is bad air; and there’s a quick way to die, which is hitting a truck. And statistically, motorcycling is 27 times more likely to incur a serious injury than in a car. And you’re five times more likely on a motorcycle to be killed. So, 27 times and five times – we’re talking massive magnitudes over driving. And I’m a rider, I’m a motorcyclist, been doing it my whole life, I love it so much I will never stop. And that’s how all riders feel, really they do, despite the risks they take.
Jay Giraud: So, to reverse engineer the problems in motorcycling means to understand what causes those problems. And maybe it’s fairly straightforward to deal with the air quality one: Motorbikes need to be electric. And today, in the motorized world, we know that those are the table stakes now, that you can’t even launch a new vehicle you if it’s not electric – forget about market penetration – unless maybe you’re talking about hydrogen long-haul trucks. But the other problem is much more nebulous is how do you make motorcycles safer? How do we reverse engineer what causes motorcycle accidents? So, we dove in, about six years ago, my co-founder, Dom and I, to understand what is the nature of a motorcycle accident. And we all want to write off the motorcyclist as reckless and dangerous and they don’t care about their safety, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Everybody cares about their safety. Whether you get on a pair of skis, or you like to go skydiving, you want to make it to the other end of your sport safely. Even skydivers care about their safety, obviously. So, it’s unfair to say that motorcyclists don’t care – of course, we do. And in much of the world, like I said, there’s no alternative. There’s no walking to the corner store because the sidewalks are full of hundreds of motorcyclists per block on the sidewalks, let alone on the road. So, you can’t walk safely down a sidewalk in Jakarta, for example.
Jay Giraud: So, what causes motorcycle accidents, for the most part, isn’t recklessness – it’s drivers who just don’t see motorbikes. I’ve been riding for 27 years, and when I get behind the wheel of a car, sometimes I don’t see motorbikes. I should have an extra awareness for motorbikers. But when I’m looking at traffic ahead of me, I’m looking for something like me – I’m in a six-foot-wide vehicle, I’m looking for a six-foot-wide vehicle. And that narrow motorbike just behind that car at a red light, I look past it. My eyes naturally look past that sliver of a motorbike and I see the six-foot-wide bumper. And suddenly, at the last minute, I’m not paying attention, “Oh, shit, there’s a motorbike there.” And I nearly rear-end the motorbike between me in the car ahead. That’s how our brains work. We look for things like ourselves. And so drivers just don’t see bikes, so we kind of broke down the nature and type of motorcycle accidents; where they occur and how they occur. And realizing that that’s what I do when I ride a motorbike; I look for behavioral patterns from drivers. And I thought, “Well, if we can train cameras and radars and other sensors to see what I see, to see what I look for as an experienced rider, but in 360 degrees 24/7, and then warn the rider when it sees a threat – that would be a game-changer.” So, that’s kind of where we set off the very beginning of Damon.
Ed Bernardon: One thing that makes an impression on what you just talked about is this whole idea of how we think about motorcycle riders. So, here in the United States, “Oh, a motorcycle rider — someone who loves to get out on the highway and cruise around. It’s almost more recreation sometimes than necessity.” You’re describing a situation here where — and we’ve seen the images of motorcycles with four or five people on them in some countries, where they don’t have a car and this is their primary mode of transportation. So, it seems that that’s probably one of the key targets here in trying to make motorcycling safer just so you can live your life, day to day, go to the grocery store.
Jay Giraud: Now, of course, that image gets a disproportionate amount of attention on the internet. If you go to Jakarta – Jakarta is a massive city. There are more billionaires in Jakarta than there are in all of Canada. There are more billionaires in a six-kilometer square radius in Jakarta than there are in all of Canada. There are Ferraris, and Lamborghinis, and Ducatis, and Aston Martins in Jakarta. But there’s also a massive population of middle-class and low-income class people. You’ll probably lay eyes on 500,000 motorcyclists where there’s a single rider per bike before you see two, let alone three, four, or five people on a motorbike. In a small fishing village outside of Bali, going a short distance, you might see five people. But to your point, they’re still doing that out of necessity.
Ed Bernardon: And safety is always first, so doing that is important. One of your key goals has been the elimination of fatal accidents by the year 2030. You use the word “damonize” – you want to “damonize” the experience for a safer, smarter, more user-friendly driving. So, how do these things come together? How do they come together to really make a game-changing redefinition of motorcycling?
Jay Giraud: That is a huge question and I’m going to try to say it succintly. So, today, cars are obviously much safer than motorbikes, not just because they have cages and airbags and all of that, but because they have collision warning systems. So, everything that came before collision warning systems are reactive systems, reactive safety systems. ABS is reactive – the car has to lose control before ABS kicks in. An airbag is a reactive system – you have to have an impact before an airbag saves you once your car is getting totaled. Bumpers are reactive. They’re all passive systems waiting for something terrible to occur. A collision warning system is proactive – it’s looking for something approaching to give you a warning time, additional reaction time as the driver to take corrective action before it’s too late. And in so doing, the two vehicles don’t touch at all. So, you don’t need an airbag if you can stay out of harm’s way all the time.
Ed Bernardon: Preventative versus reactive.
Jay Giraud: Exactly. You don’t need a cage on a motorbike if the bike can always let you know with extra warning time before it’s too late. So, it’s said in all of the studies that about half of all motorcycle accidents studied, it was found that drivers took no evasive action before the impact. That means they didn’t have enough warning time. You can visualize warning time in the shape of an invisible bubble – the larger the invisible bubble with nothing in it, the safer you are on a motorbike. And that equates the time to react before something penetrates that bubble and hits you. So, by 2030, we want to be as safe as a car is today with a collision warning system, and that’s a pretty high bar, especially on two wheels, or three wheels, like on some motorbikes today. And to get there, we’ve got to develop a bike that is capable of taking over braking and steering for you in the event that you don’t take the right corrective action in time. And that’s a long way to go, that’s harder than a self-driving car, because a self-driving car has four wheels, much more compute power, much more room for technology and batteries and sensors and all of that. And on a very small vehicle, like a motorbike, the challenge is exponentially harder.
Jay Giraud: So, we’re gonna get to what’s called collision avoidance – a system that can steer or brake for you if you don’t take the right corrective action in time. And then moving backwards towards today, we want to get to collision prediction. And then starting where we are now is collision warning. So, a collision warning system like Damon’s today, the patents protect the system whereby the handlebars vibrate in the event that there’s a forward collision warning in front of you. And you have blind spotlights to let you know who’s in your left and right – these are progressive blind spotlights. And then we see everything behind us with a seven-inch LCD display, that replaces the display of the motorbike, fed by rear-facing camera and radars. So, we provide a 360-degree awareness of everything around you at all times, such that on a bike, you’re not having to hunt around to try to make a picture of where the cars are beside and behind you – you now just intuitively know. And then by ingesting all of the data around the bike; how fast are you going? What’s the temperature on the road? How wet or dry is the pavement? How many cars are around you? How many parked cars are along the lines? How many lanes are there? What’s the signal up ahead? Is that green, yellow, or red? What’s the passenger signal or the pedestrian signal? How thick is the traffic ahead of you? What time of day is it? What angle is the sun coming out? We actually collect all of that and more.
Jay Giraud: We can develop situational awareness of this bike’s moment-by-moment situation times thousands of bikes in the cloud. And as cars come through those intersections and riders pass through, there’s really a very short list of human behaviors that drivers do that cause a motorcycle accident in an intersection. And that short list is known to us. So, we actually look for those human behaviors that lead to a potential causation. And if there’s enough of those clues that stack up, you have a percentage probability that when this bike passes through an intersection, that car that’s about to turn left is going to turn left too soon. And with that percentage probability, we can actually anticipate, before you can see it with your own eyes, and give the rider a warning in advance of real-time – so, a predictive warning. So, we’ll go from collision warning to collision prediction, and then eventually, to avoidance.
Ed Bernardon: You’re describing a lot of technology. There are sensors, there’s taking that sensor data and trying to predict what may happen. But ultimately, what you’re really trying to do is give that rider an extra half-second or a second to react. You’re going 60-70 miles an hour, in a second, you’ll go almost 100 feet, 30 meters or so. So, it’s almost like saying, “Hey, I’ll give you an extra 100 feet to avoid that accident.” So, a lot of sensors, a lot of things going on. But ultimately, 100 feet is long distance.
Jay Giraud: That’s a lot. It’s only a second but you only need about a quarter second additional reaction time to avoid an accident. Statistically, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority, riders and drivers need a quarter second extra time, because they’re already taking some action, presumably, so they don’t need the whole 100 feet. But yeah, one extra second matters a lot.
Ed Bernardon: It’s a quarter second, 25 feet. That’s like that safe distance; “Make sure you keep four or five car lengths between you and the car or motorcycle that’s in front of you.”
Jay Giraud: Absolutely. And the human is really, really terrible at estimating. We are unbelievably terrible at estimating. We’re very good at thinking that we’re good at estimating, and we’re very bad at actually estimating things.
Ed Bernardon: You mean like estimating the distance to the car in front of you, that type of thing?
Jay Giraud: Yeah. Or estimating how frequently we do things right or do things well in every way of life, not just in riding a motorbike. But yeah, definitely. So, I can look ahead as I’m riding a motorbike with cars in front of me, cars on the left and right, and I think, “Oh, I’m not tailgating.” But the radar on the bike knows I’m tailgating. It knows the gap between here and that car, and that relative speed of that car relative to me is not sufficient for me to brake in time if he were to slam on the brakes. And so, that calculation is precise. As a human, it’s very, very imprecise.
Ed Bernardon: I think another thing too about motorcycles is that their stopping distance is a lot less than it is for a car. So, if you’re tailgating, that’s a problem.
Jay Giraud: Riders think it’s more. Riders think that bikes brake faster than cars because they’re so light. They brake slower than cars, yeah. A BMW M4 will outbreak a BMW S 1000 R motorbike.
Ed Bernardon: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah, you would think because it’s lighter and those big disc brakes that they have on the wheels, but it’s not the case. You mentioned a few minutes ago, this idea of collecting data from all the riders that are on the Hypersport and you utilize that information to enhance safety even further. How’s that work?
Jay Giraud: It’s not unlike the cloud or any clouds these days, an Apple cloud or Google Cloud or Tesla cloud, where all of the data is being drawn into these sensors. I mean, my phone is LiDAR now. That’s just amazing, this thing has LiDAR – kind of freaky. So, the data that’s being drawn in, it’s going to the cloud all the time, and then it’s being aggregated. So, if you could imagine, say – we’ll just use a round number – 1000 motorbikes passing through an average of 40 intersections a day. That’s 40,000 daily intersections our cameras and radars and other sensors are collecting data on. Now, when there’s an anomaly and we’ve got a whole bunch of deep learning training that we’ve done that goes to the cloud, so the cloud teaches the motorcycles to look for anomalies; these are driver behavior changes; these are things that it can’t read, let’s say there’s a patch on the ground that can’t be seen because of sun reflection on wet cement, just like driver behavior-related anomalies, calculation error. Any of those anomalies go to the cloud and get pulled down and thrown to a data scientist here. They look at those anomalies, they look at the camera recording from that bike, and see… First a human could say, “Oh, I see the anomaly that it thought it saw.” That is or isn’t a false positive. And if it isn’t, then we would write a new algorithm that would deal with that anomaly so the bike becomes smarter and safer over time. And then that software update, that new algorithm would be rolled out to all Damon motorcycles, so the Damon bikes expand their ability to detect a threat, either sooner or farther or a new type of threat that we didn’t program in initially.
Jay Giraud: So, there might be 20 ways you can be hit by a car, there probably are, but there’s really only three that cause most accidents, and almost always in intersections. Riders get hit from behind, they collide in front because of the short stopping distance, the car stops really suddenly at a yellow light, or car intersects the rider by making a left turn in front of them – those are the three. And that makes up for half of all motorcycle accidents. So, if we just saw the details that caused those three and reduced accident probabilities there, that would take a huge bite out of motorcycle accidents.
Ed Bernardon: If you gather data when an accident occurs and you look at the conditions, “Oh, it was foggy, or they couldn’t see the stoplight, or shadows,” or who knows what, all that information then, regardless of where it happens in the world, can all be then utilized to predict that an accident is going to happen. And that’s on an ongoing basis that you’re collecting this type of information.
Jay Giraud: Yeah, imagine only 1,000 bikes 40 intersections daily, that’s 40,000 situational recordings, times 365. I mean, we’re getting to levels of granularity that no human on Earth could ever achieve. Let alone being able to see it 360 degrees simultaneously – any one Damon bike can do that.
Ed Bernardon: That’s even more data that you’re gathering.
Jay Giraud: Yeah, and we can lock on to 64 vehicles simultaneously. So, we can look at everything at all times, put it to cloud, churn all that data down, develop a new update that makes the bike smarter, and push it to all Damon bikes. So, what this means is we’re here to cause a paradigm shift. So, the paradigm today, if you go out and buy a motorbike, your buddies will tell you in a month or so — they won’t scare you on day one, but about a month or so — they’ll say, “By the way, it’s not if you have an accident on a bike, it’s when.” And I’ve heard that many times over 27 years. And at one point, I thought, “Well, if it’s when, well, then I should be asking myself, it’s how bad. How bad will my accident be?” By the way, I’ve had a few – it’s not if or when. And that’s a crazy paradigm that you don’t live within when you get in a car. No one gets in the car, wondering when they’re gonna have an accident, how bad it will be. But that’s the paradigm we actually live with as riders. So, a paradigm shift is the opposite of that. So, how do we take how bad and turn it into the more you ride, the smarter and safer we all become? It’s a more mileage on the bike, makes everybody else smarter and safer. And the only way to do that is what we’re talking about, the copilot learning and getting better over time.
Ed Bernardon: I’m sure there are many mothers and fathers and wives and husbands that have said, “There’s no way you’re gonna ride a motorcycle. It’s too dangerous.” And so, the idea would be that five years from now, people won’t say anymore, “Hey, you’re gonna have an accident. It’s a matter of when.”
Jay Giraud: So, just to put a point on that, we have 2,200 orders today. Our order bump grows by about 200 bikes a month, and it’s also accelerating. And of those 2,200 orders, 13% of them don’t own a motorbike, they don’t ride. And so we’re attracting a new clientele, a new customer base that no motorcycle company in the world can attract. There are people who — my co-founder who wasn’t allowed to ride on the street until he started Damon. He said, “If I make motorbiking safer, will you let me ride?” And she said, “Maybe.” And five years later, here we are.
Ed Bernardon: He’d be riding it over 150 miles per hour on a racetrack, that’s okay because all the other drivers know what they’re doing, all the other racers. Now you go on the street, not only do you have other motorcycles, of course, but you have cars that, like you said, can’t even see a motorcycle. And you’re a motorcyclist, and sometimes you don’t even see a motorcycle. Let’s talk a little bit about your background. You have an interesting career. You started off as a snowboarder, you actually were in women’s fashion for a while, connected vehicles, and now into the world of electric game-changing motorcycles. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t your plan from day one. What was your inspiration when you were little? And how did your career evolve?
Jay Giraud: I’m pretty sure nobody has a plan. They all think they do. But this is one of my favorite photos. This is the year 2001, and I’m the guy in the middle there, doing some kind of — Well, I’ll tell you what that is, it’s the Backside Rodeo 720. That would have been a cool trick at the time, now it’s nothing.
Ed Bernardon: One of the first to ever do that?
Jay Giraud: One of the first, I guess. I started off at the age of five. My babysitter put me on a motorbike, unbeknownst to my mom, when I was five years old and he was like 16 or 17. And he would fly us down the highway and I would just lay on the gas tank in front of him doing about 100 miles an hour. I remember just staring at the speedometer, five years old. And then I watched CHiPs and Evel Knievel motorbikes TV shows and the very first Battlestar Galactica with the flying motorbikes. So, I was pretty into motorbikes at that point. My older brother used to race electric RC cars, radio-controlled cars. And I knew that he put batteries in the remote control, but I never saw the battery in the car. So, I was certain that the battery transmitted electricity through the long radio-controlled antenna from the remote to the car where they both had long antennas. So, when my dad would put gas in the car in his Ford Fairmont, and I saw the long antennas on those Fairmonts, I’m like, “Why are you putting gas in this thing? It’s electric.” I was certain electricity traveled through the air.
Ed Bernardon: That could be your next venture here; charge your motorcycles through the air.
Jay Giraud: Everyone’s still trying to figure that one out. But by the age of 16, I took an auto mechanics class and I had a Volkswagen Beetle, and my mechanic teacher said, “About 15% of the energy out of a gas tank is converted to propulsion, the other 85% goes to friction and heat.” And for me, $20 was a big deal. So, $20 in gas into my bug, and only five or less is getting me from A to B, that’s a ripoff, this is terrible. And so I started thinking about electric then, thinking about something more efficient as I learned that electric motors are 85% plus efficient. Fast forward to when I was 29 and I founded — well, and then snowboarding, and then snowboard clothing company, and then it’s a long story. And then the war on Iraq 2003 whatever it was, watching the Patriot missiles smoking Baghdad, and I was like, “We gotta get the world off oil.” So, I committed myself to transforming transportation without a clue what that meant.
Jay Giraud: By 2008, I was trying to build an electric car dealership, I wanted to import a lot of electric cars into Canada, not knowing that all the electric car companies were vapor at best, other than maybe Tesla, which still only had a roadster. So, 2008, having promised myself “Come hell or high water, I would put an electric car on the road in 2008.” And by March of 2008, I realized I wasn’t getting any electric cars from any of these companies in the US that don’t really exist; Fisker and EVs and Myers and all those electric car companies that came and went. How am I going to put an electric car on the road if I can’t get one? And so I concluded that I’d have to make one. And I’m not an engineer, I don’t have a college degree. I got a Ford Ranger and I bought some equipment and started asking for money from people to build this company to make our own electric SUVs. And then we converted one. Converted Ford Ranger to electric, and then we converted a Ford Escape to electric. And suddenly I had a company and I had some shareholders; $56,000Giulio Camauli: I think I raised to build the first car, the first electric pickup.
Ed Bernardon: When you did that, when you said, “Alright, I’m going to convert this SUV to be electric.” Did you find engineers or did you find car mechanics or did you just find a good friend? How did you do that?
Jay Giraud: Well, on July 1st, 2008, it was Canada Day, I put out a press release that I had opened REV technologies – different name at the time – it was Canada’s first electric car showroom. At the time, gas prices were at an all-time high, like $6 a gallon at the time in Canada, it was really high. So, that was good timing. Got a swarm of attention, and all I had was a really drippy, leaky roof garage that I was renting for some shares from a guy I met and I had a Ford Ranger that was still a gas Ford Ranger that we were going to convert to electric. And that was it. And I had raised like $43,000 at the time. But that press release brought the media, and the press release brought engineers and everybody wanted to help. So, talk about being over the tips of your skis, but it drew in the resources I needed. And so by September, we had a couple of engineers working for not enough money. And by November, we had a lead-acid-powered Ford Ranger and we had a Ford Escape being converted to lithium-ion electric. So, we had our DC drive lead-acid Ford Ranger, which was a home-built, garage-style junkie thing that had 30 miles of range, but I was driving it every day and it was awesome. And then we were working on a Ford Escape. And that led to getting into vehicle to grid. Long story, but we got some contracts, worked for the government. We won a contract with Burlington Hydro, we won a contract with the US military, with the Pentagon, with Chrysler, some other utilities and municipalities and we started making state-of-the-art electric SUVs that could feed their energy back into the power grid through a wireless network. So, they were V2G compliant. And we were demonstrating commercial-grade V2G in partnership with a Midwest ISO and with PJM, the wholesale network operators in the US.
Ed Bernardon: And that’s in 2008. Like you were saying, Tesla just had the roaster out. The Prius was pretty new back in those days. I mean, electric cars weren’t what they are today, which is somewhat accepted and certainly gaining market share. So, definitely, you were a visionary. But it was an interesting thing, it’s actually on the Damon website. It describes when you were riding a traditional motorcycle, 70 miles an hour, and you turned off the motor, suddenly could hear the birds.
Jay Giraud: That’s on the Damon website?
Ed Bernardon: Yeah, it’s actually on there. Anyways, you turned off the motor. It’s quiet. You hear the wind, you hear the birds, the mountains look clear. So, that’s one side of it. But you’re also in an accident in Jakarta. Sounds like those two things really inspired you to some extent to start Damon.
Jay Giraud: Not in a way that I connected those dots, but yes. So, in 2007, I was riding a big Honda Valkyrie. I used to sell motorbikes before I started REV, the electric car company. So, in 2007, I was selling these bikes. My girlfriend at the time and I, we borrowed this six-cylinder 1500 cc monster of a gas bike. And up on the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler one summer, I just slammed, I just shut the engine off at 80 miles an hour. And yes, suddenly the whole environment came alive around me. We were drowning it out with a roar of this engine, and suddenly, bang! It was just the sound of the wind and whiskey jack birds and waterfalls on the side. I could feel the mist in a new way because suddenly, the engine noise wasn’t disconnecting me from the environment. That was pretty profound. That was a moment I thought we have to go electric. So, I did start REV six months later, making electric cars and SUVs, not motorbikes, ironically. And then yeah, jump ahead to 2016 when I was in Jakarta for my best friend’s wedding, and I crashed the motorbike on a sidewalk while following everyone else doing the same thing. And then I had a very different attitude about the people around me – these millions of motorcyclists – that kind of led to “We gotta make motorbikes safer.”
Ed Bernardon: Recently, we had Carlo Mondavi on the Future Car podcast. He’s the grandson of the Mondavis, the vineyards, and wine. And he founded an electric autonomous tractor company. He was a professional snowboarder, just like you were. Do you think there’s something about being a professional snowboarder that prepares you to be entrepreneur in the electric vehicle world?
Jay Giraud: I think there’s something about being a snowboarder that prepares you to be an entrepreneur, which is the ability to interpret and manage risk really well. When I was snowboarding, my girlfriend’s parents frequently, every week, just couldn’t understand why we would do that, how we could do that. I said it countless times, because it was the only way it made sense, you don’t get out of bed one day and decide to throw yourself off a 100-foot jump. You get there slowly. One incremental step at a time. You take one measured risk after another until you can take what appears to be a very big risk to someone who doesn’t have the skill. But it’s relative. When you’ve had enough of that kind of risk-taking, you can take other kinds of risks and you can interpret and manage and measure in ways that I can’t explain. But I think that’s what I’m good at, is managing risk in ways that are too uncomfortable for others, especially with the absence of ever having complete information to make a decision but you just know that you can and you do. And you know that if you get yourself into trouble, you can work your way out.
Ed Bernardon: I think you have to be comfortable with not having complete information. And some people enjoy that.
Jay Giraud: Yeah, maybe a little.
Ed Bernardon: Well, that’s what makes life exciting. But I think that this idea of you see someone making a jump that’s 50-100 feet through the air, maybe without the rear foot in the binding. But the key though is, like you said, you’re not going to do that on day one, you’re going to take step one to who knows, there are 20-30 steps in between there, and figuring out what those steps are, and being patient to not take too big of a step. Certainly applies to taking jumps with snowboarding. But it’s like you said, it’s exactly the way you need to think of if you’re starting a new company, especially when it’s groundbreaking trying to do something that no one else has ever done.
Jay Giraud: We really wanted to make an electric motorbike that was safer from scratch at the very, very beginning in 2017. But we convinced ourselves to just focus on the collision warning system first. And we spent three years perfecting the world’s only collision warning system on a donor bike, a gas bike. And we had to convince ourselves that we could actually make motorbikes safer. I wasn’t sure we could. The hypothesis was definitely outstanding for the first couple of years until we’ve developed enough prototypes to know that not only can make motorbikes safer, but we can make them progressively safer. And that became a pretty big motivator for us. And from a corporate perspective, raising money for a high-tech electric motorbike that’s safer, was too many pills for an investor to swallow in the beginning. So, to the same point of chopping up, you’re starting with a five-foot jump, and eventually, you’re doing 100 feet jumps, we started off with collision warning and worked our way to the entire motorbike.
Ed Bernardon: That’s part 1 with Jay Giraud. Join us again for part 2 when we’ll continue our discussion with Jay on the details that make the Damon Hypersport such a revolutionary motorcycle. And as always, for more information about Siemens Digital Industries Software, make sure to visit us at plm.automation.siemens.com. And until next time, I’m Ed Bernardon, and this has been the Future Car Podcast.
Jay Giraud – Guest, co-founder & CEO Damon
Jay Giraud is co-founder and chief executive officer of Damon Motors. A serial entrepreneur, Jay has focused his efforts on redefining mobility with Damon, creating a safer, smarter and seamlessly connected motorcycle experience. Jay is the author of multiple patents and has spoken extensively about automotive, mobility and cleantech at conferences globally. In addition to his entrepreneurial efforts, Jay is an extreme sports enthusiast. He traveled the world as British Columbia’s top-ranked professional snowboarder in all four freestyle disciplines in 1998. Jay has been riding motorcycles for over 20 years and has ridden hundreds of different motorcycles on track and the road. His favorite place to ride is Northern California and aims to tour Montana and Wyoming in the future. Jay has a passion for sport and supersport bikes, as well as an appreciation for touring bikes. Jay has ensured the experiences of all three are in the Hypersport design.
Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Intiatives – Host
Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership including hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011. Ed holds an M.S.M.E. from MIT, B.S.M.E. from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.
If you like this Podcast, you might also like:
- Sustainable EV Global Circumnavigation with Ben Scott-Geddes, Fering Technologies – Part 2
- Carlo Mondavi’s Autonomous Electric Tractors for Sustainable, Affordable Farming – Part 1
- The Next Leap for Electric Vehicles with Will Graylin, Indigo Technologies – Part 1
The Future Car Podcast
The tech-driven disruption of the auto industry cuts across domains, from silicon and software to sensors and AI to smart traffic management and mobility services. Get the chip- to city-scale story in regular interviews with technologists at Siemens and beyond.