Along for the Ride #120

The Great Walkway, a summer break, and a pop across the pond 🇬🇧

Heya friends, happy Friday!

Sad news out of San Francisco this week as the city plans to bring back vehicle access to the Great Walkway (f.k.a the Great Highway). Feels like a complete blow to the stomach as the city prepares for fire season. The Great Walkway is now the 2nd most popular open space in all of San Francisco (behind Golden Gate Park).

If you’re a San Francisco resident, and equally heart-broken over this decision I’d encourage you to urgently email Supervisor Gordon Mar and the SFMTA (Gordon.Mar@sfgov.org ; marstaff@sfgov.org ; GreatHighway@SFMTA.com).

Secondly, this is my last newsletter for the summer, I’ll pick it back up when I return from London in September. If you’re around those parts please reach out as it’d be great to meet up!

Ok, onto le news:

Government and Policy

NYCDOT looks to regulate AV testing in New York

The de Blasio Administration wants to force companies that road-test AVs on New York City streets to apply for permits, according to recently proposed changes to city rules. This all seems very sensible to me. The new rules would require companies that want to test AVs on NYC streets to apply for and receive a $5,000-per-year permit from the DOT. In comparison, it costs scooter operators more than $150,000 to operate a thousand scooters in Seattle. So we should probably right-size permit costs and fees based on vehicle impact (emissions, safety, health)? Right?

Cars still control city streets

Seems timely, no? This is an interview with Jeff Speck, who is preparing to re-release his book Walkable City, as it’s tenth year anniversary approaches.

“The number of cars moving on the streets of your city at any given time is not some natural law. If people were driving in Manhattan at the ratios that they’re driving in even Denver, it would be all asphalt and there wouldn’t be room for a single building. But even in a place like Manhattan, where driving is tremendously constrained, there’s this fear that if you reduce road capacity, you’ll kill the city. It’s never happened. We can have the streets we want, we can have the cities we want. That’s the first step: the mental leap that we need to take to make our cities livable.”

Industry

ArgoAI given the green light in California

With its freshly minted permit, ArgoAI will be allowed to give people free rides in its AVs on California’s public roads. Aurora, AutoX, Cruise, Deeproute, Pony.ai, Voyage, Zoox and Waymo have all received permits to participate in the CPUC’s Drivered Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot program, which requires a human safety operator to be behind the wheel. Companies with this permit cannot charge for rides.

Further on down the road in California is Cruise

Meanwhile, Cruise is the only company to have secured a driverless permit from the CPUC, allowing them to shuttle passengers in its test vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel.

Elon’s very bizarre driver script for Vegas’ Loop

Filed under: shit we really can’t make up.

“Using public records laws, TechCrunch obtained documents that detail daily operations at the Loop, which opened in June to transport attendees around the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) using modified Tesla vehicles. Among the documents is a “Ride Script” that every new recruit must follow when curious passengers ask questions…

The script also covers responses to questions about Musk himself: “This category of questions is extremely common and extremely sensitive. Public fascination with our founder is inevitable and may dominate the conversation.”

Ask what Musk is like and you should expect the answer: “He’s awesome! Inspiring / motivating / etc.” Follow up with: “Do you like working for him?” and you’ll get a response that could have come straight from North Korea: “Yup, he’s a great leader! He motivates us to do great work.” 🙃

Research and Academia

AV planning and policy directions for metro agencies

“This paper analyzes how regional transportation plans (RTPs) developed by metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are approaching the risks and opportunities presented by AVs. Among 52 MPOs, a majority only mention key issues and emphasize high levels of uncertainty. Twelve MPOs develop policies on infrastructure, safety, partnerships, data-sharing, and multimodal transportation. Despite a positive trend, many recently adopted RTPs do not incorporate AVs. To plan for uncertain mobility futures, MPOs must develop more flexible approaches to long-term infrastructure investment.”

SUVs and pedestrian deaths

New research indicates the depressing news we’ve known for years: SUVs are deadly and not fit for purpose in cities.

“Traffic fatalities in the US have been rising among pedestrians even as they fall among motorists.. Between 2000 and 2019, replacing the growth in Sport Utility Vehicles with cars would have averted 1,100 pedestrian deaths. There is no evidence that the shift towards larger vehicles improved aggregate motorist safety.”

Crash rate benchmarks for AVs

“While automation of the driving task is expected to reduce crashes, there is no consensus as to how safe an AV must be before it can be deployed. An AV should be at least as safe as the average driver, but national crash rates include drunk and distracted driving, meaning that an AV that crashes at the average rate is somewhere between drunk and sober.”

Impact of driver interface design on drivers using semi-automated systems

“In partially automated vehicles, the driver and the automated system share control of the vehicle. Consequently, the driver may have to switch between driving and monitoring activities. This can critically impact the driver’s situational awareness. The human–machine interface (HMI) is responsible for efficient collaboration between driver and system. It must keep the driver informed about the status and capabilities of the automated system, so that he or she knows who or what is in charge of the driving.”

Geography of travel behaviour during the early Covid days

“People traveled less overall and notably avoided areas with relatively larger outbreaks. A doubling of new cases in a county led to a 3 to 4 percent decrease in trips to and from that county. Without this change in travel activity, exposure to out-of-county virus cases could have been twice as high at the end of April 2020.”

Opinion

What will happen to Uber and Lyft drivers when AVs arrive?

“The industry has responded to fears of a robot takeover by saying that whatever jobs will be eliminated will likely be offset by new jobs the autonomous vehicles will create, including fleet management positions to service and maintain vehicles as well as an ongoing need for safety drivers and test drivers to map out new cities, teaching the vehicles new roadways.”

Extra Bits + Bobs

Jobs you should apply for!

That’s all from me, have a beautiful weekend friends. See you in September!

Sarah