January 2022 Tech Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: January 31, 2022
2022-01 Tech Updates

Hello to 2022, and goodbye to two self-driving shuttle makers. Also GM edges closer to making AVs, there aren’t nearly enough electric vans being made yet, and new research on transit use of social media.

TNCs

Lyft Just Made The Largest Political Donation In Massachusetts History To Keep Drivers From Becoming Employees by Lawrence Hodge, Jalopnik
“It’s been two years since Proposition 22 passed in California (though it was later ruled unconstitutional), and even longer since rideshare companies first started siding with tech companies and claiming its drivers are self-employed, but Lyft is back at it again. Now, the Boston Globe reports that the company is throwing money at yet another attempt to prevent its drivers from being classified as employees.”

Autonomous Vehicles

Two Self-Driving Shuttle Companies Fail In One Week. What Does It Bode? by Brad Templeton, Forbes
“Last week saw an announcement that Optimus Ride, an autonomous shuttle company in Boston was purchased in an acqui-hire by Magna, the Ontario based Tier One Automotive company. […] Also announced as shutting its doors was Local Motors, maker of the Olli shuttle.”

GM aims to sell personal autonomous vehicles by mid decade by Kirsten Korosec
“General Motors will sell personal autonomous vehicles by ‘the middle of the decade,’ the company’s CEO and Chair Mary Barra said during her 2022 CES keynote presentation Wednesday. While the company expects its self-driving subsidiary Cruise to be the first to launch a robotaxi service, Barra said the company is also pursuing personal AVs.” 

Two of Elon Musk’s Terrible Ideas Both Flopped in Las Vegas This Week by Alissa Walker, Curbed
The Boring Company’s Las Vegas tunnel experiences entirely predictable congestion, apparently can’t fulfill its promise of moving 4,000 people per hour through its underground system, and Tesla’s “full self-driving” system runs over a simulated child crossing a street

The self-driving car industry is abandoning the term ‘self-driving’ and leaving it to Tesla by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
“It’s the latest move by the AV industry to distance itself from the term ‘self-driving,’ which many observers interpret as an acknowledgment of Tesla’s influence on the public’s awareness of the technology.”

New York Times ad warns against Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” by Rebecca Bellan
“A full page advertisement in Sunday’s New York Times took aim at Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ software, calling it ‘the worst software ever sold by a Fortune 500 company’ and offering $10,000, the same price as the software itself to the first person who could name ‘another commercial product from a Fortune 500 company that has a critical malfunction every 8 minutes.'”

Vehicle Electrification

Can Anyone Satisfy Amazon’s Craving for Electric Vans? by Karen Weise and Neal E. Boudette, The New York Times
Amazon has an insatiable appetite for electric vans, thanks to a ballooning logistics operation and a pledge that half of its deliveries will be carbon-neutral by 2030. But that hunger is running into the reality that the auto industry barely produces any of the vehicles yet.

Electric, autonomous delivery vehicle boom expected on city streets as inventories and orders grow By Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
“With Amazon, FedEx and Walmart among those placing major orders for electric delivery vehicles, thousands will appear on the road in coming years, executives announced at CES.”

Idaho Is Sitting on One of the Most Important Elements on Earth by Michael Holtz, The Atlantic
“The clean-energy revolution is unleashing a rush on cobalt, reviving old mines—and old questions—in a remote forest.”

Mass. startup transforms old electric car batteries into better-than-new ones by Bruce Gellerman, WBUR
“Ascend Elements claims it can turn spent lithium-ion batteries into ones that are better than new — longer-lasting, faster-charging and less-polluting. The recycled energy cells could also provide the U.S. with an added measure of energy independence.”

Ford starts production of its new all-electric E-Transit cargo van by Kirsten Korosec, TechCrunch
“Ford has started production of its electric E-Transit cargo vans at its factory in Kansas City, Missouri with the first deliveries expected in the next several weeks, Ford Pro North America general manager Tim Baughman told TechCrunch.” With cargo vans now in production, how long until small electric transit vehicles are on the road?

This EV Is Designed to Make Driving (and Riding in) an Uber Not Suck by Frank Markus, MotorTrend
“The Indigo Flow is an electric van designed to plunge operating costs for gig drivers working for Uber, Lyft, or Amazon.”

Resiliency remains key as electric sector becomes ‘tip of the spear’ for decarbonization, trade group leaders say by Kavya Balaraman, Smart Cities Dive
“Industry players have reasons to be optimistic about decarbonization efforts, due in part to the recent passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package […] At the same time, the power sector faces both new and old challenges in 2022, leaders of trade groups said, including supply chain constraints, a tight labor market, cybersecurity, as well as reliability concerns.”

Can a Tiny Territory in the South Pacific Power Tesla’s Ambitions? by Hannah Beech, The New York Times
“Tesla’s strategy, the largest effort by a Western electric vehicle maker to directly source minerals, could serve as a model for a green industry confronting an uncomfortable paradox. While consumers are attracted to electric vehicles for their clean reputation, the process of harvesting essential ingredients like nickel is dirty, destructive and often politically fraught.”

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

The Opportunity to Create the Hyperdense Cities We Need by Thomas Day, Governing
“As billions for infrastructure flow from Washington, moving away from dependence on the automobile will require new cooperation between federal grantmakers and state and local recipients. Are carless cities in our future?
“For cities that have spent 70 years building infrastructure around highways and cars, creating demand for transit and micromobility will not come without skeptics. As IIJA dollars start flowing, building hyperdense communities may require, somehow, forging regional consensus. The absence of a coercive force like Robert Moses may soon be clear.”

The commercial viability of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS): what’s in it for existing transport operators, and why should governments intervene? by Akshay Vij and Stefanie Dühr, Transport Reviews (Paywalled)
“This study examines the commercial value proposition of MaaS from the perspective of existing transport operators. We find that MaaS could help strengthen complementary relationships between services, offer operators access to newer customers and larger markets, and help them manage their assets more efficiently. However, integration with substitutive services could undermine operators’ profitability. Moreover, similar benefits could be realised through other information and communication technologies without requiring integration with other services. Consequently, if left to the market, integration between operators is likely to be piecemeal and ad-hoc, and may strengthen monopolistic power of some operators. This, alongside the opportunities that MaaS presents to help achieve broader societal goals, calls for an active role for governments in the development, operation and regulation of MaaS to deliver on the vision of a fully integrated transport system.”

Free shared bikes are now a permanent part of Prague’s public transport by Jason Pirodsky, Expats.cz
“A pilot project offering holders of a Prague public transport pass free access to short-term bike rides has been successful and will become a permanent offering from the city, Prague Integrated Transport has announced this weekend.”

The 3 Biggest Future Trends In Transportation And Mobility by Bernard Marr, Forbes
Wherein I first encounter the term “servitization”.

The decarbonisation of transport: Legal issues on the route to net zero by Edward Barratt – Osborne Clarke, Intelligent Transport
“In this article, we assess some of the main considerations for transport and mobility providers and, crucially, how solutions can be delivered when the regulatory and funding environment is only slowly adapting to the demands of new technologies and business models.”

E-Fare

Fare Caps Might Get Transit Out of the Pandemic Slump by Peter Yeung, Next City
“a growing number of urban transit authorities are backing a tool that experts say has the potential to both increase ridership amid a pandemic-induced slump and reduce the financial burden on the poorest commuters: fare caps.”

L.A. Just Ran (and Ended) the Biggest Free-Transit Experiment in the U.S. by Alissa Walker, Jalopnik
“In March 2020, Los Angeles’ public-transit agency, Metro, stopped collecting fares on its buses as a COVID-19 safety precaution. For the next 22 months, Metro waived fares for anyone who wanted to keep riding its buses, anywhere they wanted to go (as long as they wore a mask, of course).  […] Transit ridership in L.A. didn’t plummet nearly as much as other systems’ during the pandemic.”

Research

Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation by Subasish Das, Nusrat Fahmida Trisha, Ipek N. Sener, and Michael Walk, Transportation Research Board; Transit Cooperative Research Program
“The goal of this synthesis study is to provide relevant information about the current state of the practice in transit agencies to explore social media interaction. This report summarizes the reasons why agencies use social media, including public education and awareness, public engagement, quick updates, and crisis information; support of and influence on organizational goals; and promotion of transit. The synthesis report also explores the following: which social media platforms are used and how; the applications and metrics used by agencies; measurements of social media effectiveness; guidance on policies, procedures, and processes for social media interactions and usage; strategies and tactics used to reach audiences; agency branding; and the resources allocated to agencies’ social media efforts.”

Other News Involving Mobility Technology

Picture a Better Way to Protect Bus Lanes By David Zipper, Bloomberg CityLab
“On-board enforcement cameras allow buses to ticket drivers blocking dedicated lanes, speeding up transit service. Why aren’t they used everywhere?”

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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