Why GoTo
Doctor Anat Lea Bonshtien, Chairman and Director of the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative at Israel's Prime Minister's Office

We do not want just to "catch up" in mobility regulations, we want Israel to become the world's leader

GoTo interviews smart mobility leaders so that we can learn from each other, share our news and industry concerns. The Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative is Israel's national program for alternative fuels and means of transportation.
By Katya Rozenoer
Doctor Anat Lea Bonshtien
Chairman and Director of the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative at Israel's Prime Minister's Office
Anat Lea Bonshtien, Chairman and Director of the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative at Israel Prime Minister's Office has been one of the founders of the organization back in 2011 as a joint effort of ten governments ministries. and leading the organization for the last three years. Israel's national program aims to establish Israel as a center of know-how and industry in alternative fuels and smart mobility, serving as a showcase to the world.

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How do you normally commute?
I live in the North of Israel and I commute by train. I do not aim to be a role model just want to make my commute more convenient, in the train I can work with comfort.

Your background has little to do with transportation, how did you get into mobility?
I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry but at some point, I joined Mimshak (in Hebrew interface) program, an Israeli analog of the American Association for the Advancement in Science (AAAS). The idea is to place scientists and researchers as advisors to government officials and decision-makers. Seven years ago, I was in the first batch of the Mimshak program positioned at the Prime Minister's Office, then after graduation, I went on to continue working in mobility. I do not have a background in transportation, but my scientific expertise and approach, deep understanding of technology enabled me to get into the topic very fast.
They would say "Israel will never become a major player in autotech since our country does not have an automotive experience to leverage"
What excites you most about the transportation industry today?
Seeing what Israel's mobility sector has become. Seven years ago, when I just started my tenure in the government, we had to convince scientists and entrepreneurs to join the sector, and a lot of people we talked to did not really want to do it. They would say "Israel will never become a major player in autotech since our country does not have an automotive experience to leverage", they felt we were not strong enough even in the energy – batteries, etc. But still, the government proceeded to create research centers and bringing the scientist onboard. Once the global trend for mobility became more apparent, more Israeli players started to realize they actually did have the knowledge to leverage, for example in deep learning, in computer vision.
Today, Israel is indeed one of the major players in the transportation industry with NO background in automotive.

Would you imagine the mobility sector of 2019 to look like that five years ago?
This is what we wanted to build but back then I couldn't imagine the scale. Today, we have more than 600 startups and almost 20 multinationals with R&D centers, investment of scouting activities in Israel. I mean we had been working to build the ecosystem and we believed we were doing the right thing, but I still thought there would be Mobileye and several more startups and R&D centers. Most of the Israeli startups we now have in the ecosystem are less than 3-4 years old. And in terms of multinationals, when I presented to the Prime Minister two years ago their activity in Israel, I promised him that we would double that number. And we did it.
Anat's presentation for Prime Minister in 2016 (on the left) and in 2019 (on the right), not there is less blank cells left
I interview many mobility entrepreneurs and when I ask them about what is broken in the industry, everyone mentions regulations. What do you think is broken and needs fixing?
Two things. First of all, there is a lot of knowledge in the academy that could and should be transferred to the industry. In the industry, there is a big need, for example for optical engineers and data scientists and these people do exist in the academy. We need to accelerate the knowledge transfer and make sure these people find a way to the industry. Another thing is – yes - regulations. Many startups need to do learning and testing in real-life environments in order to make progress. We are not yet there with the regulations. It is not just a local Israeli problem; this is a worldwide issue. But soon we should be able to provide the companies with the regulatory checklists so that they can ensure the compliance and proceed to the next stage.

So you're working hard now to catch up in terms of regulations.
We do not want just to "catch up" in mobility regulations, we want Israel to become the world's leader. Just as we lead in terms of technology, we want to lead in terms of the regulations.

Could you give me an example of the regulations you are working on now?
Take a discussion about when the autonomous vehicle can cross a solid white line separating two road lanes. According to the rules, this line should not be crossed, but if a human driver faces a situation when he or she needs to avoid an accident, they would cross it regardless of the rules. In the case of autonomous cars, technology to solve it is there: the sensor detects a potential accident. However, the regulation that would allow the algorithm that would "tell" the car "it's ok to cross now" – does not exist. So as a government we need to describe the conditions, which make such a decision legitimate, prioritizing life over rules. We work now with partners from Singapore and the US and we aim to develop not just regulations but smart mobility standards that would be accepted worldwide.
Highlights of the Smart Mobility Summit 2018, one of the major Smart Mobility events in the world
Beyond regulations, what is the hardest challenge Smart Mobility is tackling now?
Going to the massive deployment stage. A lot of companies, Volkswagen and Mobileye, for example, have recently announced commercial deployments. It's great news but how do we make this happen? There needs to be a transition made from the pilots and demo stage to the commercial deployment. So, we are thinking to make it a controlled process, starting with limited areas, learning there, further deploying into more areas.

Now, imagine 2024: you are in the middle of a city, looking around. What do you see? I'm especially curious if you believe in the shared transport services, the ones that our company, GoTo provides.
I see choices. If currently, I am a little limited with my mobility options, I see a city that offers its citizens different modes of transportation that are not just the best solution for the end used but also sustainable and beneficial from the city's perspective.

What industry book would you recommend to those interested in transportation and mobility?
The Startup Nation. A lot of delegations come to Israel and I lecture them about how we orchestrated the ecosystem establishment, by connecting academy and entrepreneurship, building the funnel from R&D centers to commercialization. I talk about the Ecomotion, a community that we established, but I always add that there is also a very unique DNA in Israel. I think it is crucial to understand it and The Startup Nation is the best book for it.
You can meet Anat and many more Israeli mobility ecosystem members during the next Smart Mobility Summit, on October 28-29 in Tel Aviv Israel. More details and registration is here.
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