Along for the Ride: Weekly Newsletter on AVs and Urbanism - Issue #4

Buongiorno from Venice, Italy!

There are some really exciting reads this week - and a lot to discuss with regards to safety, congestion, and behaviour change. Without further delay:

Read of the Week

From MIT’s Technology Review: “Phoenix may no longer be Phoenix if Waymo’s driverless-car experiment succeeds”. If you read one thing this week, this should be it. Touching on the ways autonomous vehicles will change life in suburban and car-centric cities, Ed Finn discusses how people’s behaviours and lifestyles may change.

Government and Policy

Distracted Driving

  • As reports swirl about the human driver in Uber’s recent Tempe, Arizona incident watching Hulu before the deadly crash, many reports question how ‘safe’ safety drivers really are. Looks like the collision may have been avoidable after all. (link).

Public Transport

  • The Economist discusses how ‘rich’ countries can maintain transit ridership in the face of new transportation innovation and improved user experience of alternative modes. (link).

Urban Planning

  • LA Department of Transport (LADOT) releases their Strategic Implementation Plan. This includes which actions they will take to implement the Blueprint for Autonomous Vehicles. Happy reading friends!


  • Mentioned in last week’s edition, Massachusetts is welcoming 15 new self-driving trials. Wired discusses the various caveats, including how they are empowering cities to have a greater stake in the trials and partnerships. (link).

  • Holy Toledo: Toledo, Ohio announces new trials for 2019 - fully funded by the federal government. The trials will emphasize the need for improved public transport - a rare occurrence in the US. (link).

  • Baidu is trialing on expressways in Tianjin. The trials are designed to test the vehicle’s understanding of environment and ‘self-control’. (link).

Uber’s Court Case

  • Uber’s appeal against TfL began and ended this week. While TfL claimed the appeal concerned passenger safety, it’s no secret that TfL was also displeased with the added congestion Uber brought into the centre of the city. (link).

“Little Vehicles”

  • While the term ‘little vehicles’ is used to reference micro-mobility more broadly, CityLab argues that micro-mobility will be able to win wars that self-driving cars won’t be equipped to. Most importantly: moving masses of people through densely populated cities. (link).


Ahead of the Pack

  • Bloomberg analyzes which self-driving companies are leading the pack. This is a wonderful piece to read if you’re new to the industry and want to understand the complex relationships and interplay between individual companies. (link).

  • While looking ahead to self-driving vehicles, we should look back to auto-pilot applications in aerial travel. (link).

One to Watch

  • May Mobility is piloting shuttles ‘block by block’ in Detroit. While less in the news than other American Self-Driving companies, I have an ear to the ground about May. I was incredibly impressed when I heard Co-Founder and COO, Alisyn Malek, speak at the San Francisco Urban Planning and Research Association (SPUR) earlier this year. Her understanding of cities, safety, and questions of equity added richness to the normative conversations usually held when speaking about AVs. (link).

Research and Academia

Parking Demand

  • The International Parking Institute (this is a real thing I promise) released their 2018 Emerging Trends in Parking report. AVs are listed as having the smallest influence on parking today - but this is projected to change in coming years. All respondents were skeptical AVs would lower demand for parking. (link).

Mobility Reports

  • NYC released their Mobility Report this week, and the results show that the more people use on-demand ride-hailing the less they use the subway. This can’t be a finding the city is too happy about; new mobility seem to think they are supporting public transport, but they need the actions and results to back this up.

  • Researchers from UC Denver published results which show, despite congestion increasing in major metropolitans in America, economies also grew (thinking of cities such as LA, NYC, and Chicago). This finding contradicts previous research, and while they say traffic might not affect economics in the way we think, it does affect quality of life and still needs to be addressed nonetheless. (link).


Because at this point everybody has one. I hope this section will help you question your own self-driving biases :)

  • A short piece by Bloomberg View likens the emerging transport transformation to the US Civil War in terms of significance. Nathaniel Bullard calls both examples of ‘civilization-defining change’. Read his piece here.

  • Autonomous vehicles will induce urban sprawl. In the spirit of knowing both sides of every argument: a piece on an unpopular opinion (within the self-driving industry) is backed by extensive research. (link).

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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