Along for the Ride #126
Traffic cops, new trials in Seattle, and some interesting research on what cars do when they're parked
Heya friends, happy Friday!
Hope you are well and rested. It is raining in California at the moment (very good news!), and so I hope wherever you are, you can read this newsletter with a nice cup of tea nearby and general autumnal cozy vibes ensue.
P.S. I am looking for more guest contributors to the newsletter, aiming to welcome more diverse voices into the conversations. Contributors are paid (and cherished!). If you are interested, or know somebody who might be, please reach out and I’ll share more information.
Now onto the news!
Government and Policy
(Amongst other things..!). This long read in the Atlantic is well worth a moment of your morning today.
“Traffic stops are by far the most common reason that police officers initiate contact with members of the public; they account for 84 percent of encounters, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In fact, before cars, ordinary citizens rarely came in contact with law enforcement. As we rebuilt cities around the automobile, historians contend, drivers came to expect to be policed. And communities of color have paid the highest price.”
A campaign group, Berlin Autofrei, has taken the first step in a process known as the people’s referendum asking for the city centre to go car free. The group submitted a petition with more than 50,000 signatures calling for a ban covering the 88 sq km (34 sqml) area circled by the “S-Bahn ring” trainline – an area roughly equal in size to all the boroughs in London’s zones 1 and 2. We’ll be watching with baited breathe to see where this campaign goes next!
I mean we already knew this, but here’s further discussion. “Using these algorithms to train AIs is extremely dangerous, because they were specifically designed to depict white humans. All the sophisticated physics, computer science and statistics that undergird this software were designed to realistically depict the diffuse glow of pale, white skin and the smooth glints in long, straight hair. In contrast, computer graphics researchers have not systematically investigated the shine and gloss that characterizes dark and Black skin, or the characteristics of Afro-textured hair.”
“For three months last summer, residents in one Seattle neighborhood received their packages via electric cargo bike rather than a delivery van, as part of a pilot program testing new innovations to urban delivery. Bike riders made deliveries between a “microhub” and peoples’ homes. The switch led to fewer miles traveled per delivery and a 30% drop in tailpipe CO2 emissions per package.”
Zoox (acquired by none other than Amazon), has announced plans to test their vehicles on the streets of Seattle. Claiming that Seattle has a more complex operating environment than Arizona and California (due to heavy rainfall vehicles must rely on windshield washers and defrosters to keep visibility clear. The trials will involve L3 vehicles.
ZF (a German-American automobile parts manufacturing company) has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Oxbotica to develop Level 4 autonomous systems to deploy passenger shuttles in major cities around the world. As part of the collaboration ZF has invested in Oxbotica and will take a seat on the company’s advisory board with a five per cent share.
Presenting the latest in ✨ automotive ✨ press ✨ releases ✨ promising all the ways in which automated driving technology will solve our transportation problems. Traffic jam assistance? Why of course. Highway assistance? You got it.
Embark has announced that they have over 14,000 reservations for their automated freight trucks—that won’t launch until 2024. While the reservations are non-binding, they show a vote of confidence in the platform. Last June, Embark went public through a $5.2 billion special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC) deal led by Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp.
Research and Academia
Here’s a very wonky article for you this week!
“The paper problematises current conceptualisations of objects in social practices by investigating car parking, using original research material. Motionless cars are not only ‘leftovers’ of driving – they actively perform parking while waiting for their users to start driving again. They infrastructure everyday immobility and play a part in shaping urban environments.. By describing different ways in which cars are taken care of and take part in parking in the material setting of a street, the article argues for more attention to non-human objects involved in social practices, particularly in the context of their infrastructuring capacities.”
After all, we do trust teenagers (!) to do it. I jest, the youth are wonderful and highly capable. The Economist debates the trials and tribulations of teaching cars to drive, and why after all these years of promises, we still haven’t cracked this nut. If you subscribe to the Economist you can read this article—otherwise you may have to ask the Father-figure in your life for their login and read it (true story!).
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.