Along for the Ride #97

Heya friends, happy Friday!

Well, this isn’t exactly how I thought I’d be writing to you this week. The long-short of the matter is my previous newsletter platform was recently acquired by Twitter, and with that acquisition Twitter became the new data controller, giving them full access to my subscriber data.

While I personally choose to use Twitter, I know many of you do not. In order to protect our collective data, I made the decision to change platforms… so enter substack stage left. They promise to never sell data from newsletters, and for that I am grateful.

It will likely take a few weeks to get adjusted, so thank you in advance for your patience here. All feedback on formatting and style is very welcome. For the record, the blue titles are links and hopefully images return next week 😊

Now onto the news..!

Government and Policy

Self-driving shuttle service trial introduced in Gothenberg

Gothenberg welcomes two new autonomous electric shuttles (from Navya) which will operate during working hours, Monday to Friday, as part of a five month trial. The vehicles will travel on a fixed 1.8km route serving an industrial park which was a former shipyard that now features offices, residential and university buildings.

London cabbies plan to sue Uber for damages

Just when Uber sorted out their qualms with TfL, in come the London cabbies, never to be outdone. Thousands of London cabbies plan to sue Uber for damages alleging the company operated unlawfully between 2012 and 2018. The intention is to hit Uber with a bill for millions of pounds.

“The proposed claim itself is huge—loss of earnings for up to 30,000 drivers for nearly 6 years—and comes at a time when London black cabs and private hire vehicle drivers are struggling for work after nearly a year of lockdowns and restrictions. Uber might now have its licence back, but the black cabs aren't willing to give them an easy ride.”

The pandemic and mass transit

“The pandemic has also changed how transit agencies think about the value they create—for instance, the critical role they play for society in ensuring that other essential workers can get to their jobs.

We’ve always equated the value of transit with ridership. Ridership is going to be down ... What may end up being the better way to [measure value] is economic output from the trips we’re creating, health care indicators and output from the trips we’re creating, climate and environmental output.”

Singapore launches two new autonomous, on-demand bus services

Singapore announced this week they are launching two new autonomous, on-demand bus services… which will be revenue-generating! Both will initially have onboard safety drivers, and will take place along two pre-defined routes (the city’s Science Park and Jurong Island).

The UK launches lane-keeping technology

According to the Times, senior officials at the DfT told insurance industry chiefs this week “that lane-keeping technology could permit drivers to watch a film, send texts or check emails at the wheel from the summer.

The plan would allow drivers to enable assisted driving systems only on Stop-Start roads traveling up to 37mph, with a barrier between lanes and no pedestrian/cyclists around. To me, this sounds like we’re continuing to build “solutions” which “optimize” vehicle travel, over investing in solutions which may actually reduce congestion, improve air quality, and promote health.

NY city turning car lanes into bike lanes

Can I get a woop-woop? De Blasio hasn’t been the most urgent when it comes to re-orienting street hierarchies, but this week’s announcement demonstrates a much-needed commitment to doing better. The plan is to close a lane on both the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges and reserve them for cyclists. 🙌

“The city had nearly 1.6 million bike riders before the pandemic, and usage has exploded with trips at the city’s four East River bridges into Manhattan jumping by 55 percent in November compared with the same month in 2019.”


Tencent partners with Geely

Another week, another partnership for Geely. This week, they are teaming up with Tencent, a social media and gaming giant, to develop technical features for smart cars, including autonomous driving tech. Features include aspects such as multiscreen interaction, smart surfaces and intelligent speech, that will be accessible to drivers and passengers.

Aurora partners with Paccar

Aurora expands its interest in freight through a partnership with Paccar, a major manufacturer of light, medium and heavy-duty trucks. Aurora has focused its driver technology for initial use in trucking applications, then last-mile goods delivery and finally passenger-mobility networks. 

Cruise and Honda partner up in Japan

Cruise and GM plan to assist Honda with their self-driving tests in Japan this coming year.

While Cruise isn't launching in Japan, it will send the first of its self-driving cars to Japan this year to begin coordinating with Honda on its own service in the future. When the time is right, Honda plans to tap the production Cruise Origin as its vehicle of choice.

Tesla and Samsung parnter on AI chips

Tesla is partnering with Samsung to develop a “5-nanometre semiconductor” for fully autonomous vehicles. This will use a high-tech extreme ultraviolet (EUV) process rather than the argon fluoride (ArF) exposure process (from the current 14-nm chips Samsung already supplies to Tesla). AI chips are regarded as a core technology to enable a vehicle to reach fully autonomous driving by processing information input from sensors, lighting, and communication in the vehicle and providing it to the screen.

Chinese start-up Uisee raises $150 million

Beijing-based Uisee is the first AV company China’s National Manufacturing Transformation and Upgrade Fund has ever backed. Uisee is expected to help propel the public transit and logistics sectors forward, and become a “benchmark” for autonomous driving companies in China.

Baidu allowed to test in California without drivers

The California DMV has awarded Baidu with a permit to test AVs without a driver behind the wheel. Baidu is the sixth company to receive this permit; the company will be allowed to test three autonomous vehicles on specified streets within Sunnyvale, Santa Clara County.

Research and Academia

Can sharing a ride make for less traffic?

This paper analyzes trip data from Uber and Lyft between 2014 to 2020 to examine the effectiveness of shared (or “pooled”) services in reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in four cities with large concentrations of ride-hail trips and suburban areas of California. 

“Taking into account three key inputs—pooling rates, modal shifts and deadhead miles—results show that pre-pandemic levels of pooling led to at least a doubling of VMT when comparing ride-hail trips with patrons’ previous mode..”

Urban Polycentricity in Tokyo

New research takes a look at polycentricity in Metro Tokyo Metro, with findings which provide “rich information on functional urban structure patterns, allowing urban planners to rethink the rationality behind traditional master planning practices.”

Note: Urban polycentricity refers to when the distribution of economic activities in a metropolitan area is determined by multiple nodes instead of a single node (such as a central business district).

Covid and curb management

Transportation for America (T4A) has published a new paper on how city’s responses to Covid impacted streets curbs across the country. The research focuses on how cities adapted their curb management strategies, in addition to policy recommendations at local, state, and federal levels to guide the future of curbside management.


Why Microsoft’s Cruise investment will pay-off

“… in the long run, Microsoft stands to gain more from the deal. Not only will it get two very lucrative customers for its cloud business Azure [Cruise and GM], but when seen in the broader context of Microsoft’s self-driving car strategy, “Cruise’s deep industry expertise” will possibly give Microsoft a solid foothold in the future of the still-volatile self-driving car industry.”

Can Uber help save public transit?

“If a transit executive wants to consider doing a deal with Uber, she will be wise to look past warm words about aligned visions and carefully examine contract terms. It’s safe to assume that Uber will pursue its own goals in any agreement. Transit agencies should do the same.”

What the history of AVs can tell us about their future

“But the real funding push that came in the 1960s and ’70s—and especially in the ’80s, when you saw the first serious efforts to build AVs that worked with the help of sensors—that push came from the military.. The thing that really got the DARPA races going, though, was Congress, in its final military funding in Bill Clinton’s last term, slipped in this one little line in the bill was that said, by 2015, one-third of military ground vehicles should be self-driving.”

Extra Bits and Bobs

City University of London is looking for a PhD student to study the cyber-resilience of connected and autonomous vehicles, in collaboration with EIT Digital and Connected Places Catapult. The position is funded and applications close on February 15th. Hop to it!

That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.


PS. My virtual door (email) is always open to share your news, job postings, or a debate.