Along for the Ride #169
Heya friends, happy Friday!
Reminder that I am still asking for donations to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. I don’t want to name any names, but only *six* subscribers have donated so far (just kidding I do want to name names, thank you Maca, Adam, Céline, Sarah, Vidula and Molly!!). If you read this newsletter on a weekly basis, please consider making a donation to SF Bike. I have set a goal of $5,000 by the end of the year, and am currently hovering ~$700. If every subscriber contributed only $10, I would surpass this goal (by multiple thousands) in a hot second!
Secondly: There will be no newsletter next week. It is American Thanksgiving, and I’ll be taking it easy / leaning into my favourite activity: taking time off. The edition after that will be a job board, so if you’re hiring please send postings my way!
Last but not least: This week is Transgender Awareness Week, and November 20th is Trans Day of Remembrance. Human Rights Campaign has many resources on how you can support trans people—including learning about gender-affirming care. I am making a donation to the Trans Law Center, and encourage you to find ways to show care for the Trans community this week too!
P.S. I owe some of you a couple emails! Sorry about that. Those are coming next week, promise! Also if you’re new here, welcome! There will be typos!
OK, onto le news:
Government and Policy
And this trial isn’t even about “Full-Self Driving”—the company’s “Autopilot” program is in the hot seat this time. Tesla is involved in a manslaughter trial this week over a fatal crash caused by a vehicle operating on autopilot.
“Kevin George Aziz Riad is on trial for his role in a 2019 crash. Police say Riad exited a freeway in southern California in a Tesla Model S, ran a red light and crashed into a Honda Civic, killing Gilberto Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez. Tesla’s autopilot system, which can control speed, braking and steering, was engaged at the time of the crash that killed the couple, who were on their first date.”
While Tesla does not face charges in the trial, public perception is certainly on the stand. As more and more evidence piles up that autopilot systems make drivers inattentive and can contribute to collisions and deaths, the result of the trial is sure to help define who is legally responsible for a vehicle that can drive itself.
“Cars wouldn’t make sense” - Mayor Pete
FastCo interviewed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and its many funding avenues to help decarbonize America’s transportation systems.
“Cars are always going to be an important part of cities. But an ideal future is one where cars are serving people in cities rather than the other way around. It’s making sure that every mode of transportation revolves around human beings versus making everything revolve around cars. And that’s not really as much about cars as it is about roads and economics and all those things that push people into cars. You shouldn’t have to have a ton of metal with you everywhere you go, but in too many places, we don’t give people much of an alternative.”
High transportation costs are an equity nightmare
The Washington Post has a (really well researched!) historical review of how America’s limited investment in public transportation systems has created transportation networks that force individuals into automobile ownership—the most expensive form of transportation. They discuss how under current circumstances (intense inflation, OPEC-price gauging, under-funded and in crisis public transit agencies) it is individuals who lose out and suffer, driving further inequality.
The ‘Trough of Disillusionment’
This article from Bloomberg talks about how companies like Waymo and Cruise are up against the recent sense of, well, disillusionment that is rippling its way through the AV industry. The past few weeks even the most tech-forward news outlets have been calling it for AVs, with more articles than you can shake a stick at about (a) how AVs aren’t coming anytime soon, and (b) the grandiose promises made are likely going to fall short even when the cars do arrive.
For companies like Waymo and Cruise, the battle against this disillusionment is re-ignited as they try to keep the hope they’ve been doling out for years alive.
Waymo lurches forward, as other companies flounder
And here’s a perfect example of just that. Verge has an entire article devoted to the ways that Waymo keeps making “incremental progress” as the rest of the industry goes belly up. They emphasize a “slow and steady” approach by Waymo which seems incredibly generous given they are essentially the long-standing player in the industry—a company born out of Google’s deep pockets too.
Waymos are now roaming weather stations
DJ Kalid voice: And another one! Another Waymo PR fluff piece that is. Today we have a cute little article about how their cars are not only … cars, they are also roaming weather stations! How sweet.
“Self-driving cars frequently have trouble with poor weather, but Waymo thinks it can overcome these limitations by using its autonomous taxis as weather gauges. The company has revealed that its latest car sensor arrays are creating real-time weather maps to improve ride hailing services in Phoenix and San Francisco. The vehicles measure the raindrops on windows to detect the intensity of conditions like fog or rain.”
Guess who’s trying to take down Elon Musk (other than the twitter trolls)
Dan O’Dowd—a man who made millions selling military software—is using his fortune to wage a multimillion-dollar campaign to get Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software off the roads. His pet-project so far includes running nationwide TV ads with the videos and an (unsuccessful) campaign for the U.S. Senate. This article was just fascinating to read, and honestly also a bit funny?
In other news related to the Twitter uhm situation... there is one transportation related nugget. Last week when Musk mandated that the entire Twitter workforce return to office almost overnight he also had the gull to change the company’s benefits package. What did Musk change you ask? Well, the same day Twitter told employees to return to the office (after telling them last year they could work remotely forever!!), Twitter ended its commuter subsidy to employees outside of California. Classic.
Lyft and Motional partner in Los Angeles
Building off of their partnership in Vegas, Lyft and Motional plan to bring their autonomous ride-hailing offering to the City of
Angels Cars, Los Angeles. No news yet on when the service will launch, but I will undoubtedly be keeping my eyes peeled.
What Tesla’s “Full-Self Driving” tells us about the AV industry
Alright, I don’t think it’s fair to lump the whole industry under the Tesla-umbrella (nor do I want to imply that Musk has that much power), so read the article with that grain of salt.
“Experts say no system could possibly have the sophistication needed to handle every possible scenario on any road. This would require technology that mimics human reasoning — technology that we humans do not yet know how to build.
Such technology, called artificial general intelligence, “is still very, very far away,” said Andrew Clare, chief technology officer of the self-driving vehicle company Nuro. “It is not something you or I or our kids should be banking on to help them get around in cars.””
Without regulation, AVs could create worse transportation systems
From Yonah Freemark at the Urban Institute.
“In other words, it’s possible that AVs could ultimately worsen the problems of our existing transportation system, increasing its detrimental environmental effects and providing better access to wealthy people even as they degrade conditions for people living in poverty.
Our new Urban Institute research explains how federal, state and local regulations can orient the rollout of AVs to maximize their benefits while minimizing their harms. But this will require concerted action by policymakers before AVs become commonplace.”
Extra Bits + Bobs
LACI (the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator) is currently welcoming applications from founders with solutions that address: Clean Energy, Zero Emission Transportation, and Smart Cities & Circular Economy. If you are looking for support to expand in the Southern California Region apply here until January 6. LACI’s goal is to help Cleantech Startups scale by providing investment support, equity earn-back, and industry market access. Any Questions? Feel free to reach out AFTR reader and friend Youri at email@example.com!
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.
Thanks for reading Along for the Ride! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.