April Tech Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: April 27, 2023

It's been a busy month in the world of mobility and technology: several big transit agencies announcing big plans on Earth Day, what "electrify everything" looks like, robotaxis hitting buses, and a guide to vetting technology providers.  These are just a few of the transit tech stories curated for mobility managers who want to stay in the know. Read on for the rest.


Lyft expands electric-vehicle option to riders in 14 cities and counties by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
"Ride-hailing company Lyft announced Thursday that it is adding 14 cities and counties to its 'Green' mode, which allows riders to request a hybrid or electric vehicle."

Uber and bp to provide fast EV chargers to the ride-hailing company’s drivers by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
"Uber drivers use electric vehicles at a rate more than eight times that of the general population in the U.S., an Uber spokesperson said."

California court says Uber, Lyft can treat state drivers as independent contractors by The Associated Press
"The ruling mostly upholds a voter-approved law, called Proposition 22, that said drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft are independent contractors and are not entitled to benefits like paid sick leave and unemployment insurance."

Autonomous Vehicles

FedEx and Amazon still haven’t figured out sidewalk delivery robots. Will mass adoption ever come? by Max Garland, Smart Cities Dive
"Despite the hype, the path to widespread adoption for sidewalk-roaming robots to deliver goods throughout the U.S. has been anything but straightforward."

How Elon Musk knocked Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ off course by Faiz Siddiqui, The Washington Post
Tesla’s campaign to deliver a fully autonomous vehicle has suffered amid mounting safety concerns — and the boss’s Twitter distraction

Cruise wants to expand driverless robotaxi service throughout California by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
"The General Motors subsidiary has operated a self-driving ride-hailing service in San Francisco since 2022 and says it hasn’t yet decided where in the state to go next."

Waymo retires its Chrysler Pacifica minivans as it switches to an all-electric robotaxi fleet by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
"The Alphabet-owned AV operator said it would phase out its autonomous minivans in favor of the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace SUV."

Cruise recalls 300 robotaxis, issues software update after crashing into city bus by Kirsten Korosec, TechCrunch
"Cruise said in a report with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that it initiated the recall because in rare circumstances the software could inaccurately predict the movement of 'articulated' vehicles."

San Francisco is a postcard from a driverless car future. Here’s what it’s like. by Heather Kelly, The Washington Post
"Camera-covered cars with nobody inside are causing traffic jams, angering residents and amazing tourists"

Vehicle Electrification and Earth Day Announcement Round-up

Zero-emission bus fleet transition accelerated by Washington, DC, transit agency by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
"Starting with 12 electric buses in a pilot program, WMATA will spend $7.4 billion to achieve a 100% zero-emission fleet by 2042."

Denver RTD Board to consider proposal regarding development of a low/no-emission facilities and fleet transition plan, press release on Mass Transit
"The plan includes the development of a transition feasibility study and a facilities and fleet transition strategy."

MTA commits to reducing emissions by at least 85 percent by 2040, press release on Mass Transit
"Notably, the MTA will transition its entire bus fleet of 5,800 buses to zero emission alternatives by 2040."

Tighter EPA vehicle emissions standards may speed up electric vehicle transition by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
"Described as the 'strongest-ever pollution standards' by the Biden administration, the EPA estimates that electric vehicles will account for 67% of all new light-duty vehicle sales by model year 2032, an increase from the Biden administration’s goal of 50% EV sales by 2030."

What “Electrify Everything” Actually Looks Like by Jesse Jenkins, Mother Jones
"For the first time in history, the full financial weight of the United States federal government is aligned behind an epic transition to clean energy. A trio of energy, infrastructure, and science laws passed by the last Congress will deploy more than half a trillion dollars of public funding over the next decade to wean us off fossil fuels and make greener alternatives cheap and ubiquitous."

Falling Lithium Prices Are Making Electric Cars More Affordable by Jack Ewing and Clifford Krauss, The New York Times
"An unexpected decline in the price of an essential battery material, along with those of other commodities, is good news for buyers. But experts disagree on how long low prices will last."

EV charger makers brace for slowdown as new Made In America rules kick in by Abhirup Roy and Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters
"Requirements to immediately start assembling the chargers at U.S. factories and to use U.S.-made iron or steel enclosures have caught many in the EV charging industry off guard, according to company executives and industry experts."

Electric Vehicle Battery Makers Test a Future Without Lithium by Yayoi Sekine, Bloomberg
"A test vehicle unveiled by Chinese carmaker JAC has the battery world buzzing about sodium-ion cells."

Amazon deliveries made by Rivian EVs surge to 75M by Max Garland, Smart Cities Dive
"Amazon plans to have all 100,000 EVs it ordered from Rivian on the road by 2030, which it says will eliminate millions of metric tons of carbon annually. However, Rivian has been grappling with supply chain hurdles since the deal was originally announced in 2019."

States’ transportation electrification plans fail to consider grid needs: report by Robert Walton, Smart Cities Dive
"Aligning electric vehicle charging with 'locational and temporal flexibility' can reduce costs and emissions, according to the Energy Systems Integration Group report."

It Will Take More Than Electric Buses to Attract Riders by Skip Descant, GovTech
"Electric buses may be a dream vehicle for sustainability watchers, but they are not adding new ridership or saving public transit from the formidable financial headwinds agencies are facing."

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

What Does the Potential Demise of Lyft Mean for Citi Bike? by Alissa Walker, Curbed
"Because so many cities, including New York, have outsourced their bike-share system operations to the private sector, a single company now exerts near-total control over them."

Undoing bikeshare’s original sin by David Zipper, Fast Company
"If cities will not put money into subsidizing their system, they should be prepared to lose it."

Bikeshares Are Usually Run By Big Business. This Family-Owned Bikeshare Startup Is Aiming to Change That. By Molly Hurford, Bicycling
"The Future of Bikeshares May Be Micro. And It May Be All About E-Bikes."

Opinion: ‘On-demand’ bus service won’t do the job in the suburbs by Patrick Garraud, WHYY
SEPTA is looking to change low-ridership routes to an on-demand service that hasn’t shown any efficiency when tried in other cities.

Pete Buttigieg still believes in smart cities by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
"The US Department of Transportation is making a big bet on smart city technology with the release of $94.8 million in federal funding. But in an interview, Secretary Buttigieg warned that not every project ‘is going to prove out.’"

Is your city minimobility-ready? by Austyn Gaffney, Smart Cities Dive
"By 2030, a burgeoning $100 billion global industry could bring small, slow passenger vehicles, or minimobility, to U.S. roadways. Proponents envision these vehicles hitting the sweet spot for when a traveler needs more passenger or cargo space or more protection from the elements than you find with two-wheeled micromobility vehicles like electric bikes and scooters but less than full-sized cars and trucks."

Have We Outgrown Paratransit? by Christian Kent, Mass Transit
"With microtransit being offered with same-day (perhaps same-hour) service, customers with disabilities can now be afforded service that is by design substantially better than traditional ADA paratransit and at a lower cost to the agency."

San Jose Plans Robocar Network Instead of Airport Shuttle by Brad Stone, Bloomberg
"The city’s exploration of personal rapid transit is a rejection of both traditional trains and the vision of autonomous vehicles traveling on conventional roads."


Data, AI and governance in MaaS – Leading to sustainable mobility? by Eriketti Servou, Frauke Behrendt, and Maja Horst, Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives
"This paper explores the nexus of data-AI-governance in MaaS to understand in how far sustainability is addressed."

Other News and Opinion Involving Transit and Technology

A guiding framework to vetting public sector technology vendors by Ford Foundation
This guiding framework supports thoughtful evaluation of how new digital technology-based proposals can affect the U.S. public sector, with a particular focus on their impacts on human rights, social and economic justice, and democratic values. It will benefit funders, procurement officers, and advocates evaluating proposed projects that are often framed as “tech for good,” “justice tech,” or public interest technologies.




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

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