Along for the Ride #113

It's our third birthday! And we're celebrating with a throwback.

Heya friends, happy Friday!

This week we are celebrating Along for the Ride’s third birthday! Please see this gif for an accurate description of my mood today. I spoke about how the newsletter started in the 100th edition (would recommend reading if you’re new here!) including the original email I sent out with everybody on bcc. Well I dug that out and you can read a snippet below (🙈):

This email felt like a fun thing to share with everybody here as a mini celebration of how far this newsletter has come since then. Thank you for being here, being nerdy with me, and learning alongside me. I appreciate your continued readership greatly. If you want to help celebrate, I would appreciate it so much if you shared this newsletter with your transit-inclined peers, parents, friends, social networks, etc. Thank you!

Ok, onto le news!

Video (!) of the Week

Shoutout to my wonderful friend Adam Tranter who has been championing this campaign for the last year in the UK. The Bike is Best campaign is putting cars in their place by bringing attention to how ridiculous it is that we use them for every. single. journey.

Read of the Week

The costly pursuit of AVs continues on, and on, and on.

“The wizards of Silicon Valley said people would be commuting to work in self-driving cars by now. Instead, there have been court fightsinjuries and deaths, and tens of billions of dollars spent on a frustratingly fickle technology that some researchers say is still years from becoming the industry’s next big thing.”

Government and Policy

On American highways

A fun! Interactive! NYT pieces on removing American highways! We! Love! To! See! It!

This piece talks about how American cities destroyed themselves by building urban highways, and how they can start to turn these highways back into neighbourhoods. It should be noted that the impetus behind many of these highways being built in the first place was racial segregation, and for decades the legacy of that institutionalized process has not sufficiently been addressed or acknowledged.

When driving becomes (partially) automated, people drive more

A new study from UC Davis finds that users with advanced driver-assistance systems drive more miles per year than similar drivers without the feature. “In new research released this month, Hardman and postdoctoral researcher Debapriya Chakraborty suggest that making driving less terrible leads to a natural conclusion: more driving. Using data from a survey of 630 Tesla owners, with and without Autopilot, the researchers found that motorists with partial automation drive on average 4,888 more miles per year than similar owners without the feature.”

Are we on the verge of a transit renaissance?

Scream-whispers: yessssssssss.

FastCo considers how Biden’s infrastructure bill (namely the $85 billion pegged for city transit agencies) can be put to use, and how a new era of public transit may be upon us. Get your bus pass ready.

Germany develops regulations to welcome AVs

Here’s a link to the actual regulations (for you German speakers + readers!). Everybody else… we get the TechCrunch interpretation. This new regulation would allow Level 4 vehicles to operate on Germany’s public roads without a human driver sometime starting in 2022.

How to become a walkable city

A short-n-sweet intro to walkable cities, from the perspective of Eugene, Oregon. Discussing (at a very high level) what can be done to make American cities more walkable.

More news:

  • Cruise has asked Biden Admin to speed up regulations to allow AVs to scale across the country (Reuters)

  • Results from Ottawa’s AV trial are out (ElectricAutonomy)

  • How AV transit pilots are evolving into full-scale programs (GovTech)


Volvo’s new concept AV

Volvo released a new concept car recently, and well it is edgy and masculine and not exactly toaster shaped?

“Central to the mission is the Volvo 360c, an autonomous, glass-domed concept car that Volvo engineers have equipped with special speakers to communicate information to passengers and pedestrians alike. The research project, dubbed Sonic Interaction in Intelligent Cars (SIIC), aims to resolve one of the biggest issues with electric cars: they are almost entirely silent. What they found was a major opportunity to build rider trust by reproducing the auditory experience of the classic, gas-guzzling combustion engine.”

Ladies leading the charge

Forbes profiled three women CEOs (Waabi founder and CEO Raquel Urtasun, Zoox CEO Aicha Evans, and Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana) this week. Three out of 12 leading autonomous technology companies in North America are now led by women—which is sadly more representative than both automotive and tech industries more widely. 

Ex-Uber AV leader starts her own company: Waabi

And on that note… Waabi was founded by Toronto-based Raquel Urtasun, who previously led Uber’s Advanced Technology Group out of Toronto. Waabi will focus first on the logistics and long-haul trucking industries because of their pressing needs.

California gives Cruise a permit to carry passengers

I keep reading so many pieces about how AVs are *decades* away. And then, just like that, another operator receives a permit to allow their vehicles to pick up and drop off passengers? C’est la vie I guess. So far, Cruise is the only company in California approved to give rides to passengers without a safety driver on board. The vehicles do still have to have a link to a remote safety operator.

Is Waymo going public?

Ah the mobility industry, where every week, somebody somewhere writes that [Insert Company] is (a) going public via IPO, (b) going public via SPAC, (c) merging with another company, (d) raising a shocking amount of money (e) being completely dissolved, or (f) just continuing on as is. C’est la vie of any mobility company in 2021.

This time, eyes are on Waymo. The company is supposedly looking to raise $4 billion USD. The company may also spin off from Alphabet (Google, for all intensive purposes) and go public. Only time will tell, but I’ve got my popcorn at the ready.

Pony.AI also gets a California permit has received a permit from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to test its fleet of AVs without a human safety drivers behind the wheel on specified streets in Fremont, Milpitas, and Irvine. Note: this is a different permit than the one mentioned above.

More news:

  • Apple’s self-driving leadership is dropping like flies (Bloomberg)

  • Why electric vehicles weigh so much more than gas-fueled cars (CNN)

  • Tesla scopes partnership with Luminar (Bloomberg)

  • ArgoAI (a Ford subsidiary) plans to IPO (Reuters)

  • Waymo partners with JB Hunt to pilot AV trucking in Texas (TechCrunch)

Research and Academia

Car pollution in NYC claims 1,400 lives per year

Nice recap from Streetsblog too. “The Harvard and the University of North Carolina study of 12 states plus the District of Columbia found that New York state suffered 2,024 premature deaths in 2016 (the last year for which statistics are available) and the New York City metro area logged 1,404 deaths specifically linked to high amounts of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) — pollutants that contribute to poor air quality and lead to health problems like respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.”

Evaluating competition between AVs and public transport

New research from the Singapore-MIT Alliance is the first-of-its-kind study using game theory to analyze the competition between AVs and public transit.

“Our study found that competition between AVs and public transit can be favorable, leading to increased profits and system efficiency for both operators when compared to the status quo, while also benefiting the public and the transport authorities. However, the impact of the competition on passengers is uneven and authorities may be required to provide support for people who suffer from higher travel costs or longer travel times in terms of discounts or other feeder modes.”


The promise and peril of AVs

“This kind of overly simplistic logic—insensitive to the vagaries of traffic violence and the way streets are designed that turn predictable human carelessness into life-ending tragedies—is exactly the kind of logic that makes safe streets advocates and AV skeptics reject the idea that self-driving cars are a solution to traffic violence, especially given current technological limitations.”

That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.