April 2022 Technology Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: April 30, 2022
Tech updates headlines

More equitable bus lanes through technology, electric bus production delays, ‘liar, liar, battery supplier’, where on earth is all that lithium going to come from, MaaS on the wrong track, and much more. Tech updates are back with 40 articles on transit technology aimed at mobility managers.

TNCs

Uber, Lyft and Others Launch Campaign to Head Off Unions By Brody Mullins and Ryan Tracy, WSJ
“Ads seek to counter Democratic efforts to reclassify gig workers as employees, which would let many unionize” 

Minimum pay law for Uber and Lyft drivers proposed in Chicago by Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune
“A Chicago alderman has proposed an ordinance that would establish the minimum pay of ride-share drivers in the city, drawing concern from companies like Uber and Lyft that say such regulations would hit riders’ wallets the hardest.”

Autonomous Vehicles

Envisioning a policy framework for the growth of AVs and SAVs by Susan Shaheen
“Technology alone will not drive the public’s acceptance of vehicle sharing, automation, digitization, and electrification. Policy and planning are needed to encourage and guide this adoption to maximize societal benefits through these deployment phases over time while complementing public transportation and active transportation modes.”

Long-awaited safety rule a ‘big step’ for future of AVs by Jason Plautz, Smart Cities Dive
“It will be easier for automakers to release cars with automated driving technology without seeking exemptions, one scholar explained, but won’t change the testing happening in some states and cities.”

U.S. eliminates human controls requirement for fully automated vehicles by David Shepardson, Reuters
“U.S. regulators on Thursday issued final rules eliminating the need for automated vehicle manufacturers to equip fully autonomous vehicles with manual driving controls to meet crash standards.”

How auto regulators played mind games with Elon Musk by Faiz Siddiqui, The Washington Post
“NHTSA officials have turned to less conventional strategies to force the electric vehicle manufacturer to be more transparent about safety issues — a critical matter at a time when more than 50,000 drivers can now use Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ software to navigate the nation’s public roads.”

Tesla insists Autopilot and Full Self-Driving are safe, but US senators aren’t buying it by Andrew J. Hawkins, Verge
“Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features are safe, the company insists in a letter to two top Senate Democrats. Like, really safe. Safer than human driving. Unfortunately, the senators aren’t really buying it.”

Musk promises ‘dedicated robotaxi’ with futuristic look from Tesla by Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters
“Electric carmaker Tesla (TSLA.O) will make a “dedicated” self-driving taxi that will ‘look futuristic,’ Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Thursday, without giving a timeframe.”

Waymo to begin charging for robotaxi rides in San Francisco by Rebecca Bellan
“Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet, has scored a permit with the California Public Utilities Commission that allows it to charge riders for ride-hailing trips in its autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. A human safety operator must be present, though, per the permit’s stipulations.”

Like Tesla, Toyota develops self-driving tech with low-cost cameras by Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters
“‘But in many, many years, it’s entirely possible that camera type technology can catch up and overtake some of the more advanced sensors,’ [Michael Benisch, vice president of Engineering at Woven Planet] said. ‘The question may be more about when and how long it will take to reach a level of safety and reliability. I don’t believe we know that yet.'”

Cars could get more dangerous before they get safer by Joann Muller, Axios
“Automated driving features are supposed to make cars safer. But in the hands of drivers who put too much trust in those systems, or simply don’t know how to use them, they could make the roads more dangerous instead. The paradox of vehicle automation is that the more reliable it becomes, the less prepared drivers are for when it inevitably fails.”

GM expects to spend $2B on Cruise in 2022 by Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch
“Cruise nor GM provided a detailed accounting of exactly what that $2 billion would be used for. TechCrunch will update the article if Cruise responds to requests for more information. However, Cruise aims to begin mass production of its purpose-built Origin AV in 2023, so we can expect a good chunk of that funding to go toward that end as the company ramps up plans for commercialization in San Francisco.”

Vehicle Electrification

Sila buys new factory to produce next-gen EV battery tech on US soil by Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch
Battery technology company Sila announced the purchase of a new facility in Washington state that will see its next-generation battery chemistry in hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles by the end of 2026, according to the company.

Inflation, production backlogs hit electric transit bus manufacturer Proterra by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
“As demand grows for electric buses, cities and transit agencies will face production delays and rising costs. ‘The manufacturing environment is very challenging right now,’ said Proterra’s chief executive officer, Gareth Joyce, on the earnings call. Proterra Transit had a backlog of $450 million worth of orders at the end of last year. Joyce does not expect any ‘material improvement’ in supply chain issues or production rates for the rest of the year.”

Why All Those EV-Battery ‘Breakthroughs’ You Hear About Aren’t Breaking Through By Christopher Mims
“In the superheated market for batteries, promising lab developments often get overhyped by startups. ‘Liar, liar, battery supplier.'”

Big lithium will be built, but by who? by Evan Keuhnert & Alex Grant, Mining Magazine
“Instead of leaving building ‘Big Lithium’ to the people of legacy mining companies who historically have seen communities and ecosystems as obstacles to their ability to buy superyachts, we need new mining companies that work with impacted people to minimise impacts and share benefits equitably.”

U.S. seeks new lithium sources as demand for clean energy grows by Patrick Whittle, Associated Press
“The race is on to produce more lithium in the United States. The U.S. will need far more lithium to achieve its clean energy goals — and the industry that mines, extracts and processes the chemical element is poised to grow. But it also faces a host of challenges from environmentalists, Indigenous groups and government regulators.”

Biden Administration Drafting Order to Invoke Defense Production Act for Green Energy Storage Technology by Nausicaa Renner and Austin Ahlman, The Intercept
“The Biden administration is drafting an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to alleviate shortages of key minerals needed for the technology to store clean energy. The act, which would bolster the manufacturing capacity of electric vehicle producers in particular, indicates that the administration is open to using executive power to achieve progressive policy goals as Congress remains reluctant to pass key parts of his green energy agenda.”

Carmakers Race to Control Next-Generation Battery Technology by Jack Ewing and Eric Lipton, The New York Times
“The prize: batteries that would be cheaper, faster to charge and less vulnerable to raw material shortages. Whoever gets there first will have a major advantage.”

Beyond the line: How an all-electric bus rapid transit system is transforming Indianapolis by Grist
“McKillip and other advocates celebrated when Indianapolis’ public transportation corporation, IndyGo, recently rolled out an all-electric, bus rapid transit public bus system, one of the first in the country. ‘It’s truly a pioneering effort for a city like Indianapolis to lead the way,’ McKillip says.”

Calif. Transit District Operates First All-Electric Bus Fleet by Skip Descant, GovTech
“The Antelope Valley Transit Authority in Southern California has become the first public transit agency in the nation with a fully electric fleet, saving the agency millions of dollars in operating and other costs.”

VW’s futuristic electric bus is real and coming soon (finally) by Kirsten Korosec, TechCrunch
“Volkswagen introduced Wednesday two versions of an electric microbus — the ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz Cargo — that will go on sale in Europe in the third quarter of this year as part of the automaker’s plan to sell more than 1 million EVs annually by 2025. Notably absent was pricing and the estimated range of the microbus.”

FTA exploring ways to use transit buses to generate power during natural disasters by Mass Transit
“The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) aims to build community resilience through transit and one of the first steps in this effort is the issuance of a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for an organization or partnership to develop standards for exportable power systems from electric and fuel cell-powered buses, which can supply electricity to community buildings, emergency shelters and hospitals during power disruptions.”

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

MaaS Expert: Mobility-as-a-Service Initiatives on Wrong Track; New ‘Framework’ Needed by Dan Balaban, Mobility Payments
“After seven years of study, including heading one of the most important pilots of MaaS to date–the two-year Sydney Mobility-as-a-Service Trial–Hensher believes the challenges MaaS faces will be difficult, though not impossible, to overcome.
Among these challenges are unsustainable business models, lack of compelling offers for users and, just as importantly, substantial mistrust among mobility providers and other parties that would participate in a MaaS scheme.”

How the mobility app Bolt is nudging users away from cars by Adele Peters
“If you pulled up the app for the Uber-like mobility platform Bolt in Stockholm or Oslo last year, you might have noticed it nudging you to use an electric scooter instead of ordering a ride for a car. The company partnered with Norway’s Institute of Transport Economics to test whether a simple change in the app could convince users to avoid a car trip and help cut urban emissions.”

Tier acquires Ford’s Spin in North American micromobility expansion by Tom Stone, Traffic Technology International
“European micromobility provider Tier Mobility is moving into the North American market with the acquisition of Ford’s shared electric bike and scooter operator, Spin.”

Californian transit agencies partner to make carpooling more convenient by Intelligent Transport
“In order to advance shared goals of reducing congestion and curbing greenhouse gas emissions, six Californian transit agencies have integrated their commuter carpooling platforms.”

E-fare

Universal basic mobility program in Oakland, California, provided lessons in achieving equity, leveraging community partnerships by Austyn Gaffney, Smart Cities Dive
“The pilot met its goal of increasing transit use and gave the city insight on the administrative structures needed to distribute benefits via prepaid cards, an Oakland transportation planner said.”

Free Public Transit Is Not a Climate Policy by David Zipper, Bloomberg
“Local boosters generally cite goals of addressing inequality, but several, like Mendenhall, have also stressed the climate benefits of making transit free. But those claims are shaky at best. After more than a decade of transit agencies around the world experimenting with free trips, it’s far from clear that dropping fares delivers an environmental upside.
It boils down to this: If fare-free transit doesn’t substantially reduce driving, it’s not mitigating emissions or slowing climate change. And all signs suggest that it doesn’t.”

U.S. cities ponder future of free public transport beyond COVID-19 by Carey L. Biron, Thomson Reuters Foundation
“Many cities went to fareless systems to protect public health or boost flagging ridership, but are now focused on equity
Some worry the new focus on free public transport could have the opposite of its intended effect, with systems forced to reduce their already infrequent and limited services to make up for lost revenue. ‘The policy discussion about fareless transit in the U.S. is really a distraction from the more important obstacles to transit ridership,’ said David Bragdon, executive director of the national research and advocacy group TransitCenter.”

Research

TR News 336 November-December 2021: Redesigning Transit for the New Mobility Future
Transit agencies across the country continue to learn from one another’s experiences in planning and delivering bus network redesigns, advancing the state of the practice to deliver higher-quality transit services that are responsive to the travel needs of today’s public. ‘Redesigning Transit for the New Mobility Future’ is a feature article in the November-December 2021 issue of TRB’s magazine, TR News (Issue 336).”

Open bus data makes transit schedules more reliable by Shourjya Mookerjee, GCN
Researchers at the University of Washington used bus location and speed data from two Seattle-area transit networks to create a dashboard that shows the average bus speed between stops, allowing officials to pinpoint slowdowns.

ADA Paratransit and Other Demand-Responsive Transportation Services in Small to Midsized Transit Agencies by the TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program
This report “explores paratransit delivery models for small and midsize systems and documents the way various service and contract models are structured, to enhance the knowledge base of small agencies.”

Electric Vehicle Adoption for Public Transit: Research from the University of Utah by NITC
“Dr. Xiaoyue Cathy Liu of the University of Utah is leading research efforts to help facilitate the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). In 2021, she completed a project funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), Bi-objective Optimization for Battery Electric Bus Deployment Considering Cost and Environmental Equity, which was aimed at helping transit agencies transition their fleets to battery electric buses while focusing on improving air quality—with an eye toward environmental justice.”

Mobility-on-demand (MOD) Projects: A study of the best practices adopted in United States by Ronik Ketankumar Patel, Roya Etminani-Ghasrodashti, Sharareh Kermanshachi, Jay Michael Rosenberger, and Ann Fosse, Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives
“A comprehensive review of the goals and scopes of the 11 FTA Sandbox Program projects is provided and factors cooperating with the integration of on-demand services into the existing public transit are identified.”

Other News Involving Mobility Technology

Potential Impacts of Technology on the Customer Experience, Shared-Use Mobility Center
“In this entry, SUMC’s staff draw on their experience providing technical assistance and conducting community engagement for small transportation organizations and reflect on the delicate balance of using technology while also prioritizing the customer and their community.”

Transit data providers join forces as Optibus acquires Trillium by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
“The acquisition will ‘integrate both products into one holistic product,’ said Haggiag. That combination is anticipated to help transit agencies manage the pandemic’s impact on bus and rail schedules, including labor shortages and ridership changes.”

This New Air Filter Could Make Public Transit Safe From COVID Again by Miriam Fauzia
“UK researchers at the University of Birmingham created a novel virus-killing filter by coating it in a widely used antiseptic called chlorhexidine gluconate (CHDG). This filter, unveiled in a new study published Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports, was shown to be effective at killing COVID-19 virus particles in less than a minute, as well as other kinds of airborne bacteria and fungi harmful to humans.”

Sault Transit partners with CNIB to implement accessibility app by CBC News
“BlindSquare helps users find bus stops and uses audible sounds to help navigate the transit system”

Los Angeles Hopes Tech Can Help Make More Equitable Bus Lanes by Skip Descant, Governing
“L.A. Metro bucked digital privacy concerns when it turned to technology to monitor and enforce dedicated bus lane rules. The move is a win that places the rights of bus riders above the privacy of offenders. The automated technology in question was developed by Hayden AI, which uses cameras, along with machine learning to monitor dedicated bus lanes to ensure cars and other vehicles are not blocking them.”

We’d love to hear from you!

Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Kirby Wilhelm (wilhelm@ctaa.org).

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