Along for the Ride - Issue #46
Hi all 👋
Coming up for air from launching bike share in the UK!
I’ve not been able to gives this edition my full editorial glitz, so the articles below all share the first paragraph from each piece. I hope you enjoy and still find it useful. I promise the transport puns will be back in full force soon enough.
Podcast of the Week
This is exciting because AFTR subscriber, and amazing human, Marcel, is on the Autonomous Vehicle Podcast!
Marcel is a City Planning PhD student at UC Berkeley. Before Berkeley, Marcel earned his master’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago, and did public policy work at Uber. In this episode he discusses the effects AVs will have on urban planning and public policy, what TNCs like Uber and Lyft will look like in an autonomous future, and his predictions for the next 5 years on the broader AV landscape.
Government and Policy
The technology that was supposed to give us robo-taxis is making human-driven cars safer at a rate that completely autonomous vehicles may have trouble matching.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law allowing fully automated vehicles onto the state’s roads as of July 1. State Senator Jeff Brandes, who sponsored the bill, talks to Cheddar about the future of self-driving cars in the Sunshine State.
The Ultimate Urban Circulator (U²C) will run down Bay Street, from the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center (JRTC) to the Sports Complex. Federal grants secured in February from the U.S. Department of Transportation are going to help.
“The JTA is recognized as a national leader in AV deployment, and, with the help of the $12.5 million BUILD Grant from the USDOT, the Authority will begin to implement this technology along the Bay Street Innovation Corridor in the coming years.”
A lack of convenient public transport is one of the main disadvantages of life in the outer suburbs. Driverless vehicles, by halving the cost of bus services, are ready to fill the gap.
Aurora hooked up with Chrysler on Monday, ditched VW on Tuesday, and doubled down with Hyundai on Wednesday.
“Now these breakups and makeups show that the companies understand better what they need from a partner, or at least have the good sense to know when something isn’t working. VW and Ford, for example, have been in talks about all sorts of collaborations, so it makes sense that VW would prefer Ford’s self-driving partner, Argo, to Aurora.”
Waymo has signed an agreement to work with Renault and Nissan on issues surrounding self-driving car technology, the companies said Thursday. The partnership, which the companies call a “first step,” doesn’t currently include immediate plans to launch Waymo self-driving vehicles in France or Japan. Instead, the companies will work together to “research commercial, legal and regulatory issues related to driverless transportation-as-a-service offerings in France and Japan,” according to a joint press release.
Baidu announced its new Apollo Lite system, which it says uses 10 cameras and no lidar or radar to achieve Level 4 autonomy. Baidu also claims that its cameras can detect and identify objects at distances of over 700 feet from the vehicle.
Uber’s head of autonomous driving, Eric Meyhofer, told journalists that people were “testing the boundaries of what they can do to self-driving.”
Ford is testing a new fleet of self-driving vehicles in its homebase of Detroit. Argo AI, Ford’s autonomous vehicle arm, announced it would deploy its third-generation vehicles in Detroit and Corktown. The Ford Fusion Hybrids will be equipped with a “significantly upgraded sensor suite”, as well as new sets of radar and cameras with higher resolution and higher dynamic range, wrote Argo AI president Pete Rander in a blog post.
Designed to be autonomous at the factory level, Uber and Volvo believe this version will be safer. It has redundant braking, steering, and power systems, though it will still have a steering wheel and pedals.
On a 54-acre, closely guarded facility in Pittsburgh, Uber is building its return to autonomous driving after the March 2018 crash where a self-driving Uber hit and killed a woman crossing a street in Tempe, Arizona.
The company is betting its self-driving future on their new autonomous vehicle, which it plans to test on the street in San Francisco and Toronto later this year. It’s a crawl-walk-run approach to autonomous driving that Uber says comes with a renewed focus on safety.
Uber has held recent talks to buy Seattle-based Mighty AI, a startup that helps autonomous vehicle developers train their computer vision algorithms to better identify objects on the road, said three people briefed on the discussions.
HA has raised a $5.3 million seed round from an international group of investors on the strength of its AI system, which it claims out-performs humans and works on images from practically any camera you might find in a car these days.
HA’s tech is a set of machine learning modules trained to identify different pedestrian behaviors — is this person about to step into the street? Are they paying attention? Have they made eye contact with the driver? Are they on the phone?
Transport app Citymapper is shutting down its hybrid bus and taxi service, previously known as Smartbus, then SmartRide, and then, simply, Ride. The last day of service will be July 14th. The company says it wants to focus on its new travel pass, Citymapper Pass.
Chinese autonomous vehicle (AV) startups, AutoX and Pony.ai, are joining an exclusive group of companies approved to offer self-driving rides to the public in California after receiving approvals from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Tuesday.
Research and Academia
When asked about Autopilot, 48 percent of survey participants thought it would be safe to take one’s hands off the wheel while using the technology.The technology had substantially more participants who thought it would be safe to look at scenery, read a book or use a cellphone. Six percent thought it would be safe to take a nap.
IIHS said in a statement that “the names manufacturers use for these systems can send the wrong messages to drivers regarding how attentive they should be.”
Argo AI is releasing curated data along with high-definition maps to researchers for free, the latest company in the autonomous vehicle industry to open-source some of the information it has captured while developing and testing self-driving cars.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) does not make good transportation policy. Sometimes a new bus shelter is a better investment than flashy new technology.
“There are a handful of policy phrases that reliably trigger outrage among urban mobility wonks. “Sharrow” is one; “parking minimum” is another. I’d like to suggest a couple more: “first in the country” and “staying ahead of our rivals.” If you hear either spoken by your mayor or governor, head for the hills (or the next community meeting). More likely than not, your elected officials are basing mobility policy decisions not on cost-benefit analysis or strategic foresight, but on a classic modern insecurity: FOMO.”
Back to my bikes, for the time being.
That’s all from me! Have a lovely week friends,
By Sarah Barnes
This weekly newsletter on cities, transportation and technology is curated weekly by Sarah Barnes, a transport nerd based in San Francisco, CA.
The newsletter encourages new conversations about advanced transportation technology, primarily autonomous vehicles, which focus on people, equity, design and the cities we want to (and need to) be building for the future.
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