Along for the Ride - Issue #52
Welcome back folks. Onto another week of self-driving cars and urbanization. There have been some exciting media and news announcements from the industry this week, as well as two excellent pieces found in the Opinion section.
Government and Policy
One of the more interesting articles I read this week.
Venezuelans caught in the middle of a political and economic crisis are turning to remote contract work for a steady source of income. Hundreds of thousands of formerly middle class Venezuelans now sit at computers as they help train self-driving cars to identify and avoid obstacles. In some cases, these workers make up 75% of the company’s workforce.
Shout out to AFTR reader Viet for suggesting this piece.
Toronto plans to introduce an autonomous shuttle service in Fall 2020 which would run for about 6-12 months, with passengers riding for free. The shuttle would connect a residential neighbourhood to Rouge Hill Station.
“The temporary service would be provided using a small state-of-the-art electric shuttle running a route set through residential streets not currently served by conventional transit.”
Can I get a 🙌 for Toronto’s commitment to using AVs to support under-served communities and local needs. Really encouraging to see a city identifying gaps in a network, and using this tech to address a genuine need. You can sign-up for updates via this link, which will include invitations to public consultations.
There was a committee meeting this week in Alabama about self-driving cars, and how they will be regulated in the state. No outcomes from this meeting, other than a senator saying all proposed legislation is still under review. C'est la vie.
The Dubai Future Council for Transportation met this past week to discuss trends across the transportation industry (including infrastructure, policies, etc.) One such area examined was self-driving cars, and the practices other cities are taking for implementation. Beyond this, little information has been shared about what they will actually do, so Dubai will be one to watch.
This week Uber’s CEO told the world he wants the company to be an “operating system for your everyday life in a city.” There’s a lot to unpack in Uber’s announcements this week, their philosophy towards working with cities (which appears to be a continual process of refinement), and how this story has been picked up in the media.
Another example being their newly released Sustainability Policy. Uber is happy to share these “steps forward” as a company, meanwhile cities globally equate working with Uber with the wonderful experience of having their teeth pulled. I’m all for companies taking steps towards climate action! But don’t do it while exploiting the gig-economy and having a business model predicated on growth of Vehicle Miles Travelled.
It feels unimaginable (to me) to ever allow a company like Uber have such integration with everyday life. To allow them to know my every move. Especially after years and years of stories about how Uber exploits this data; there’s a whole website dedicated to the company’s great pitfalls (uberscandals.org) . So safe to say, I am sceptical and unfazed by Uber’s latest and greatest media stunt.
A big headline this week is Ford’s plan to launch a commercial autonomous vehicle service in Austin, Texas – joining Washington, DC and Miami-Dade county as Ford’s target markets. The launch will take place in 2021 (if current timelines prevail) and see Level 4 vehicles take the streets to deliver food & people from place to place.
The company surveyed and studied 21,000 respondents globally from nine countries. Citizens from China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK, France, Japan and the US each provided responses.
“Even across each of the nine countries, those belonging to Generation Z (under the age of 24) showed a "high readiness” for self-driving technology, and 73% said they were curious about the technology. Millennials came in second, though far less ready as Gen Z, while Baby Boomers displayed the least readiness.“
“The car, wrote the French thinker André Gorz, “supports in everyone the illusion that each individual can seek his or her own benefit at the expense of everyone else”. Writing in 1973, Gorz was frustrated by a paradox: cars had once been a luxury, invented to provide the wealthy with the unprecedented privilege of travelling much faster than everyone else. But they later became a necessity – objects considered so vital that people were willing to take on debt to acquire them.”
“We’ve been fantasizing about self-driving cars for decades; the luxury of napping, watching TV, or reading while a robot car takes us to our destination. But what are the real implications of this impending driverless future? New data from Uber and Lyft might give us a window to our unregulated driverless future: increased congestion and emissions.”
Hope you have a beautiful week ahead 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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