Along for the Ride #139
Happy International Women's Day y'all
As you read this I am en route to Paris to
drink wine, ride bikes, and eat croissants attend the Autonomy conference! I will be in town until the 21st, so if you’re based in Paris or also attending the conference please reach out. This also means there will be no newsletter next week because I will be ~vibing~ working.
Ok, onto le news!
International Women’s Day
This week marked the annual celebration of International Women’s Day, which means that once again I will share with you some of my favourite articles celebrating women-led urban planning efforts and opinion pieces!
Major shout-outs to AFTR reader Bridget for sharing this piece. You rock.
“As cities across Europe look to make transport greener, the overhaul is revealing gender issues as well. In auto-intensive Germany, men travel roughly double the distance by car compared with women, who are more likely to walk and take public transport. Urban planning, which has traditionally been dominated by male decision makers, is now under pressure to make networks less-focused around men commuting to work.”
“If this sounds utopian, and a million miles from such urgent problems as unaffordability and the rise in homelessness, think of the lack of workplace creches, continuing arguments about breastfeeding in public places, or concerns that women cyclists are more vulnerable to being killed and injured on the roads. Such issues signal a more productive direction for public discussion of the built environment, surely, than the recent kerfuffle over the suggested resemblance of Zaha Hadid’s 2022 Qatar World Cup stadium to a vagina, or what we think of the latest skyscraper. Design is a feminist issue. There’s another surprise.”
Read of the Week
This one is worth the deep-read, and is sadly behind a paywall :( It is a tragic, heart-wrenching retelling of the night Elaine Herzberg died in Tempe, Arizona when struck by an Uber AV. This isn’t the best reporting I’ve ever read (a lot of victim bailing, noting that the cause of death was “an accident”, etc), but worth the read nonetheless.
“The Uber driving system—which had been in full control of the car for 19 minutes at that point—registered a vehicle ahead that was 5.6 seconds away, but it delivered no alert to Vasquez. Then the computer nixed its initial assessment; it didn’t know what the object was. Then it switched the classification back to a vehicle, then waffled between vehicle and “other.” At 2.6 seconds from the object, the system identified it as “bicycle.” At 1.5 seconds, it switched back to considering it “other.” Then back to “bicycle” again. The system generated a plan to try to steer around whatever it was, but decided it couldn’t. Then, at 0.2 seconds to impact, the car let out a sound to alert Vasquez that the vehicle was going to slow down. At two-hundredths of a second before impact, traveling at 39 mph, Vasquez grabbed the steering wheel, which wrested the car out of autonomy and into manual mode.”
Government and Policy
AFTR reader Bridget wins most recommended articles this week, appreciate you Bridget! This article discusses London’s recently announced expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone. Next year, anyone who wants to drive a more-polluting older vehicle (pre-2005) anywhere in Greater London will have to pay a 12.50 pound ($16.70) daily charge to do it.
“This is also a matter of social justice, with air pollution hitting the poorest communities the hardest,” Mayor Khan said. “Nearly half of Londoners don’t own a car, but they are disproportionally feeling the damaging consequences polluting vehicles are causing.”
Japan, South Africa and Israel consider changing laws to introduce AVs
Japan: Japan’s national government announced plans to amend traffic laws this week to allow for Level Four AVs to drive on some roads. The government plans to ask lawmakers to approve the change as early as this month. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for if this actually happens how the regulations tangibly change—and what use cases will be prioritized.
South Africa: The Department of Transport says that it plans to develop new regulations around self-driving cars in South Africa in the coming months.
Israel: This week the Israeli government passed legislation that will allow companies to pilot autonomous shared transportation, like taxis, with passengers in the vehicle but without a safety driver on Israeli roads. Mobileye and Yandex both test AVs in Tel Aviv.
A lot of mhmms from me reading this one. A new report from the California Strategic Growth Council calls for the urgent need to shift the state’s transportation funding priorities away from highways and towards sustainable mobility.
“The state still prioritizes funding for wider and faster roads, making it unsafe and unappealing to walk, bike and take transit in many places. In fact, the report notes that climate and equity-focused programs account for only two percent of the state’s transportation spending.”
Automode, according to Kia is “a range of autonomous driving technologies” that will include a “Highway Driving Pilot” feature that works by itself without driver intervention on highway sections. It will also be improved as the technology develops via over-the-air updates. To me, it sounds like Level 3 autonomy.
Ah, good ol’ money being funny. TuSimple announced it was replacing its CEO (Cheng Lu) which they called a "planned executive succession," but Wall Street was surprised and this caused its shares to plummet more than 20%. But it’s OK because Lu will stay on as an advisor for at least another year where his pay will be $450k (lolsob).
While the initial pilot remains small, the organizations plan to run a fleet of more than 1,000 autonomous test vehicles on public roads via Lyft over the next five years
Mobileye is seen by many as the leading supplier for computer vision systems in the automotive industry for AVs. Intel has said it will remain the majority owner after the transaction.
It’s ok I also had to google what “acqui-hire” means. For those who are newbs like me, an acqui-hire occurs when your company is being bought predominantly for the fabulous team assembled and not for the product/service trying to be brought to market.
And if you thought it couldn’t get any cuter, what exactly was Strio.AI trying to accomplish? The Boston-based robotics startup was founded to bring autonomous picking and pruning to strawberry crops. Literally adorable.
Research and Academia
This report analyzes the impact of fare capping on system revenue and equity. Fare capping limits how much a transit rider pays for all their trips in a day, week or month. Essentially, once your pass purchases and activations in a day, week or month add up to the value of a higher value pass you will automatically be provided the higher value pass to use for the remaining period of time. This research from Nelson\Nygaard is designed to offer best practice suggestions to North American cities that are beginning to adopt this approach.
A question I ask myself every week and still don’t know the answer to 🤪
New research out of Linköping University (Sweden)’s computer vision laboratory questions when exactly AVs will actually be available.
“For example, in 2008, in an interview for Swedish television, Felsberg was asked if his children would ever need a driver’s licence. His response was that they would certainly need a licence because fully autonomous vehicles – that is, level 5 autonomous vehicles – would not be available within 10 years, despite what companies were saying at that time. Nobody paid much attention to his prediction at that time, even though it was spot on.”
This piece is written by AFTR reader Marc Sribner, in response to David Zipper’s piece on what exactly the point of AVs are.
“While companies and their marketing-driven hype pushed overly optimistic claims and timelines for self-driving cars, there were other more sober expert voices and opinions on automated vehicle deployments, which garnered far less public and political attention. For example, at the 2014 Automated Vehicle Summit of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies (the world’s premier AV research conference), expert attendees were surveyed on forecasted deployment years for various levels of automation in various use cases. While company press releases and media coverage may have given consumers the idea that deployment was imminent, for the fully automated self-driving taxis that Zipper focuses on in his Washington Post op-ed, the median forecasted deployment year was 2030.”
Extra Bits + Bobs
“Together—public agencies, private companies, nonprofits, community groups, and advocates—we will explore the values, interests, and goals we have in common. At speeches, workshops, panels, and field trips, we will try to break down silos and bridge gaps. To lay the groundwork for successful partnerships and mobilize toward multimodal transportation systems. We will explore new technologies that promise it all, and from behavior change to funding, we will begin to address the challenges that hold us back.”
That’s all from me, have a beautiful weekend friends.