Along for the Ride #123

America's traffic fatality problem, Baidu's Shanghai expansion, and more!

Heya friends, happy Friday!

Yours truly is still in the UK (IYKYK). My delayed return to California has offered me the opportunity to check out London’s latest cargo bike share and well #swoon.

Alright, let’s dive in shall we!

Government and Policy

Traffic deaths continue to rise in America, so what can be done to stop this?

The first quarter of 2021 saw a 10.5% increase in traffic fatalities compared with the first quarter of 2020, despite a decrease in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). As it turns out reducing driving hasn’t had the impact on safety many advocates would hope, and thus we need to fundamentally improve our road infrastructure for safety. It’s time for raised cross-walked, reduced speed limits, improved curb radii, street trees, protected bike lanes and so much more.

How Germany and New York differ in AV regulations

Currently auto-OEMs are applauding Germany for their regulatory framework for AVs, while simultaneously anguishing over New York City’s legislation. I’ve reported on New York DOT’s framework before which is more stringent than state level regulations for testing (NYPost (sorry)), arguing that companies need proof that the cars are safer than human drivers in order to operate. AV companies frustrated with a patchwork system call the regulations “duplicative” and “contradictory.”

Germany on the other hand is actively trying to maintain their automotive prowess by creating a sandbox in which AV companies can develop and commercialize their technology.

And here we have tech’s favourite dilemma: to prioritise society’s safety or innovation? That is the question. [N.B. this is obviously not the question, and both can be possible if we try just a *little* harder].

Japan’s bet on AVs

Japan plans to bring AVs to 40 rural areas by 2025 in a bid to assist aging communities. “The government has earmarked about 6 billion yen ($55 million) for developing autonomous-driving services this fiscal year, including for the L4 project, which comes as many elderly Japanese give up driving.”

UK funds innovation in AVs

The Regulators’ Pioneer Fund. Is this the most British name for a government backed innovation fund? The £3.7 million pot of funding is being awarded to 21 groups working on critical innovations in the UK. One such project is for Oxfordshire County Council, in collaboration with the Met Office, Ordnance Survey, and more. The group received £198,000 to develop a tool to help self-driving car developers know when they can conduct trials.

Industry

Baidu launches public AV testing in Shanghai

Often referred to as the Google of China, Baidu has begun publicly testing their Apollo Go robotaxi mobile platform in Shanghai. Baidu appears to have the lion share of the Chinese market, and only keeps growing more and more. Baidu says it is either testing or publicly deploying about 500 AVs across 30 cities.

Shanghai marks the fifth city where the Apollo Go robotaxi service is open to the public, including Changsha, Cangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou.

Walmart, Ford, and ArgoAI partner up

  • Aurora plans to make Pittsburgh it’s official HQ (BizJournal)

  • The Apple car is real, and coming soon (FT)

  • GM invests in radar company Oculii (Reuters)

  • Alibaba leads $300 million round for DeepRoute.ai (CNBC)

  • Sensible 4 and Swiss Transit Lab launch new shuttle pilot in Schaffhausen, Switzerland (Sensible 4)

Research and Academia

NASA studies sleepiness and use of automated systems

A new study conducted by the Fatigue Countermeasures Lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley suggests that partial automation in cars leads to drivers taking a passive role making them more susceptible to sleepiness—especially when they’re sleep deprived.

“The results showed that, when supervising – rather than actively operating – the vehicle, participants reported feeling sleepier and showed increased signs of “nodding off.” They also showed slower reaction times compared to actively driving the car. And the more sleep deprived a person was, the stronger these effects were.”

On the rise of urban technology

Every one of my human geography professors is currently cringing as I share an article written by Richard Florida. I’m sorry, I had to!

“We investigate where urban tech comes from by analysing Pitchbook, a database of venture capital deals, to chart the evolution and geography of urban tech start-up firms. We show urban tech firms to be highly clustered in two kinds of places: specialized tech hubs such as the San Francisco Bay Area and large cities such as New York, London and Beijing. Furthermore, we find that urban tech geography is associated with two classes of factors: the scale of existing tech activity, and the size and extent of metro areas.”

Designing keener robot perception for AVs

Meet PhD student Heng Yang, who is developing algorithms to help AVs quickly and accurately assess their surroundings. Not a research article, but a pretty digestible article about the complexities of robot perception for us non-technical folks (🙋‍♀️).

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

Sarah