Padmasree Warrior wants to make your car as smart as your computer. After leaving Cisco Systems last fall, she was hired in December to run the U.S. division of Shanghai-based electric-vehicle startup NextEV, a Tesla rival that is working to integrate advanced Internet technology into automobiles. "Machine learning, computer vision, data science—all the things we’ve learned in the consumer Internet space we can now apply to the vehicle," says Warrior. "I was trying to decide what to do [after Cisco], and I wanted to pick an area where we could apply technology to solve big problems, things with a global impact."
NextEV is planning to release its first consumer-targeted vehicle later this year, a "supercar" that is expected to crank out more than 1,000 horsepower and accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds. The company also intends to introduce a more modest line of electric vehicles designed for everyday use. "How can we envision a new mode of transportation, new vehicles, while leveraging all the tech advances that have happened on mobile and the Internet?" says Warrior. "[I want to think about automobiles] as a technology platform, not just a physical car. That’s exciting."
"Take risks. A lot of people stay in the same industry sometimes for their entire lives. I would tell myself to go after new opportunities and take new challenges, explore and see what else you can do."
"I’m superexcited about robotics, including drones. There used to be fear, but we’re now accepting that robots and machines are going to be an integral part of our lives going forward."
"Too many messaging apps. How many are we going to have? A couple of big ones like WhatsApp and WeChat are great, but there are tons of others that came and went."
"[I don’t] have meetings for the sake of meetings. I don’t believe that just because you’re working 15 hours a day, or making your people work 15 hours a day, it means you’re productive."
A version of this article appeared in the May 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.