May 2021 Tech Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: May 27, 2021

This month’s tech updates include news about EV use TNCs, automated vehicle industry shrinkage and stumbles, the challenges of astronomical electric vehicle growth, and touchless e-fares going live at some agencies while others make moves towards no fare at all.

TNCs/Ride Sourcing Companies

Where have all the Uber drivers gone? by Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post
“Uber and Lyft are facing historic driver shortages, leading to steeper fares, longer waits and the highest wages in years.” Of note is the news that Uber Eats now makes up close to two-thirds of the company’s gross bookings.

All the ways Uber benefits from free rides for vaccines by Michelle Cheng, Quartz
“Starting next week, Uber will provide free rides to anyone in the US going to and from Covid-19 vaccination sites. Uber is offering the rides globally, too: The ride-hailing company is providing 20,000 free rides to the elderly in certain cities in Japan. And, in a partnership with UNESCO, Uber will provide 1 million free rides to teachers around the world. […] Anyone without reliable transportation stands to benefit, but Uber has a lot to gain as well.”

Hailing Rides to Services: Implications of TNCs for Nonprofit Service Providers by Dyana Mason, National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC)
“[The report] found that TNC use by nonprofits is uneven, and while useful and addressing a need, there are significant costs in price and capacity that make Uber and Lyft impractical. ‘I think this work is important for public policy, because as ridehailing services – and soon, autonomous vehicles – come out, policymakers are going to be considering these services when they’re looking at their overall transportation plans for communities, and it’s important to make sure the needs of nonprofit organizations and their clients are involved in those conversations,’ Mason said.”

The Gig Economy’s Business Model Is a Roadblock to Fighting Climate Change by Edward Ongweso Jr, Vice
“Uber and Lyft won’t electrify a fleet they don’t own, and so gig companies want the public to foot the bill.” Problem, meet proposed solution:

California regulator adopts EV mandate for Uber, Lyft ride-hail fleets by Tina Bellon, Reuters
“California’s clean air regulator on Thursday adopted rules to mandate that nearly all trips on Uber’s and Lyft’s ride-hailing platforms have to be in electric vehicles over the next few years, the first such regulation by a U.S. state.”

Autonomous Vehicles

TRB Webinar: Catching Up on Low-speed Automated Vehicles in Public Transit, June 08, 2021 01:00 PM – 03:00 PM U.S. Eastern
“Interest in driverless vehicles, including low-speed automated vehicles (LSAVs), continues to expand globally and in the United States. TRB is hosting a webinar that will explore the expansion of LSAVs. Presenters will discuss mobility opportunities of LSAVs and explain how the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has affected their deployment. They will also highlight a case study from a campus pilot in Arlington, Texas.”

The Autonomous Vehicle World Is Shrinking — It’s Overdue by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
“there is a growing sense among experts and investors that the heady days when anyone with a couple of test vehicles, some LIDAR, and a vision for the future could launch a startup are at an end. And there will definitely be more shrinkage to come.”

Let’s Talk Autonowashing, The Greenwashing Of Autonomous Vehicles by Elizabeth Blackstock, Jalopnik
“You know how, to many laypeople, autonomous technology actually seems like a very imminent form of transportation, but anyone who’s actually aware of that technology knows how wrong that is? Or the way companies might exaggerate the capabilities of their autonomous tech? There’s a word for that now: autonowashing.”

The Costly Pursuit of Self-Driving Cars Continues On. And On. And On. by Cade Metz, The New York Times
“Many in Silicon Valley promised that self-driving cars would be a common sight by 2021. Now the industry is resetting expectations and settling in for years of more work.”

SAE Updates, Refines Official Names for ‘Autonomous Driving’ Levels by Sebastion Blanco, Car and Driver
“The chart dividing levels of driver assist from 0 to 5 has changed to include more technology, but there are still no fully self-driving cars out there.”

Forget Tech Bro Fantasies of Self-Driving Cars and Just Invest in Buses Already by Jacob Silverman, The New Republic
“Lyft and Uber’s autonomous vehicle hype has far outstripped progress. Let’s put our hopes, and our money, elsewhere.”

Tesla privately admits Elon Musk has been exaggerating about ‘full self-driving’ by Andrew J. Hawkins, Verge
“Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been overstating the capabilities of the company’s advanced driver assist system, the company’s director of Autopilot software told the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The comments came from a memo released by legal transparency group PlainSite, which obtained the documents from a public records request.”

Vehicle Electrification

Two senior Senate Democrats propose $73 billion to shift U.S. to EV transit buses by David Shepardson, Reuters
“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown noted that only 2% of U.S. buses were zero-emission vehicles. They propose using funds to buy electric transit buses and vans and other vehicles and for related infrastructure costs.”

The State of Oregon has released a Transit Electrification Guide and Transit Vehicle Lifecycle Cost Analysis Tool.
While both include Oregon-specific elements, much of the information is appropriate for transit agencies across the US.

Biden looking overseas for electric vehicle metals: report by Joseph Choi, The Hill
“President Biden is reportedly planning to rely on metal from ally countries to build parts for electric vehicles (EV), part of an effort to please environmentalists, two sources close to the matter told Reuters.”

The curse of ‘white oil’: electric vehicles’ dirty secret by Oliver Balch, the Guardian
“The race is on to find a steady source of lithium, a key component in rechargeable electric car batteries. But while the EU focuses on emissions, the lithium gold rush threatens environmental damage on an industrial scale”

Battery breakthrough for electric cars by Leah Burrows, The Harvard Gazette
“Harvard researchers design long-lasting, stable, solid-state lithium battery to fix 40-year problem”


California’s first contactless transit payment system goes live by Gabby Fernie, Mobile Marketing
“Payment platform Littlepay has announced it is providing payment processing for a contactless payment demonstration on Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) buses, launching today.”

After showing its worth during pandemic, momentum builds for free or reduced-fare transit by Maria Aguilar, Lo Bénichou, Seth Blanchard, Justin George and Shikha Subramaniam, The Washington Post
A multimedia-rich look at the movement towards fare-free transit in New York, DC, and the Bay Area.

Is an era of fare-free buses coming to Boston? by Adam Vaccaro, Boston Globe
“The push for free public transit in Boston, once a seemingly fanciful idea that has gained considerable political traction over the last year, may soon gain a real foothold, as Boston officials and the MBTA are developing a trial of free bus service in parts of the city.”

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

When Cities Say No to New Transportation Technology by David Zipper, Bloomberg CityLab
“From steam carriages to e-scooters and flying cars, new mobility innovations haven’t always been welcomed by cities — for some good reasons.”

Public transit in rural communities is extremely inefficient — this data tells us how to change that by Via, republished on Cities Today
“Compared to demand-responsive transit options, microtransit can enable a more efficient service by offering features like real-time vehicle tracking, automated trip assignment and dispatch, and modernized rider communications. These technology-powered solutions help communities become more flexible and resilient by optimising existing services to better support travellers.”

Discovering Potential Market for the Integration of Public Transportation and Emerging Shared-Mobility Services by Dr. Lili Du and Dr. Xia Jin, University of Florida Transportation Institute
“This project conducted a comprehensive data analysis to answer two questions: 1) Who are the potential demands with high probability to use intermodal services provided by hybrid systems? ; 2) Where and when are the supply gaps to coordinate public transit services with shared-mobility service?”

Ford Is Considering Divesting Electric-Scooter Unit Spin by Kiel Porter, Crystal Tse, and Keith Naughton, Bloomberg
“No final decision has been made and Ford could opt to keep the unit, they said.”

Other Noteworthy Transit Technology News

‘Tappy’ app aims to help those with disabilities, needs virtual assistants by Candy Rodriguez, KXAN
“A new smartphone application hopes to provide a solution to the first and last mile transportation needs for those living with disabilities, senior citizens and veterans.”

Elevator Innovation is Fighting Back Against Decades of Fear by Kyle Hagerty
“Elevators are a vital part of public transit.” Never forget the elevators are the unsung first AVs.

Research into Mobility Technology

Access denied? Digital inequality in transport services by Anne Durand, Toon Zijlstra, Niels van Oort, Sascha Hoogendoorn-Lanser & Serge Hoogendoorn
“This review paper aims at shedding light on what digital inequality in the context of transport services consists of and what its consequences are. To do so, we define and use a conceptual framework for the analysis of digital inequality in transport services.”


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