Along for the Ride #134
Celebrating Black History + Futures Month 🖤
Happy Friday, happy Black History Month, and happy Lunar New Year 🎉
I’ve been learning a lot about Black Futures Month—a celebration initiated by The Movement for Black Lives. The principle behind BFM is to use this time “to both consider and celebrate Black radical history and to dream and imagine a world in which Black people are free and self-determined”.
This month (and all year round, really) I’d encourage you to give as you are able (perhaps to your local BLM Chapter), commit to learning more about the Black experience, and get curious about how you can practice anti-racism everyday. Previous BHM editions of this newsletter featured Black Leaders you should know, Black Literature you should be reading, critiques on the cycling industry’s absence in acknowledging + doing something about racism (Shout-out to AFTR reader Georgia for writing it!), and more.
You can look forward to new content this month celebrating Black excellence in transportation. Today I’m going to share some wider resources (because we if don’t have a solid foundation to grow upon, our understanding is sure to have some cracks). To kick us off, here are some of my favourite Black resources:
Racial and Social Justice 101 is a $35 course you can take yourself or for your organization to better familiarize yourself with present day barriers towards liberation.
The Nap Ministry has wonderful content on how rest is a form of resistance—centering the experience of Black women in particular. The platform often discusses how we can be more useless to Capitalism each and every day. Something for you to noodle on.
A quick review on microaggressions so we can all check ourselves and consider language we use that may appear “harmless” but results in a significant mental toll for Black people.
I’ve personally been reading a lot of bell hooks lately. I continue to be moved by her words, and how sincerely she captured the intricacies of race, feminism, capitalism—and my favourite—love. If you’re looking for a read that will grab you by the heart strings, no time like the present.
OK, one lil architectural nugget..! Francis Kéré, acclaimed architect from Burkina Faso, continues to inspire. He designed the Serpentine Pavilion in 2017 which I had the (very nerdy) pleasure of wandering. If you want to be inspired, read his artist statement on the design of the pavilion (link above). Kere’s architecture focuses on two main pillars: social commitment and sustainable design. You can read more about his design philosophy here.
If you have resources, authors, and publications you think should be featured this month celebrating Black contributions to urbanism, transportation, and city living please send them my way!
Government and Policy
Low-key excited about this one. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has noted that if pedestrians and cyclists represent more than 15% of a state's traffic fatalities, the administration will now require the state to spend more than 15%+ of Highway Safety Improvement Program funds to protect vulnerable road users. We love to see it.
Toronto’s AV shuttle pilot ends without ever serving the public
An autonomous shuttle pilot (to be led by Local Motors that recently went under) in Toronto was supposed to connect one Scarborough neighbourhood to GO Transit. The pilot was supposed to wrap this month—but it never even launched.
And you can now watch the youtube livestream on the hearing! Reading some of the commentary from the hearing makes me want to pull my hair out a little, as it seems lawmakers still believe that this technology is going inherently going to be safer, and that protecting jobs is the main threat that AVs pose to society.. no mention of their potential environmental, social, and health tolls.
Pedestrian detection doesn’t work at night
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that carmakers' pedestrian detection systems made "no difference" at night, when approx. 75% of pedestrian deaths occur. “Systems meant to prevent accidents when human drivers are most ineffective aren't working when they matter most. Even worse is the fact that the IIHS found that no one technology was really the kicker when it came to preventing these sorts of incidents.”
Waymo is suing the California DMV
Why? Because they want to keep their crash data private. As if the public doesn’t deserve to know how likely a robo-car is to casually sidesweep ‘em. This comes as a new report indicates that as AV presence increases in San Francisco, so do collisions with them. See the opinion piece below for why this is so problematic.
Cruise launches passenger operations in San Francisco
And they make sure to let you know soon you’ll be paying for these rides. But don’t worry, right now they are free (*screams in “can we have free public transit” instead*). I personally feel very bittersweet about this update. On the one hand, Cruise has been the most vocal about designing vehicles that are shared, electric, and autonomous of all the major AV players. On the other, it feels still too early to trust this technology, and that companies like GM (who own Cruise) are willing to use the public as their Guinea Pigs—no matter the risk.
Today’s industry section is essentially a variation of “oh god the cars are coming and they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Tesla has had to recall over 50,000 vehicles that have their “Full Self-Driving” technology as it features a rolling stop program that allows cars to roll through stop signs at 5 mph (despite there being … a stop sign). Remember how AV companies say AVs are going to be better than human drivers? Well that won’t be the case if we design human-error into the AI that determines how the car is driven. The cars will be updated with an Over-The-Air (OTA) update without needing to return to the manufacturer.
They also have another (!) recall for 800,000 cars (!) over a seat-belt chime gone wrong (CNN). Big sigh energy.
Research and Academia
Why AVs will be a disaster for the environment
“We found that drivers who used Autopilot drove an average of nearly 5,000 more miles per year than those who didn’t. In interviews with 36 drivers of partially automated vehicles, they generally said they were more willing to sit in traffic and took more long-distance trips, all because of the increased comfort and reduced stress provided by semi-automated systems.”
This one is for you big transit nerds. You know who you are.
“An accurate estimation of bus dwell time (BDT) is important as it directly influences the prediction of vehicles’ arrival times at bus stops and hence, the reliability of their services. This paper provides an overview of research works conducted in the past on bus dwell time. It covers three aspects: first methods used in the literature to estimate BDT, second factors influencing BDT and third methods used in the literature to collect data. The influence of different policy measures related to characteristics of bus, passengers, time-of-day, transit, and route are discussed. The research trends reveal an increasing tendency to employ more advanced methods for data collection (using GPS, APC and AVL) and modelling (e.g. using machine learning-based methods).”
Why humans should drive transit futures, not AVs
One of those reads where I casually nod my head the entire time.
“The AV industry’s business pursuits are designed around a single objective: to chase sales and profits without facing proper federal regulatory scrutiny or meeting important safety data transparency standards. These companies are evading the conversation in the light of day about whether their AV technologies are safe, undermining transit users or the public interest, meeting important equity objectives, or eliminating good, union jobs. The burden is on them to prove their value.”
Extra Bits + Bobs
Jobs you should apply for!
Populus is hiring a Senior Customer Success Manager! And what could be better than cities being the customer. The team is full of incredibly kind transport nerds, so I’m sure you’ll fit right in.
That’s all from me, have a beautiful weekend friends.