Morning Brew - ☕ Evanescent execs

What does a chief AI officer do?
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March 22, 2024

Tech Brew

Infinity Fuel

It’s Friday. There’s a new C-suite exec in town on LinkedIn: the CAIO. If you’re a company’s chief AI officer, you’re near the top of an org chart. But what does the job entail? Today, we have the first in a series of profiles in which Tech Brew’s Patrick Kulp interviews people with the hot new title.

In today’s edition:

Patrick Kulp, Jordyn Grzelewski, Annie Saunders

AI

A temp in the C-suite?

Chief AI officer Francis Scialabba

It’s not often in tech reporting that you talk to someone who happily tells you their job is doomed for obsolescence.

But Dan O’Connell, chief AI and strategy officer at the cloud communications company Dialpad, sees his current role—and the jobs of other AI-devoted C-suiters—as essentially transitional: They are there to shepherd their respective companies into a future where AI is ubiquitous enough that it no longer falls under the purview of just one exec.

“I actually think this is a moment-in-time type of role. And it’s funny to say that about your own job,” O’Connell said. “The need for the specific AI person goes away simply because everyone else levels up their skills and knowledge around these technologies, which is what my guess is probably happens.”

Like the chief metaverse officers before them, chief AI officers (CAIOs) emerged to ride a hype wave around a new technology that’s still transfixing upper management. A survey published in CIO magazine last fall found that 11% of midsize to large companies had hired a CAIO, and another 21% were on the hunt for one.

But what do these super-specialized higher-ups do that goes beyond the remit of, say, a chief technology officer or a chief information officer? And is this a role every AI-curious company needs in its org chart? This is the first in a series of profiles where Tech Brew attempts to find out.

Keep reading here.—PK

     

PRESENTED BY INFINITY FUEL

Renewable energy goes interstellar

Infinity Fuel

You’ve heard of solar panels and windmills…but who’s handling renewable energy in space?

Meet Infinity Fuel Cell and Hydrogen, Inc., the company known for generating power in places where most of us didn’t think it was possible.

Infinity has already had $50m+ in contracts that include developing systems to power submarines and NASA spacecraft. They also recently launched a fuel cell aboard a Blue Origin rocket (yes, Jeff Bezos’ company).

Infinity’s name comes from their ability to convert hydrogen and oxygen to electricity and water, then back again. It saves trips for spacecraft, which is why SpaceX has even spoken of similar tech being used for future Mars missions.

The best part? For a limited time, you can become an Infinity shareholder.

FUTURE OF TRAVEL

Getting organized

UAW workers on the picket line Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The United Auto Workers notched a win in its campaign to organize hundreds of thousands of nonunion autoworkers across the US.

The union said this week that workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election after a “supermajority” of workers at the plant signed union authorization cards.

“It is a major milestone and a historic moment. We’re on the cusp of a union election that could prove transformative,” Harley Shaiken, a labor expert and professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, told Tech Brew.

The move marks the first filing for a union election since the UAW launched its ambitious organizing campaign on the heels of winning record contracts with Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis last year.

The UAW went public with its organizing drive at the VW plant in December. The union also has its sights set on BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Lucid, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Rivian, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, and Volvo plants. It has committed $40 million to the effort and reported a few early successes.

Keep reading here.—JG

     

FUTURE OF TRAVEL

Plug-in price drops

Image of an electric vehicle painted on a parking spot Unsplash

EV prices dropped 12.8% YoY in February—the latest sign that plug-in cars could soon reach price parity with combustion engine vehicles.

That’s according to new data from Kelley Blue Book, which reported that the average price of an EV last month was $52,314, down from $54,863 in January and only about $5,000 more than the average transaction price for a new vehicle in the US in February ($47,244).

“Our research continues to show that price remains a significant barrier for consumer adoption,” Stephanie Valdez Streaty, director of industry insights at Cox Automotive, which owns KBB, said in a statement. “While the higher inventory levels and increased competition continue to drive down the price premium of EVs, it’s important to acknowledge that EVs remain priced above mainstream non-luxury vehicles by nearly 19%.”

Recent price declines in the EV segment have been driven in large part by aggressive price cuts by Tesla for the two most popular EVs in the country: the Model Y and Model 3.

KBB’s analysis found that transaction prices for the Model Y fell 16.2% YoY, hitting their lowest level on record in February, while Model 3 prices were down 12% YoY. Cox Automotive noted that “high incentives and discounts on most models also continue to play a major role in lower EV prices.”

Keep reading here.—JG

     

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BITS AND BYTES

Stat: 30%–56%. That’s the percentage of sales of new light-duty vehicles automakers “may choose” to be made up of battery-electric vehicles under new federal regulations governing tailpipe emissions, Tech Brew’s Jordyn Grzelewski reported.

Quote: “There is no such thing as ‘protecting what’s important.’”—Steve Cagle, CEO of healthcare security and risk management company Clearwater, to Healthcare Brew in a story about what healthcare execs should know about cyberattacks and ransomware

Read: The drama kings of tech (The Atlantic)

COOL CONSUMER TECH

Image of sales tags on a red background. Carol Yepes/Getty Images

Usually, we write about the business of tech. Here, we highlight the *tech* of tech.

Cool consumer tech, on sale: Roundups of Amazon discounts aren’t in our bailiwick, but we’d be remiss if we failed to alert our readers of the servicey work of other publications. Wired has a nice little roundup of consumer-tech deals happening during Amazon’s Big Spring Sale, running through Monday, while the Strategist corralled beauty and home items (don’t sleep on the snail mucin).

Trending tote: Small tote bags adorned with the Trader Joe’s logo, which retail for a mere $2.99 in stores, have been listed for as much as $700 on eBay after the bags went viral on social media, Retail Brew reported. Our recommendation? Eschew the tote, get a fun beverage, a bag of those multicolor carrots, and a yummy dip of choice, and have a picnic in the sunshine.

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