June 2022 Tech Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: June 28, 2022
July 2022 Tech Update Headlines

It’s been a busy month in the world of mobility technology news: Elon Musk using AVs as “drama”, “Autono-MaaS”, Amazon drones return, killing the smart city, and much, much more. Over 40 articles on transit technology aimed at mobility managers, brought to you by the National Center for Mobility Management.

TNCs

Uber and Lyft Are Out of Ideas, Jacking Up Prices in Desperation for Profit by Aaron Gordon, Vice
“As it turns out, businesses fundamentally reliant on venture capital subsidies to offer cheap cab rides are not great long-term investments.”

Uber and Lyft’s New Road: Fewer Drivers, Thrifty Riders and Jittery Investors by Preetika Rana, WSJ
“Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. are recalibrating to a new reality: Investors are increasing the pressure to rein in hefty losses, riders are taking fewer trips as fares rise and drivers are still in short supply.”

Uber restarting shared rides in U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco by Jessica Bursztynsky, CNBC
“Uber announced Tuesday it’s bringing back shared rides in a handful of U.S. cities after pulling the service for more than two years.”

Lyft plans to build a hybrid network of autonomous and driver vehicles, co-founder says by Krystal Hur, CNBC
“‘What we see happening is that there will be a hybrid network, meaning on day 1, just like what happened with phones, you didn’t have 3G go to 4G go to 5G on separate networks. You still needed to be able to make a 3G call when 4G wasn’t available,’ Zimmer said in an interview on ‘Mad Money.’ ‘The same thing’s going to be true with autonomous vehicles. … It’ll do five percent of the trips. 95% of the time you’re going to rely on a rideshare driver. So that’s all going to happen within the Lyft network, and we’ll scale up with our autonomous partners,’ he added.”

Massachusetts court rejects ballot to define gig workers as contractors by Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch
“In a major setback for app-based gig economy companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, a Massachusetts court ruled on Tuesday to throw out a proposed ballot measure that would, if passed, define gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees.”

Autonomous Vehicles

With Elon Musk, the Drama Is the Point By Farhad Manjoo, New York Times
“There’s a pickup truck in the works, there’s the big-rig Tesla Semi, and always, there is the self-driving car that he has been promising will come “next year” every year for about a decade. Will he actually do all these things? Does it matter?”

US safety regulators expand Tesla Autopilot investigation by Kirsten Korosec, TechCrunch
“U.S. federal safety regulators have ‘upgraded’ its investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot advanced driver assistance system after discovering new incidents of the EVs crashing into parked first-responder vehicles.”

Who’s driving? Pulling back the curtain on AV developments in the USA by Global Fleet
A nice summary of players and recent activities in the autonomous vehicle space.

Will ‘Autonomous’ Buses Force Drivers Out of a Job — Or Make Them More Important Than Ever? by Kea Wilson, Streetsblog USA
“According to a team of Carnegie Mellon researchers, though, the rise in vehicle automation technology — at least in the imperfect form in which it’s expected to exist for the next few decades — may actually make trained transit professionals more important than ever before, and possibly even elevate their societal status and pay to a level similar to commercial airline pilots as the two jobs become more and more similar. But that will only happen if federal regulators take action now before the next wave of robo-transit is rolled out around the world, and keep public and operator safety at front of mind.”

FTA seeks public comments on automated transit bus research by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
“The Federal Transit Administration opened a public request for information on June 1 in preparation for its second five-year Strategic Transit Automation Research Plan, which begins in fiscal year 2023. The RFI seeks comments by Aug. 1 from vehicle manufacturers, transit agencies, technology firms, transit passengers and workers and the general public about their questions and concerns as more automated buses and shuttles begin testing on city streets.”

Cars using self-driving technology involved in hundreds of crashes over 10 months: NHTSA by Danielle McLean, Smart Cities Dive
“NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff said in a statement that new vehicle technologies have the potential to help prevent deaths and reduce crash severity, but the data will allow the federal agency to ‘better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world.'”

Research finds AVs are six times safer if trained using one-in-a-million accident cases by Roisin Reidy, TTI
“Autonomous vehicles (AV) trained using extreme one-in-a-million accident data and ‘near-miss’ scenarios can achieve a six-fold improvement on the detection of a collision risk posed by other road users compared to vehicles trained using traditional approaches.”

An Autonomous Car Blocked a Fire Truck Responding to an Emergency by Aarian Marshall, Wired
“The incident in San Francisco cost first responders valuable time, and underscores the challenges Cruise and other companies face in launching driverless taxis.”

Waymo Via and Uber Freight partner up for the long haul by Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch
“Waymo Via, the delivery division of Alphabet’s self-driving unit, is embarking on a long-term, strategic partnership with Uber Freight, Uber’s logistics spinout. As part of the agreement, Waymo is committing to reserve billions of miles of its ‘goods-only,’ driverless capacity for the Uber Freight network.”

Driverless Taxis Are Coming to San Francisco by Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine
“The California Public Utilities Commission is allowing Cruise to charge for rides in its autonomous vehicles, without a safety driver”

Amazon’s troubled drone delivery project is finally taking off by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
“Amazon is taking steps to get its long-delayed drone delivery project off the ground. The company announced that it would launch its inaugural drone delivery service in the town of Lockeford, California, later this year after it receives the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration.”

Self-driving cars crash, too, but figuring out what it means requires much better data by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
“Why NHTSA’s ‘fruit bowl’ of data can’t tell us whether AVs and ADAS make driving safer”

Waymo’s self-driving trucks will deliver home goods for Wayfair by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
“The first time Wayfair will be shipping furniture using a self-driving truck”

Vehicle Electrification

The next holy grail for EVs: Batteries free of nickel and cobalt by Matt McFarland
“beyond the benefits of avoiding cobalt and nickel extraction in their manufacture, the batteries have a number of advantages. [Lithium iron phosphate] batteries are more stable and less likely to catch fire than batteries with nickel and cobalt, so fewer protections are needed.”

Ashok Leyland EV arm launches its first electric bus in India by Prathik Desai, Deggan Herald
“Switch Mobility, the UK-based electric mobility arm of Ashok Leyland (Hinduja group) on Tuesday launched its electric bus platform ‘SWITCH EiV 12’ for the Indian market. This platform will allow Switch to make electric buses for intra-city, inter-city, staff, school and tarmac (airport roads) applications.”

California’s Drought Is Making Everything Less Green, Including EVs by Erin Marquis, Jalopnik
“Power generated by hydroelectric sources dropped from 15 percent to 8 percent over the last year”

Volkswagen is ‘actively’ looking to build new electric vehicle and battery facilities in the U.S., exec says by Michael Wayland, CNBC
“Keogh declined to discuss potential locations for such operations. The German automaker’s electrification efforts are currently based in Tennessee, including localized production of the VW ID.4 crossover EV, which is set to begin later this year.”

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

Developing an equitable Mobility-as-a-Service system: A case study from the Smart Columbus Program by Andrew Wolpert, Diane Newton, and Sonja Summer
“[An] in-depth insight into the Smart Columbus Program, which highlighted the possibilities for MaaS when digital and physical infrastructure collide, ultimately supporting the outcomes of both mobility and opportunity.”

Micromobility operators expand their footprint in small and midsized cities by Austyn Gaffney, Smart Cities Dive
“In recent months, shared micromobility companies like Bird, Lime and Lyft have rapidly expanded their products in small and midsized markets with populations ranging from 2,500 to over 150,000. This includes new fleets in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Annapolis, Maryland, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, among many other smaller markets.”

Mobility As A Service: The Possible Answer For The High Cost Gas, Commute Or Road Trip by Steve Tengler, Forbes
“a reformed idea of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has become part of the international discussion once again, this time driven even-more clearly by operational costs. Therein, it’s worth revisting what MaaS is, why it’s been previously considered and how it might be a good option (where available) in the coming months.”

Data use fuels fundamental debates for the future of Mobility as a Service ‘smart’ transport by Osborne Clarke, Lexology
“Data is central to a successful mobility as a service (MaaS) system. Platforms and ecosystems are heavily reliant on access to large amounts of high-quality data. As a result, a lot of value is attached to data. But there is often a misunderstanding around data ownership. People want to own data, but what does this mean?”

Car-sharing startup Turo expands to New York and France by Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch
“Peer-to-peer car-sharing company Turo is expanding to New York State and France in June, the company said on Wednesday. The expansion comes at a time when post/mid-COVID tourism is beginning to heat up, but renting a car will be difficult and expensive due to ongoing semiconductor shortages and supply chain issues.”

Pivoting from Mobility on Demand to Food Delivery: Lessons from the MOD Pilot in Los Angeles by Paul Lewis, Eno Center for Transportation
“The food delivery program was a relatively low-cost, high value service that not only provided significant benefits to its recipients, but also replaced at least two lengthy one-way trips for each delivery. Regardless of those benefits, this goes beyond traditional transit goals and objectives by moving goods instead of people and directly replacing trips that might have been completed on the existing services.”

Scooters Get a Second Chance by Shira Ovide, The New York Times
“Slowly, though, the companies started collaborating with cities to make the scooters safer, more reliable and less hated. They’ve also begun testing new ideas including automated speed limits, which some transportation experts would like to see applied to cars, too.”

Lime is trialing shared electric motorbikes by Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch
“Shared micromobility giant Lime is piloting electric motorbikes in Long Beach, California. Lime has been teasing a new form factor to cater to use cases outside of scooters and bikes for a while, so it’s no surprise to see the company test a vehicle that’s sturdy and comfortable like a bike but easy to ride like a scooter.”

Superpedestrian, Voi among the latest micromobility layoffs by Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch
“As layoffs tear through the startup world, the micromobility industry, which has long struggled to be profitable, is getting hit. Just a couple of weeks after Bird laid off 23% of its staff, the next round of industry layoffs is affecting Voi and Superpedestrian, according to LinkedIn posts from former and current employees.”

A Bicycle Built for Transporting Cargo Takes Off  by Tanya Mohn, The New York Times
“Cargo bikes — which can carry everything from passengers to produce — are increasingly being used in place of greenhouse gas-emitting cars, trucks and vans.”

Toyota Combines ‘Autonomous’ with ‘Mobility-as-a-Service’ in Sienna Autono-MaaS
“Toyota Motor North America (Toyota) announces that its Michigan-based production development teams have been modifying Indiana-produced 2022 Sienna minivans, adding a vehicle control interface, to create a new vehicle platform compatible with third-party autonomous driving kits and sensors (‘Autono’) for use in Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) applications.”

E-fare

For This City, Fare-Free Transit Is a Big Success by Jake Blumgart, Governing
“Alexandria was able to compete for funds from Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which allowed them to provide free fares for the next three years.”

Cleveland, Ohio, Transit Joins Regional Mobile Ticketing System by Skip Descant, Government Technology
“The new mobile ticketing platform used by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is also operational on popular national transportation apps like Uber, Moovit and the Transit app.”

Research

NCHRP Web-Only Document 317: Developing a Guide for Managing Performance to Enhance Decision-Making by Anna Batista, Joe Crossett, Michael Grant, Beth Zgoda, and Hannah Twaddel
“The research has led to the conclusion that more accurate and more frequent feedback from the people and data that experience the transportation network can help agencies identify which actions that will improve performance and meet targets, thus making those targets more meaningful. The project’s guidance focuses on how agencies can strengthen their gathering and use of feedback to inform actions and performance activities.”

TCRP Report 232: The Impacts of Vehicle Automation on the Public Transportation Workforce by Michael J. Walk, Jinuk Hwang, Jacqueline Kuzio, Ipek N. Sener, Johanna Zmud, Zachary Elgart, Shuman Tan, and Mary Davis
“Advancements in the automation of transit vehicles will likely have significant impacts; however, the possible effects on the public-transportation workforce is largely unknown. This is due partly to the fledgling state of transit vehicle automation and partly to the significant amount of uncertainty about how and when automated transit services become more prevalent. [This reports is] an analysis of the possible impacts of automation on the public transportation workforce.”

Other News Involving Transit and Technology

Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever by Karrie Jacobs, MIT Technology Review
“Smart city technology should do things like shorten commute times, speed the construction of affordable housing, improve the efficiency of public transit, and reduce carbon emissions by making building technology more efficient and providing less polluting transportation alternatives to the car. But often its proponents focus on what it can do rather than what it should. If Sidewalk’s Quayside failure taught us anything, it’s that these technologies need to respond better to human needs.”

Cal-ITP unveils new open data standard to improve transit agency operations
“The Operational Data Standard (ODS) leverages the existing GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) standard used by transit agencies and riders all over the world for transit service information and extends it to include data about personnel, scheduled maintenance and non-revenue service.”

Waymap’s app helps the visually impaired navigate public transit by Rebecca Bellan
“London-based Waymap wants to help guide visually impaired people to navigate their surroundings, and it’s starting with public transit. The company just concluded a closed two-week trial of its navigation app at three stops within Washington, D.C.’s Metro, and hopes to begin a public trial at 25 Metro stations and 1,000 bus stops by September, according to Waymap.”

UK battery electric bus operation: Examining battery degradation, carbon emissions and cost by Teresa McGrath, Luke Blades, Juliana Early, and Andrew Harris

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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