Along for the Ride #131
Featuring a self-driving gold fish, you're welcome
Heya friends, happy Friday!
Minimal preamble this week, other than to say scientists have taught a goldfish how to drive a car towards treats, and I would like to convert all future newsletters to this topic and this topic alone. Shout out to AFTR reader Tookie for sharing this ~essential~ piece of news with us all.
Ok now onto the news!
Read of the Week
Longer read from the NYT about how the public realm has become a test bed for auto innovation, despite the consequences being very real. As results from public trials come to light across the industry, it might be time for us to question why we’re letting tech companies test imperfect technology at the (potential) expense of us all.
“.. there is no federal regulation to stop Tesla — or the many other autonomous vehicle companies — from using public streets as a laboratory. As long as a driver is ready to take over, the only thing that prevents a company from putting an experimental autonomous vehicle on a public road is the threat of a lawsuit or bad publicity.”
Government and Policy
Milan has announced a new transport plans featuring 750km of new bike paths being built by 2035 (splooge). The intention is to convert 20% of modal shift towards cycling by making cycling the most convenient transport choice for residents and visitors.
In December, Toronto City Council voted to ban automated robots (à la Nuro) from operating on sidewalks and cycle lanes until a provincial pilot scheme is in place. Concerns over pedestrian accessibility—particularly for people with disabilities—was cited as one of the reasons for this ban.
And on that note.. the Verge talks about how auto OEMs pitch AVs as a solution to multiple mobility barriers for people with disabilities, and yet accessibility is not being centred in the design of AVs. “… the industry’s well-publicized struggles, as well as the broken promises of tech companies in the past, are forcing many in the disabled community to wonder whether AVs are the salvation they’ve been waiting for.”
A memo published by the Federal Highway Administration is encouraging State DOTs to consider fixing existing roads before building new ones. The agency is also reminding State and local officials that bike lanes and walking paths need less stringent environmental review, hoping to nudge DOTs to more climate friendly projects.
Additional policy news!
How drivers continue to erase climate wins (Streetsblog)
How deadly are one way streets? As it turns out, very. (Treehugger)
3/4 Australians put off cycling due to lack of protected infrastructure (The Conversation)
France forces car companies to promote more sustainable transport modes for shorter journeys in car adverts (WaPo)
Ahh, who doesn’t love an over-committed promise made during CES? The first week in January can be so chaotic for the auto + tech industries, but they also keep us entertained, don’t they?
Anyways, GM made a public commitment to bringing AVs to the market by “the middle of this decade”. As a recap, in 2017 GM said that it would be mass producing fully autonomous vehicles by the end of 2019. Welp.
The freight AV company completed its first driverless run on public roads (see Read of the Week for the implications of this type of testing). The freight truck was in control for 100% of an 80-mile run along public streets and highways between Tuscon and Phoenix. The run required no human intervention.
The partnership will see Waymo outfitting Geely electric shuttles, designed specifically for ride-hailing, with their autonomous driving technology. The press release featured minimal details, but some nice renderings of the vehicle design.
Additional industry news!
Local Motors, an autonomous shuttle start-up is shutting down (The Drive)
Tesla stops allowing drivers to play video games while … driving (NYT), meanwhile California’s DMV considers if more oversight of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system is needed (spoiler alert.. it is!) (The Guardian)
Not to mention… Tesla is also increasing the cost of their Full Self-Driving systems, despite the fact that the technology isn’t, well, Full Self-Driving™️ (Reuters)
The drama behind Cruise CEO’s departure (Forbes)
Nuro just released their ~Next Generation~ delivery vehicle, including external air bags for pedestrians (Nuro)
Optimus Ride has been acquired by Magna (Magna)
Research and Academia
Mckinsey has released a new report on the future of autonomous mobility, and in particular how to make it affordable. Please note the measly shoutout given to public transit, the lack of inclusion of cycling and walking, and a complete omission of the impact of land use on these costs.
New research out of UC Irvine shows that wealthier, whiter people in LA County tend to have shorter commuting times than Black, Asian, and Hispanic people in lower-income areas.
Extra Bits + Bobs
Jobs you should apply for!
The Three Revolutions of out UC Davis (AKA one of the most forward thinking institutes on autonomous driving) has an open position for a postdoc researcher.
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends!