Inside Plus: Chuck Joseph, VP of Strategic Partnerships
Chuck Joseph has seen the telematics and autonomous vehicle industry develop from the ground up. His long and varied career includes stints as Trimble Navigation’s executive vice president, where he helped take the company from $100 million in revenue to more than $1 billion. He has held executive positions with seven startups and helmed Amazon’s global transportation technology Business Development group.
Along the way, Joseph bore witness to the building of the new Hong Kong airport, oversaw Trimble Navigation’s assistance to the Japanese government utilizing GPS technology to locate survivors following the disastrous Kobe earthquake, and delivered a presentation in Moscow three weeks after an attempted revolution in the Soviet Union that saw artillery fire on Russia’s White House.
Joseph lives with his wife in San Diego, California.
Q: How did you decide to join the Plus team after leaving Amazon?
A: What attracted me to Plus was the quality of the business model vs. the other players in the commercial autonomous vehicle space. The world of driver-out autonomy while handling commercial freight will not happen overnight. It will be an evolutionary process where technology, public policy, and infrastructure improvements all move forward together. The technology to automate the truck is here today, but the rest of everything you need — including regulations and fleet operations logistics — isn’t.
The big draw of Plus was the fact that they have a product on the street today that could pay benefits in safety and driver convenience while doing so cost-effectively.
Q: Describe your role at Plus.
A: I’m involved in a combination of executive-level strategic planning and next-generation product ideas. Tactically, on a day-by-day basis, I lead our go-to-market strategy for PlusDrive, and I am deeply involved in our PlusDrive rollout with Amazon.
Q: Your career intersects with some of the key moments in telematics history. Describe the early days.
A: I started my career at IBM, and then found my way to the early years of telematics, which morphed itself into, among other things, machine control and artificial intelligence. I was bitten by the bug that had to do with the use of machine control technology and tracking systems in applications areas such as mining, construction, marine, avionics, and transportation.
The early days of telematics were incredible. Trimble was the pioneer. I traveled the world with [founder] Charlie Trimble speaking to commercial customers, government agencies, and military organizations where GPS, as a dual-use technology, was utilized for guidance, control, and mapping.
Q: Telematics also gave you a front seat to world history. Why were you in Russia at the time of their protests and political unrest?
A: I was there three weeks after the bombing of their own White House when they had a political insurrection. I was working for Trimble and had to give a presentation — Commercial Business Opportunities Utilizing GPS Technology— to 40 people sitting in a crowded conference room on top of what was known at the time as their Ministry of Technology. I would say, 39 of 40 of the meeting participants were smoking, which made a fairly difficult to breathe room, especially for a non-smoker.
I found out later 11 of them were former KGB executive officers, all of whom were now looking for new jobs. The Soviet Union was gone. It was now Russia and what was once a state where all land was communal property, there was now private property that needed to be surveyed and mapped for ownership.
Q: How do you spend your downtime?
A: These days there seems to be the only time for Plus and my family, and of course, wine collecting. I am also an official Lego VIP, which means purchasing enormous numbers of sets for my sons, daughters-in-law, grandkids, friends, and myself. My sons are both Lego Master Builders, which means they don’t require instructions in order to complete successful builds from scratch. Pretty impressive for a corporate attorney and professor of neural genetics.
If you asked me what I am most proud of, it’s my two sons and what they and their wonderful wives have made of their lives plus what fantastic fathers, mothers, and professionals they have become.