Author: Ben Libby, Creative Director, Bear Notch Studio
Contributing Author: Yuzhakov Vladislav, The Valkris Company, Inc.
Editor: Kathy Bizzoco, Green Frog Publishing
This month we have the pleasure of interviewing Yuzhakov Vladislav. Yuzhakov is a young entrepreneur becoming well known in his industry as the founder of Valkris Company, which focuses on transportation automation. As technology evolves, we are moving toward some of the most significant advances in autonomous automation, energy sustainability, and potentially a new digital economy called "blockchain." Yuzhakov will be answering some tough questions, as in our minds, he’s a "wicked smaht" kid.
[Bear Notch Studio]: Hello Yuzhakov, thanks for taking the time to spend with us. We noticed you on Instagram and thought, “How cool would it be to interview a young entrepreneur in Science, Technology, Robotics, and Automation?” Can you tell us about yourself?
[Yuzhakov Vladislav]: Thank you! I'm a 21-year-old engineer engaged in the field of AI and solar energy. I'm working on exciting projects such as the integration of self-driving trucks and the development of a 45 Megawatt solar power plant in the Czech Republic. I've also earned two master's degrees: one in Advanced Vehicles from Moscow Polytechnic University, and the other in Economic Mathematics from Dresden University of Technology.
[BNS]: When you were younger, did you always have a fascination with energy, electricity, and robotics?
[YV]: I have always been fond of robotics and energy. When I was 12- or 13-years-old, I listened to stories about automobile technology on the radio. When I was little older, I began to understand the technology of demand response in the energy sector. By 15 or 16, I had converted an old gas-powered car to electric. That project helped me understand the many problems facing the field of electric vehicles! But I didn't give up and am still working on an electric power motor—I have one ready now for a hypercar project.
[BNS]: Are there robotic universities where you live? Do you plan on attending college or are you self-educated?
[YV]: Moscow has established schools of mathematics and technical sciences, and many excellent technical universities teaching robotics. Unfortunately, their knowledge is not necessarily current. Although the basic education students receive is extensive, many university students graduate with information from 10 years ago.
I was lucky to graduate from the Moscow Polytechnic University in the Transport Sciences Faculty where I learned the basics of engineering and design. I taught myself robotics, machine learning, and energy using the Internet. I've also been fortunate to have mentors who help me with problems I don't yet understand.
[BNS]: You’re a founder of Valkris Company. What does Valkris specialize in? What are your company’s short- and long-term goals? Would you ever plan to move to the USA?
[YV]: Valkris designs smart technologies for construction. For example, we manufacture solar panels with increased efficiency and develop robots to construct wooden frames. Right now, our headliner project is a self-driving system for trucks. We are already launching unmanned trucks at quarries and construction sites in test modes. Soon, my team will launch pilot projects with unmanned trucks in Europe. We already have income from these integrations because companies can see the value of automating construction projects and quarries. We are also planning a release of fully autonomous trucks in conjunction with a major truck manufacturer.
I've thought about working in the USA many times. This is a great place for development and expansion. But so far, it is only a thought!
[BNS]: From what we’ve seen on various media sites, Russian transportation includes very small cars and trucks. Do you think there’s a large market for electric vehicles in Russia and the EU?
[YV]: Russia has a very curious situation with electric cars. We have very cold winters which are tough on batteries. Not so long ago I was in Moscow, and could not replace the brake pads on a Tesla because it is a "machine from the future," and the mechanics were afraid to touch it. Fortunately, the situation is improving. Russians used to have to pull an electric extension cord from 4th-floor apartments to recharge their cars. Now charging stations are becoming common.
Now in Europe, the weather is kinder to sensitive batteries. Europeans are moving forward more quickly—from ubiquitous charging stations to tax deductions for the purchase of electric cars. The EU has every chance to become a big market.
[BNS]: Google has been a long-term player in the autonomous industry, though it seems that they are frequently having issues hitting other cars and even pedestrians. Can you explain what’s going wrong? Why wouldn’t sensors pick up moving people or inanimate objects?
[YV]: Various mathematical algorithms are used to determine objects in an unmanned vehicle. Algorithms are challenging to read and must take various parameters into account. So determining what should be avoided and what should be ignored is complex. Algorithms can't always successfully identify objects—yet. AI is not yet able to comprehensively perceive everything. To take all parameters into account, you need a sufficient number of cameras and fast image processing. Very often, a lack of computing power for RAPID image processing and object detection is the problem. You can imagine that if a computer has difficulties at the cognitive level how difficult cognition would be on the road, with potholes and oil stains and shade from trees, buildings, etc.
[BNS]: Sustainable energy is getting big in the United States. Do you think Russia has enough sun, wind, and other natural resources to power Russia with electricity exclusively?
[YV]: Russia has enough renewable resources… yes, we have enough sun. For example, in the Siberian city of Tyumen, where -13 degrees Fahrenheit is common during winter, the sun actually shines 280 days a year—enough to deploy an efficient solar power station! Hydroelectric power stations and tidal power plants are also being developed. Our biggest obstacle is the low cost of electricity produced from gas, oil, and coal. In this respect, indeed, the US has a big advantage!
[BNS]: As technology advances with autonomous electric vehicles, what do you think about hydrogen fuel cells? Are fuel cells a realistic option for electricity?
[YV]: Oh, hydrogen fuel cells as an energy source is quite promising! The obstacle there is extracting hydrogen by electrolysis on an industrial scale is not cheap. If scientists are able to develop infrastructure, to find a way of cost-effectively extracting hydrogen, and establishing procedures for the distribution of fuel, then we could forever forget about exhaust gases, oil rigs, and other problems resulting from our dependence on fossil fuels.
[BNS]: We recently made an attempt to understand blockchain technology. Do you think blockchain will overtake the world economy at some point? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this new digital economy?
[YV]: As a technology that eliminates intermediaries, blockchain is a necessity. Reducing the time and cost of transactions definitely gives the development of a digital economy an edge. Blockchain is also secure. For me, as a business owner, improving these parameters is essential. As I understand it now, the main obstacle is the number of operations per second—the value is missing by significant orders of magnitude [I have no clue what he means by this]. If this changes, blockchain will definitely reach a completely different level.
[BNS]: Do you think blockchain can be incorporated into autonomous vehicles?
[YV]: I am sure that blockchain will take its position in the transportation sector. Valkris is already using blockchain in our self-driving systems. The register keeps a complete history of truck trips for the entire cycle of use. Interesting models will be formulated when the register can record all information, such as the engine's operation during use, fuel consumption and so on. With this information, we will be able to build predictive models for using and repairing vehicles. And this is just the beginning. Blockchain can be implemented in such areas as logistics and insurance. Blockchain will also become very useful in autonomous transport systems where it is necessary to reduce document flow.
[BNS]: Can you tell us your best robotic joke?
[YV]: Sure! I am often asked what to do to immobilize an autonomous vehicle. And I always show this picture :)
[BNS]: Can you leave us with any inspiring thoughts, advice to young people wanting to get into robotics and autonomous technology?
[YV]: I started in my garage. I advise others to do the same—it trains us to have a purpose. My father once told me, "A problem is just a theoretical or practical task." He helped me realize that everything can be solved, especially when working in such areas such as robotics and AI. I would also tell young people to be prepared to work hard!
[BNS]: Thank you Yuzhakov for spending time with us and sharing your knowledge. We wish you much success moving forward. With emerging technology and "wicked smaht" people like you, I’m sure we’ll be seeing even more technological advancements in the not so distant future.