Along for the Ride #168
Celebrating a car-free JFK promenade forever (ever)
Heya friends, happy Friday!
First of all, I’d like to thank the plethora of you who reached out to see if I was still employed after last weeks layoffs. I thankfully am still employed, but many close friends and phenomenal colleagues did not fare as well. If you or your employer are hiring, I am thinking of doing a special edition of the newsletter that features open roles across the transportation industry (all geographies welcome!). Please send open roles along to this email and I will compile them together.
Secondly, feel like the human re-incarnation of this emoji after election week in the US. Grateful as ever to be celebrating a massive win for car-free streets and public transit funding in San Francisco. If you’re in the city, there’s a celebration in the park tomorrow (12-4pm) at the Beer Garden on JFK Promenade.
And last but not least… tomorrow is also my birthday and I have a couple of asks! See below!
Asks (!) of the Week
As a somewhat moody Scorpio I (a) don’t celebrate my birthday (lol), and (b) rarely if ever call attention to it. For me to bring attention to this, is a big step for me personally, so I hope you’ll take the time to read my asks below.
The first is an ask for donations to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is a non-profit that is very dear to my heart. In the past year we’ve had the ✨joy✨ of pro-car action groups suing us, the whiplash of San Francisco politics, all on top of what I am going to call one very wobbly economy. If you read this newsletter on a weekly basis, please consider making a donation to the SFBC. I have set a goal of $5,000 by the end of the year. If every subscriber contributed only $10, I would surpass this goal (by multiple thousands) in a hot second! I may or may not have included a poem on the donation page, just saying.
Note!! You do not need to live in San Francisco to donate, you don’t even need to live in America! Looking at you Canadian and UK friends, and subscribers all around the world. ❤️
My second request is for you to forward this newsletter onto a friend, colleague, boss, partner, and even frenemy who might enjoy this read! I appreciate everybody who has shared the good word about my newsletter already this year—thank you x1000. If you feel so inclined, I would love if every reader could forward this newsletter onto just one more person. I always joke that with every new subscriber, a bike lane gets its wings. So far for this year that’s 370 new bike lane wings!! I would love to get this number to 500 by the end of the year, so any shares or introductions you can make are much appreciated.
Alright, that’s enough birthday limelight for me. Time for the news.
Read(s) of the Week
Ironically.. it is also 100 years since ye’ ol’ road builder Edward J. Mehren advocated that city streets should prioritize the utility of motorists alone. “Framing his 9 November 1922 editorial as a solution to road safety—pedestrians were killed in shocking numbers by period motorists—he stated that “the obvious solution lies only in a radical revision of our conception of what a city street is for.”” I am glad to be out here reminding the masses that streets are for people, and they can offer us so much more than car traffic.
Glasgow votes to take a feminist urban planning approach
In an exciting move, Glasgow’s City Council voted for the City to adopt a “feminist town planning” strategy. “Glasgow Green councillor Holly Bruce put forward the motion which said that a gender-neutral approach to city development does not work and that it is “fundamental that women are central to all aspects of planning, public realm design, policy development and budgets.””
See here for an old (but favourite) article about what cities would like if they were designed by mothers.
Government and Policy
When Twitter bans advertisements about Tesla’s miss steps
I’ve really been trying to not touch on the Twitter drama and give Elon more air time than he warrants, but alas. This week Twitter banned an advertisement that criticised Tesla’s Full-Self Driving mode … because get this, the ads were “political”. Yup. 🙃 Pretty frightening that political dissent against Elon Musk and his companies is likely to be banned from Twitter.
The AV industry is causing uncertainty for city leaders … everywhere
As various auto OEMs shift their strategy around AVs away from full autonomy and closer to Level 3, many city leaders are … a bit perplexed about what to expect next. This on top of ongoing investigations in crash data continue to create uncertainty for public agencies at every level.
Now is a good time to remind people that what we do have certainty about (lowering speed limits, road diets, better curb radii, and street trees) are all already available to us today and delivering results. As an example, Wales spent £32 million lowering residential speed limits to 20 mph this year. The results? £100m in savings from the first year alone (cost based on fewer crash deaths and injuries). Next time somebody tells you AVs are going to save us all, maybe think about the items that could already do this … tomorrow, but just need the *political will* to get there.
Shanghai unveils first batch of AV roads
Meanwhile, across the Pacific, Shanghai has revealed new infrastructure to promote integrated and connected roadways for AVs. “A 21.5-kilometer-long section of the G1503 Shanghai Ring Expressway and 19.5 kilometers of the G2 Beijing-Shanghai Highway in suburban Jiading District along with the 303 in-district roads, totaling 500.6 kilometers, now are ready to welcome self-driving cars [sic], according to local transport authorities.” I can’t tell if the roads welcome both autonomous and human-driven vehicles from the article, but it will be interesting to see how this plan plays out over time. I am personally skeptical of dedicating additional street space to accommodate AVs (but I think you knew that already).
Israel selects a national AV electric bus operator
Imagry, an Israeli start-up that develops mapless autonomous driving technology, has received approval to operate the first public autonomous buses in the city of Nahariya, Israel. All buses are also electric which makes this pilot my favourite blend from UC Davis’ The Three Revolutions: electric, autonomous, *and* shared.
Luxembourg tested the first ever AV on city street last week. The test ride took place through a partnership between the University of Luxembourg’s 360Lab and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust. The groups drove an autonomous electric Kia on a three km loop, in regular traffic, in Kirchberg.
UK drivers overwhelmingly think AVs are already for sale
*Filed under: Why Marketing Matters 101*
According to new research, more than half (52%) of UK drivers think they can “buy a fully autonomous car today”. If this doesn’t make you think we need more robust public education about AVs, and a broader understanding of how harmful Tesla’s “Full-Self Driving” discourse will be long-term, then I don’t know what will.
Cruise expands operations footprint in San Francisco
After a disastrous year of operations complete with server crashes, glitches, and significant danger caused by Cruise’s AV fleet in SF this year, they are *naturally* expanding their operational footprint to bring more hiccups to more neighbourhoods.
Tesla doesn’t want to demo Full-Self Driving (FSD) with DMV
After concerns about Tesla’s FSD technology being misleading and resulting in numerous collisions, the California DMV reached out to Tesla to better understand the tech. Last week the DMV asked Tesla for a demo of their FSD beta at their Sacramento headquarters. Here’s a fun clip from an email obtained from Bloomberg:
““I question whether it is appropriate to include your consultants that have made negative public statements about Tesla," wrote Jennifer Cohen, Tesla's California lead for policy and business development, to Miguel Acosta, the DMV's autonomous vehicle chief, in an email and quoted by Bloomberg. "We have yet to receive any assurance that their bias does not influence DMV's treatment of Tesla.””
Research and Academia
Can lasers attack and “blind” AVs?
New research from Cornell University considers how public attacks on LiDAR systems fair, especially when lasers get involved with other lasers. The abstract and longer paper are … uhm … wordy? So here’s an article digesting this content from Science Daily about how these attacks can blind “autonomous vehicles, deleting pedestrians and confusing cars”.
“The ablation of this critical LiDAR information causes autonomous driving obstacle detectors to fail to identify and locate obstacles and, consequently, induces AVs to make dangerous automatic driving decisions. In this paper, we present a method invisible to the human eye that hides objects and deceives autonomous vehicles' obstacle detectors by exploiting inherent automatic transformation and filtering processes of LiDAR sensor data integrated with autonomous driving frameworks. We call such attacks Physical Removal Attacks (PRA), and we demonstrate their effectiveness against three popular AV obstacle detectors (Apollo, Autoware, PointPillars), and we achieve 45° attack capability.”
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.
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