Along for the Ride #127
Heya friends, happy Friday!
Some weeks writing a newsletter feels light and easy, other weeks I have to bribe myself with Lobster ravioli. This week was one of the latter weeks. Things have been a bit busier than usual, so if I owe you an email response re: guest contributing please hold on tight!
Secondly, this week I’d like to draw your attention to the military coup happening in Sudan before we dive into the transport news.
There is currently a military coup taking place in Sudan. I imagine many of you may not know (because the media hasn’t been covering it) but in the last two weeks, the Sundanese government has been seized by a military coup. This is two years after civilians fought and died for democracy and to oust Dictator Omar al-Bashir. Sudanese people are desperate for out attention at this time, to keep eyes on Sudan, and keep the hope of democracy alive. I strongly encourage you to write to your MP or Congress person (or other government representative) and ask them to put international pressure on the matter. Friends have contributed to this letter that I’ve linked here to write to your representative. A more detailed US version can also be found here.
In addition, here are a couple folks you can follow for more updates on Sudan: Yassmin Abdel-Magied, BS on Blast. Go show ‘em that transport nerds don’t just love transit and bike lanes, we also love democracy.
Government and Policy
London has officially expanded their ULEZ, growing from 8 sqmi to 140 sqmi. In 2019 when the ULEZ was introduced it began to take an average of 44,000 polluting vehicles off those roads every day. The ULEZ requires all drivers traveling on those roads to meet strict vehicle emissions standards, or else pay a daily fee for their polluting cars and trucks.
After 15 years of planning, Austria has launched its Climate Ticket. The ticket (priced at $1,267 (€1,095) per year, works out at just $24 (€21) per week or $3.50 a day) allows passengers to use any form of public transportation across the country—from high speed rail, to subway, bus, and other metro services. If all goes according to plan, it should encourage people to swap their cars for more climate-friendly forms of getting around.
The NYT Daily podcast featured a deep-dive of traffic stops this week. It’s a must-listen if you care transportation and racial justice (which I hope you do). I was particularly surprised by the rhetoric taught to police officers about traffic stops, their perceived dangers, and the arguments used to justify their behaviours when traffic stops become violent or deadly.
Medium-long read on the state of AVs in China, including how the country is planning for their (imminent? already here?) arrival.
Essentially, Aurora has hired a team of Pixar veterans to help make the computer simulation tool used to test and train its AV system more like the real world. Here’s hoping they took the lessons from WALL-E to heart, amiright?
Waymo announced plans this week to manually drive its vehicles around NYC to map areas and then use all of that data to advance its technology. Seems like they are playing the long-game for approvals, and spending a lot of money doing so.
This week Tesla recalled over 11,000 vehicles after it’s “Full Self-Driving” mode had reported bugs. The system was updated last Sunday, and after the update was sent false activations of the cars' forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems began to be reported. It’s almost as if you shouldn’t use the public / consumers as guinea pigs. 🤷♀️
Investments and other funny business:
Nuro raises $600M, bringing total valuation to $8.6B (TechCrunch)
Autobrains raises $101M (peanuts, really) (The Robot Report)
Research and Academia
The National Resource Defense Fund (NRDC) has released a calculator demonstrating that expanded highways don’t improve traffic or congestion. You can play around with it here!
“While such provisions may sound inconsequential, some of the Manual’s provisions have far-reaching, even deadly, consequences. They prioritize vehicular speed over public safety, mobility over other uses of public space, and driving over other modes of mobility. With these car-centric priorities, the Manual has helped generate a nearly constant and fast- moving stream of vehicle traffic that renders road users like pedestrians, wheelchair users, and cyclists vulnerable. Moreover, by giving preference to driving over other modes of transportation, the Manual has indirectly facilitated a rise in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions that are the single largest contributor to climate change.”
“The results show that stores located in pedestrian environments tend to record higher sales volumes than stores located in non-pedestrian environments. We further analyze the mechanisms underlying this revenue-boosting effect and find that a key factor is the store density of the pedestrianized place, while geographic location is insignificant. This finding suggests that there are no differentiation impacts on stores' revenue based on whether pedestrianization occurs in the city center or periphery.”
Long read. Great read. Makes-you-want-to-take-the-bus read.
“Elected officials always say that they believe transit is essential for our cities to thrive in a future that’s healthier, safer, and more equitable. But the way they spend taxpayer money indicates a clear bias towards car drivers, with four out of every five dollars spent on surface transportation going to highway programs. As long as public transportation is “under the boot” of these policymakers, as Transportation for America’s Beth Osborne says, there is little hope that mass transit systems can be redesigned to meet the needs of the future.”
What big tech gets wrong about transportation technology (there is lots!)
“By promising perfection, the promoters of technofuturistic visions make ordinary sufficiency bland by comparison. According to the author of a blurb on the back of a 2018 book celebrating “our driverless future”: “This book should be required reading for every city planner and for every taxpayer fed-up with wasted transit dollars.” It’s an extraordinary statement, considering the public money that has been spent for decades in the pursuit of highly automated driving that still offers little besides some convenience benefits to some drivers—but it’s not an unusual position.”
NPR has a six minute listen for ya on the future AVs. It’s an interview with Peter Norton, author of Autonorama: The Illusory Promise Of High-Tech Driving.
Extra Bits + Bobs
Jobs you should apply for!
Associate Director of Campus Mobility (Princeton University)
That’s all from me friends, have a beautiful weekend.