Along for the Ride #103

Heya friends, happy Friday!

Happy to report that we are all the same type of weird, as Cats of Brutalism was last week’s most clicked link. I’ll be sure to pepper in similar finds in future editions!

Secondly, if you’re enjoying this newsletter, please consider forwarding it on to a fellow transport nerd, friend, co-worker, or even a nemesis! Up to you!

Ok, onto le news.

Read of the Week

Active Exclusion

Fantastic piece from Places about how exclusionary active travel planning can be, and how we learn from the past to do better in the future. This piece takes a sharp look at what NYC’s Queen’s Ribbon bridge means for those who are not able bodied.

“Proponents of “active transportation” — defined as human-powered mobility, chiefly walking and cycling — are hopeful that contingency measures adopted during lockdown will outlast the arrival of coronavirus vaccines. But what is usually missing amidst the growing enthusiasm for non-motorized mobility is any awareness of the ways in which projects like the Queens Ribbon, and more broadly the concept of active transportation itself, can reinforce longstanding forms of exclusion.”

Government and Policy

Automated electric bus hits the streets of Málaga

What looks like your ordinary 12-metre (39ft) bus, is now completing a regular route with assisted driving technology in the Spanish city of Málaga. The bus route links Málaga’s port to the city centre on an 8km loop it does six times a day. Although the bus has lower capacity than most, and can only carry 60 passengers; it was developed by Spanish company, Irizar.

How California can prepare for AVs

This article gives some initial insight into SB66, a Bill introduced in California by State Senator, Ben Allen. The intention behind the Bill is to develop policy on autonomous vehicles before it's too late. A core component of SB66 is to establish an advisory committee to “ensure that as autonomous vehicles are deployed, they enhance the state’s efforts to increase road safety, promote equity, and meet public health and environmental objectives”.

Heidelberg, a city where cars are not welcome

NYT has a nice article out this week on how Heidelberg continues to prioritize non-motorized transportation—including EVs. “Among the city’s measures to make cars irrelevant are building bridges that would allow cyclists to bypass congested areas or cross the Neckar without having to compete for road space with motor vehicles..

Battery-powered vehicles don’t pollute the air, but they take up just as much space as gasoline models. Mr. Würzner [Mayor] complains that Heidelberg still suffers rush-hour traffic jams, even though only about 20 percent of residents get around by car. The rest walk, bicycle or take the electric buses that ply the narrow, cobbled streets of the city’s old quarter..”

US Bills to reduce car dependency

Streetsblog considers what Bills may finally have legs under the Biden Admin to help reduce America’s infatuation with the motor vehicle. Many of the Bills would funnel additional funds towards public transit, cycling and walking infrastructure, and incentives to electrify existing transit networks.


Volkswagen and Argo AI unveil new vehicle

Volkswagen plans to automate its ID. Buzz, an electric minivan inspired by the iconic 1960s VW Microbus. It will be the first VW vehicle to use the autonomous-driving system being developed by Argo AI. VW has also said that it plans to launch the vehicle for urban ride-hailing service in 2025. 

Aurora to acquire OURS Technology

This is the second LiDAR company Aurora has acquired since 2019 (Blackmore being the first), and follows the company’s recent acquisition of Uber’s AV unit. OURS Technology, which was founded in 2017 by a team out of Berkeley employs a relatively quaint 12 people. The entire team is heading to Aurora!

An interview with Austin Russell

Austin Russell is the founder and CEO of Luminar, a LiDAR company working on AVs. He’s also a billionaire. And… also 25 years old. He is interviewed about his experiences dropping out of Stanford, winning the Thiel fellowship, and starting Luminar. I personally find the interview to be a bit detached from reality, but interesting to read nonetheless!

Cruise considers acquiring Voyage

Cruise (GM) is in talks to acquire Voyage, an autonomous technology startup that operates in retirement communities, and is based in Palo Alto. While the conversations are reported to be serious, it is also thought that no deal is imminent. If an agreement is struck, it would merge Cruise’s engineering and software capabilities with Voyage’s presence in the retirement community market.

Research and Academia

Transportation safety in the context of planning

Professor Barajas (UC Davis) delivers a talk on mobility justice perspectives to contextualize street safety for cyclists and pedestrians. He argues that while cyclists and pedestrians are vulnerable road users and face significant safety threats on roadways, environmental conditions in historically marginalized communities compound such vulnerability for people of color.

Finding our flow with mixed autonomy traffic

This research considers what the impact of mixed traffic fleets could be, considering what roads could look and feel like when AVs and human drivers co-mingle.

“This article tackles technical challenges arising from the partial adoption of autonomy: partial control, partial observation, complex multivehicle interactions, and the sheer variety of traffic settings represented by real-world networks.. Learned control laws are found to exceed human driving performance by at least 40% with only 5-10% adoption of AVs. In partially-observed single-lane traffic, a small neural network control law can eliminate stop-and-go traffic – surpassing all known model-based controllers, achieving near-optimal performance, and generalizing to out-of-distribution traffic densities.”

Gender differences when using ADAS

N.B. Looks like the authors may have conflated gender and sex for this study. Researchers considered if a person’s gender revealed any patterns related to their use of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies. They found that:

  • Male and female (sic) behavior was significantly different in behavior-type variables.

  • Significant differences revealed in driving speed, longitudinal distance and lateral position.

  • Gender had significant effect on outcome variables including alert and crash rate.

Climate change and active travel

Shout out to AFTR reader Michael for sharing this article. New research from Oxford considers how much CO2 can be saved by walking, cycling and e-biking in towns and cities. They found that:

  • Cyclists had 84% lower CO2 emissions from all daily travel than non-cyclists.

  • Life cycle CO2 emissions decreased by 14% for each additional cycling trip.

  • The top 10% of participants were responsible for 59% of life cycle CO2 emissions.

  • Regular cycling was most strongly associated with reduced life cycle CO2 emissions for commuting and social trips.

That’s all from me, have a beautiful weekend friends.