Along for the Ride #162
Let's go for drinks with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition! 🍻
Heya friends, happy Friday!
First off, those of you based in SF, I’d like to invite you to a fundraiser I’m hosting on October 19th discussing Activism, New Mobility and San Francisco’s Changing Streets with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (where I sit on the board). You’ll hear from SFBC’s Executive Director and Advocacy Director about each of these issues in SF in a small gathering (limited tickets) and I’ll be there to buy you a drink! There will be bike lanes, bike share, scooters, and more! Register today and help support an organization close to my heart.
Secondly.. Happy Bisexual Awareness Week! To celebrate I’d highly recommend you give my friend Viet’s TED Talk (Bi the way, we exist) a watch; it has been viewed over 180k times and accurately portrays the importance of working against bi-erasure. If you’d like to celebrate with some bisexual x transport themed memorabilia, then look no further than Transit Supply’s pride collection (feat. stickers, pins, and t-shirts)!
And before we dive into the news, welcome to the twelve new subscribers this week! Very happy to have you here. There will be typos (sorry in advance!).
Government and Policy
The NYT explores how with the consistent delays in fully automated driving systems (Level 5), the industry is starting to aim explicitly for lower levels that can still provide enhanced road safety.
“Such radar- or camera-linked brakes have cut police-reported rear-end collisions by a striking 50 percent, Mr. Harkey of the I.I.H.S. said, according to their research, adding that automated pedestrian braking has reduced the number of car-human collisions by 30 percent versus cars without the feature. And anti-lock brakes; cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to manage blind spot and lane departure monitors; and adaptive cruise control have become standard as well.”
Side note: I used to think the NYT was filled with *really* intelligent people but then their team can’t seem to wrap their head around the problematic nature of the term “driverless car” and now I have to rethink my entire world view.
Ok this one is actually ready nerdy and gets into the FCC and spectrum (see here for a quick explainer of what this is!), and essentially how much spectrum allocation is needed to promote connected vehicle technology. Minnesota DOT has a good explainer on the difference between connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles as well.
All anybody wants to talk about is how AVs are going to save lives and all I want to talk about is how roundabouts are already doing it! Carmel, Indiana (a suburb with hundreds of roundabouts) cut injury-causing traffic crashes by as much as 84 percent at intersections outfitted with roundabouts. By slowing the speed of traffic and forcing drivers to may better attention with raised pedestrian crossings and specific traffic flows, certain designs are able to drastically reduce collisions.
Note! It’s important to know is that not all roundabouts are designed equally, nor do all designs deliver such impressive outcomes. Also important to recognize the difference between traffic circles and roundabouts (Washington County). Some longer reads about roundabout design here: IIHS, and USDOT.
Yes. Has it been doomed since its inception? Also yes! The NYT also looks at the broken promises of the Hyperloop fantasy; projects that billionaires such as Musk and Branson have championed as a congestion cutter an alternative to high speed rail (a tried, true and reliable alternative!!). Meanwhile, Hyperloop’s have started to focus on freight transport as a simplier alternative to passenger transport.
“Virgin Hyperloop’s decision to de-emphasize development of a passenger system in lieu of a cargo one was a strategic error, said Mr. Walder, who had headed the M.T.A. in New York and Transport for London before joining the company. “Can we create a passenger hyperloop system in 10 years? Probably not,” he said. “But it’s not that compelling to create a system for freight. The benefits are much more limited.””
The more you know!
Everybody’s favourite transit daddy (Andy Byford) is leaving TfL. Byford did impressive work in Toronto and NYC (when Cuomo wasn’t harshing the transit mellow), before returning to the UK to help TfL through tough times. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for his next home and praying it’s San Francisco. (The Independent)
In France, "a new 250 million euro ($249 million) cycling fund will boost bike infrastructure and finance cycling lessons for 800,000 school children." (Reuters)
Ok, I shouldn’t sound so happy or excited but it’s hard not to be. Tesla is being sued by drivers who paid for the company’s Full Self-Driving program because it is … as my friends across the pond say “not like it says on the tin”.
“Plaintiff Briggs Matsko argued that Tesla and Musk made these promises to "generate excitement" and boost sales as well as its stock price.. But despite its best efforts, "Tesla has yet to produce anything even remotely approaching a fully self-driving car," Matsko said. Matsko also claims Tesla drivers who have been testing unfinished betas of the company's Full Self-Driving software "effectively act as untrained test engineers," who have found "myriad problems.””
Xpeng, an Chinese AV auto OEM, has launched a new program that integrates LiDAR with city navigation guided pilot (NGP). Essentially, the Chinese automaker is giving Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) a run for their money. So many acronyms, so little time!
Car Companies: You know what the people want? To have drivers alerted when they are nearby!
What the people really want: Safe streets that weren’t ruined by decades of car funding to make them less safe!
Ford is once again focusing on technical solutions to infrastructure problems. We might see marginal safety improvements here, but as always: make a car safer and you improve the safety of 1-4 people. Make a street safer and it will be safer for every road user forevermore.
Research and Academia
“Transportation insecurity is a condition in which a person is unable to regularly move from place to place in a safe or timely manner and has important implications for the study of poverty and inequality. Drawing on nationally representative survey data and a new, validated measure of transportation insecurity, the Transportation Security Index, the authors provide the first descriptive portrait of transportation insecurity in the United States, offering national estimates, examining which demographic groups are most likely to experience this condition and considering what factors are correlated with it. The authors find that one in four adults experience transportation insecurity. Adults who live in poverty, do not own cars, live in urban areas, are younger, have less education, and are non-White experience the greatest transportation insecurity.”
To read a non-academic article interpretation, Equitable Growth has a more digestable article here.
A whole research article on what new bike technology is tangibly improving safety for bike riders. We love!
“New technologies are gaining ground in various disciplines, and road safety is not an exception.. The majority of these studies focus on warning systems aiming to forestall an imminent collision, mostly by using accelerometers/gyroscopes, LIDAR, sensors and networking communication. These systems, despite their preliminary state, demonstrate a positive effect on cyclists’ safety. The review concludes that there is a need for further deployment and testing of such systems with field trials to gain concrete evidence regarding their impact on cyclists’ safety. It also highlights that advanced technologies are scarcely implemented in bicycles and that most smart bicycle systems are based on smartphones. Thus, the question is: what lies in the future of smart bicycles from today’s perspective?”
From our friends at the Urban Institute!
“We conducted a study focusing on automobile-sized AVs designed for passenger use. We examine key potential benefits AVs could generate, as well as the problems they could exacerbate. Carefully designed regulations could help ensure that these new technologies improve access to mobility and reduce pollution. We recommend, among other policies, expanded testing and deployment; development of vehicle design standards for unconventional vehicles that clearly demonstrate that they reduce the possibility of injury for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists; federal requirements to quickly move AVs toward zero-emissions powertrains; mandates to ensure that manufacturers make AVs as accessible as possible for people with disabilities; minimum standards to protect the public from oversurveillance and to limit inappropriate liability concerns; and state and local funds, incentives, and fees to associate the rollout of AVs with a reduction in privately owned vehicles.”
Not often I reference “Car Guide” in the newsletter, but sometimes it’s important to recognize how the other side thinks. And here we have it: AVs will be the end of ~society as we know it~ because they will take the fun out of driving!
“No, my concern is that if through some major advancement we are able to build fully autonomous cars that can operate and make decisions better than a human driver then we will never be allowed to drive again. And as I said at the start, this is not just about the sheer joy of driving, it's about being trusted with the responsibility to make decisions.”
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.
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