Along for the Ride #129
Heya friends, happy Friday!
This week has been a week (a month? a season?). Not sure. If you’re wondering.. there is still a coup in Myanmar and Sudan, and abortion rights are looking like a dwindling prospect in the US. Something I learnt this week was that the top cause of death in pregnant people in the United States is murder. Yup, that’s right. Pregnant folks die more often by homicide than of other pregnancy-related causes! Anyways, if you want to write to your government representative about any of the above, I’d highly encourage you to do so. Donations to planned parenthood also encouraged.
P.S. I wrote this week’s newsletter listening to this song about Skytrains (arguably not about Vancouver’s, but I can pretend, ok). Feel free to listen along if you want that transit x soul reading vibe.
P.P.S. I’m coming back to London! You didn’t think I’d stay away for that long did you..? I’ll be in London from December 15th through January 7th, so if you’re around and want to grab a coffee / pint / bike ride let me know. I absolutely adore meeting subscribers (aka transport friends) so don’t hesitate to reach out.
P.P.P.S (?) If next week goes as planned, the next newsletter will arrive in two weeks time. If I get out a newsletter next week somebody please send me brownie points.
OK, time for le news!
Government and Policy
The latest AV trial in the UK launched late November, featuring a vehicle with no steering wheel. The vehicle does have safety controls, which are managed by an on-board operator. The battery-powered shuttle, which was built by Navya, emits zero carbon dioxide and is free to ride for passengers across one Oxfordshire campus.
Mitsubishi is working with the cities of Kamakura and Fujisawa in Japan on an AV pilot for healthcare services. The pilot will be focused on making local medical services more convenient and accessible. Excited to see how this use-case can be applied more broadly to solve well known urban challenges.
Michelle Wu has recently asked her City Council to allocate US$8 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to eliminate fares on three bus lines over a two-year period. Swoon. The city already had a four month pilot in place ahead of Wu’s election, and while overall bus and subway ridership in Boston is still hovering at 53 percent of pre-pandemic levels, the fare-free 28 Bus Route saw ridership “surge to 92 percent of pre-pandemic levels, making it the most popular in the system.”
*crowd goes wild for fare-free buses*
“… in the United States, the responsibility for road safety largely falls on the individual sitting behind the wheel, or riding a bike, or crossing the street. American transportation departments, law-enforcement agencies, and news outlets frequently maintain that most crashes—indeed, 94 percent of them, according to the most widely circulated statistic—are solely due to human error. Blaming the bad decisions of road users implies that nobody else could have prevented them. That enables car companies to deflect attention from their decisions to add heft and height to the SUVs and trucks that make up an ever-larger portion of vehicle sales, and it allows traffic engineers to escape scrutiny for dangerous street designs.”
Across 60 sqkm of Beijing, both Baidu and Pony AI can charge riders for trips completed by AVs. Each vehicle will still have a human safety driver in the vehicle, to intervene if necessary. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled to see how these trials evolve over time.
For the first time Tesla is asking it’s drivers (car owners?) to collect video taken by a car’s exterior and interior cameras in case of a collision or “serious safety risk.” The company will attach footage to a specific vehicle and driver in the event of such collision. This is clearly a stopgap attempt to argue that the company’s (arguably unsafe) “Full Self-Driving” mode is not to blame for future collisions where drivers mistake Full Self-Driving mode for being.. well.. Full Self-Driving.
Coming soon to a Silicon Valley city near you (Mountain View to be specific): AVs! Get ready for robot cars to start bringing you slushies, snacks, and one very at-risk hotdog. The partnership will feature both Nuro’s smaller delivery vehicle in addition to a fleet of Prius vehicles in “fully autonomous mode”.
EVs are often touted as climate change silver bullets by auto OEMs and the like (looking atchu Tesla), but are arguably more of a band-aid solution to our existing car dependency. When it comes to vehicles, there’s more to reckon with than what comes out of the tail pipe. There’s the traffic fatalities. There’s the modal split. There’s the question of where the electricity / energy comes from in the first place. It isn’t easy being green, as Kermit would argue.
“Although EVs certainly help address increasing transport emissions, simply focusing on replacing conventional cars with EVs is a missed opportunity for countries to develop alternative means of transport beyond car dependency.”
Research and Academia
“Results show that the congestion tolls can increase the social welfare by about 85% of the increase in the first-best scenario, which is the best result among the three policies, and can reduce CO2 emissions from commuting and housing energy by about 22% and 3%, respectively. These results suggest that congestion tolling, which is primarily the Pigovian tax for congestion, not only internalizes congestion externalities, but also effectively reduces CO2 emissions through downsizing commuting distances and housing sizes.”
Newsletter friends Pieter Morlion and Suzanne Hoadley reached out with their fascinating new research on transport data sharing for cities. The report contains interviews with 33 leading experts in our field and features 20+ concrete use cases. It also provides a concise roadmap for local authorities as a guidance in their efforts when engaging with private sector in transport data sharing.
“Thanks to shifting attitudes, at least 16 cities have already demolished or replaced their aging freeways with options like green spaces, and several others could face the same fate. Many communities are also putting the brakes on pending projects. They include Milwaukee, where residents fighting a $1 billion freeway expansion now have the support of many city council members. In Pennsylvania, citizens are beating back plans to drastically widen an interstate through the city of Harrisburg. On the West Coast, Oakland residents are campaigning for the removal of a freeway that dissects their downtown, and Portland, Oregon, activists are fighting a planned freeway-widening through the middle of a deep-rooted Black neighborhood.”
Not too long of a read, but one that takes you across the US questioning if State DOTs are prepared for the impact climate change will have on their transport systems (particularly roads), and how that impact changes based on geography and politics.
Extra Bits + Bobs
Places you should be!
CoMoUK is hosting their annual conference again this year—still virtual!—on December 7th and 8th. The event is free to attend and is made up of eight carefully curated sessions, bringing you the latest developments in shared transport through a range of perspectives.
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.