Along for the Ride #118

Heya friends, happy Friday! And happy Olympics week 🥳

As a Canadian, I mostly only get worked up over the winter Olympics (love a luge, personally), but this year the Olympics has something special on offer (beyond very strict Covid restrictions and astonishing human capabilities)… it’s the first year there’s AVs at the Olympics. And we love to see that this fleet of Toyota e-Palettes are all designed to be shared and electric.

Alright, enough ogling over shuttles. Time for le news (my favourite piece this week is in the research section on cyclists being identified as hazards!!):

Read of the Week

Move fast and break things won’t work for AVs

An article I both nodded along to, and raised some eyebrows reading. It’s worth the read, and I’d be interested in hearing where it lands with you!

“Appropriate regulation channels innovation; it does not stifle it. Witness the improvements in both crashworthiness and efficiency that today’s automobiles exhibit over those of a few decades ago, stimulated by regulations the industry fought. Setting appropriate, quantifiable safety goals for autonomous vehicles, and ensuring that the vehicles on the road meet those standards, will not hold U.S. industry back. Instead, it will stimulate it to produce vehicles that other countries will want to buy. And it will provide a basis for protecting all of us from unsafe products produced elsewhere.”

Government and Policy

When Covid didn’t kill cities

Predictions swarmed last year that Covid would be the death to cities. Suburban living here we come rang opinion pieces everywhere. But how wrong so many were. The NYT deep-dives on why humans flock to cities, and why despite the dirt, noise, air pollution, high living costs, and other less favourable traits, we keep coming back.

Do Democrats really want to end highways?

This week, as Democrats tried to pass Biden’s infrastructure bill, Politico deep-dived on how House Democrats are trying to use this massive climate and infrastructure bill to change how Americans get around. In particular they are trying to break many states’ decades-old fondness for building new highways and expanding old ones. I for one am all for defunding highway expansion. This Politico piece aptly weighs the pros (many!) and cons (few!) of bringing an end to highway expansion.

Industry

Lyft, ArgoAI, and Ford partner to bring AVs to life

Launching later this year in Miami (and soon thereafter Austin), Lyft will host fleets of ArgoAI and Ford’s AVs. The plan is to have a few dozen cars operating in Miami and Austin, scaling to about 1,000 AVs across multiple cities within five years. Under the partnership, Lyft will take a 2.5 percent equity stake in Argo. In return, Lyft has agreed to share data it has collected about ride-sharing operations with Ford and Argo.

Tesla to sell FSD subscription for $199/month

Tesla is now offering some customers a way to subscribe and pay a monthly fee instead of $10,000 up-front for their “premium driver assistance features”. This launch comes as Consumer Reports share new analysis that more and more Tesla owners are concerned about using the company’s Full Self-Driving Software. In particular, Consumer Reports called out Tesla for “using its existing owners and their vehicles as guinea pigs for testing new features”

Waymo to open offices in Pittsburgh

The Steel City is once again attracting AV attention. Waymo announced this week they would open a new office in the city focusing on motion planning development, real-time route planning and developing their Driver platform. 

Mobileye brings AVs to NYC

Mobileye has received a special permit allowing their AVs (adapted Ford Fusions) to test ride on NYC roads while test drivers keep their hands fully off the steering wheel as the cars drive themselves. According to the press release, the city allowed Mobileye to test after reviewing the results of their testing in other crowded cities, like Tokyo, Tel Aviv and Detroit.

Research and Academia

When cyclists get labeled as “hazards”

New research considers how ‘hazard perception’ has become an integral part of novice driver education and training—and what happens when we affiliate cyclists as hazards. “We speculate that constituting cyclists as ‘hazards’, something that presents a danger or threat, may foster negative attitudes toward cyclists. We found a shift in the middle of the twentieth century from drivers being identified as ‘hazards’ to drivers being identified as perceivers of ‘hazards’. Out of 200 articles published on drivers' ‘hazard perception’ since the 1960s, one third categorised cyclists as ‘hazards’.”

Public health outcomes for 20mph city centres

New research out of Belfast interview 60 participants to explore the Belfast 20mph intervention, highlighting divergent perspectives and experiences. Implications of the intervention include limited awareness, reduced driving speeds leading to improved liveability, and increased cyclist safety.

What do Americans think about Transportation Tax?

Honestly, I low-key got lost in this report this week, as there as so many fascinating nuggets throughout their findings. I’ll copy and paste my favourites below:

  • Only 2% people of know that the federal gas tax rate has not been raised in more than 20 years. More than half of respondents (53%) said they simply didn’t know when the federal rate was last raised, and another 39% incorrectly believed the rate had been raised within the past 10 years.

  • Roughly half of people support some form of a mileage fee, whether it is assessed on all travel or just on commercial travel.

  • Support for the gas tax and mileage fee options was higher among the youngest group (respondents 18 to 25 years old) than the older groups. People living in urban communities were more likely to support the gas tax and mileage fee options than those living in rural communities.

Opinions

Imagining a car-free Boston

“As locals, we’ve sacrificed everything—our health, our beautiful parks, and our sanity—for cars. It’s estimated that an astounding 50 percent of a typical American city is paved. The 2,000 miles of road winding around Greater Boston would get you from Beacon Hill to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Put another way, add up those highways and streets and you’d get about 24 square miles of concrete—equivalent to paving over more than all of Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville.”

Can we use AVs as supercomputers?

Here’s a fun / frightening fact: Autonomous vehicles use the equivalent of 200 laptops to get around. 

“Keith Strier, Nvidia’s VP of worldwide AI initiatives, envisions a world in which government fleets of autonomous vehicles that sit idle at night are harnessed to address the computational needs of nations that don’t own expensive supercomputers.”

Did Amazon and Google get their AV investments wrong?

Apologies this is behind a paywall… FT subscribers, hope you enjoy!

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

Sarah