Seizing a New Opportunity and CoPilot – Part 5 of a Conversation with Dr. Alain Kornhauser


It is clear from Dr. Alain Kornhauser’s actions that he lives by the late Everett Christensen’s postulate about learning from, but not living in the past. An example of that is how he and his company, ALK Technologies, created a new market after a behemoth-crushing experience in the retail space.

The sliced bread, as Kornhauser puts it, was a relatively low-cost, $100 GPS receiver from Australia, Marrying this device with ALK Technologies’ mapping data led to the creation of the first nationwide turn-by-turn navigation system, known as CoPilot.

In many ways, CoPilot hints at Kornhauser’s current efforts in autonomous mobility to ensure affordable mobility for all people, regardless of ability, location or income. As he points out in the above interview, the people who need CoPilot the most are those who don’t go places. CoPilot automates navigation, removing that hurdle.

Launched at J&R Computer World & Music in August 1997, a decade prior to the emergence of the smartphone era, CoPilot required a lap-top, the ALK maps on CDs, and a GPS receiver. Proving he is a hands-on, kind of guy, Kornhauser talks of driving around and testing CoPilot with an overheated laptop burning his legs.

Along the way, Kornhauser was involved in a number of firsts, including, in November 2004, being the first person to run the New York Marathon while tracked by GPS. This foreshadowed the future of low-cost integration of GPS into wireless phones. Kornhauser explains the early challenges that phone manufacturers had in isolating the GPS receivers from the cell phone’s primary transmitters and receivers.

In the meantime, ALK Technologies continued to build on its lead in the trucking market, adding features and capabilities to optimize routes. The parameters for a trucking company are a bit more complex than the consumer market and have to account for things such as bridge height, width restrictions, and hazardous material restrictions.

Its a testament to the foundation that ALK Technologies created that, almost a decade after its sale to Trimble Navigation, its CoPilot and PC*Miller offerings continue to remain relevant to the trucking, delivery, and consumer segments.

View part 6 of this interview, where Kornhauser talks about his next journey which was started by a persistent group of his students.

Click here to view all the segments of this interview.