Along for the Ride #117

Heya friends, happy Friday!

Welcome to new friends via SUMC, really happy to have you here for this wild ride. Ok onto this week’s news:

Read of the Week

20% of urban deaths could be avoided if cities were designed better

“Building cities for cars and urban sprawl encourages car use, traffic congestion, air pollution, and noise. The result is more stress, road trauma, and physical inactivity as well as worse health overall and more deaths.

It follows that we need better designs for our cities. Research has shown, for instance, that 20% of all deaths could be prevented if cities were designed to meet the recommendations for physical activity, air pollution, noise, heat, and green space.”

Reminds me to also recommend this week’s episode of The Daily discussing the Pacific Northwest Heatwaves, which demonstrated that in the richest parts of Portland (tree cover, sidewalks) outside temperatures hovered around 98° F, while in the poorer neighbourhood (limited tree cover, traditionally non-white communities) temperatures soared to over 120° F.

Government and Policy

Germany’s New AV Law

Super interesting read comparing Germany’s new AV driving law to current regulations in the US—and perhaps where Germany is getting things “right”.

“With its requirement that autonomous vehicles be overseen by humans, the German law reflects a realization in the industry that researchers are still years away from cars that can safely allow the driver to disengage while the car does all the work. The law also requires that autonomous vehicles operate in a defined space approved by the authorities, an acknowledgment that the technology is not advanced enough to work safely in areas where traffic is chaotic and unpredictable.”

AVs and public-private partnerships

Gotta love the 3Ps. An interesting perspective shared from San Francisco’s SFMTA which is undoubtedly worrying:

“We don’t have a lot of insight into industry operations on city streets. None of the testing that’s occurring is really happening in partnership with the city, or in coordination,” said Katie Angotti, autonomous vehicle policy manager for the city, adding that the city is not able to draw conclusions around how AVs might impact greenhouse gas emissions, congestion, transit, equity and other areas.”

More policy news:

  • First international safety standard for AVs (Green Car Congress)

  • The UK has published a new plan to decardbonise all domestic transport by 2050 (Gov.uk)

  • Everything that’s wrong with free parking at work (Bloomberg)

  • Challenges facing transit agencies post-pandemic (Transit Center)

Industry

Toyota purchases Mapping Company, Carmera

Toyota’s latest investment in autonomous technology is U.S.-based Carmera (love a pun), a company that provides maps and data for driverless AVs. The purchase came through Toyota’s newly created subsidiary Woven Planet.

Aurora Innovation goes public via SPAC

Aurora (the AV startup that acquired Uber’s self-driving unit in December) went public this week via a SPAC, resulting in … drum roll please … an implied valuation of $13 billion. It’s last valuation, post acquiring Uber’s ATG, was $10 billion in December 2020.

More industry news:

  • Halo and T-Mobile launch autonomous, electric vehicle trial in Las Vegas (TechCrunch)

Opinion

AVs are a bigger challenge than we thought

“Human beings are required to pass a driving test before getting behind the wheel. But currently, highly automated vehicle systems are not. Right now, the regulatory landscape and certification process is uncertain and piecemeal. Yet the answer seems clear: There should be an “autonomous vehicle driving test.” To do this, government agencies should divvy up responsibilities between federal, state, and local partners, and create a clear path to certification.”

Extra Bits + Bobs

  • The latest version of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist podcast features a story about Waymo. Give it a listen!

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

Sarah