November 2021 Tech Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: November 30, 2021

Ride-sharing starts to return, Apple and the USPS get more involved in automated vehicles, and more in a recurring series of the growing pains associated with scaling up battery-electric vehicles across the globe. Also, a few takes on the infrastructure bill, and the need to double the size of transit. 

TNCs

Uber resumes shared rides in US, AFP
“Ride-hailing giant Uber has resumed its ride-sharing service in the United States, a top executive announced Tuesday, offering customers in Miami a feature that was stopped last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Uber and Lyft are not the public-transit partners they hoped to be by Camille Squires, Quartz
“Ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft have taken pains to position themselves as a partner to public transit, providing a last-mile solution to get people to places where train and bus routes don’t go. But a Nov. 8 paper in the Journal of Transport Geography analyzing ride-share trip data in Chicago shows that before and during the pandemic, people rarely use public transit in conjunction with ride-shares.”

Uber: US govt sues ride-hailing app over ‘discriminatory’ wait time fees for disabled passengers by Alexa Phillips, Sky News
“The Department of Justice alleges that the company’s “wait time” fees, which kick in two minutes after the driver arrives and keep running until the car takes off, discriminate against disabled people who sometimes need more time to get into the vehicle.”

Why the electric car era is a threat to Uber and Lyft by Joann Muller, Axios
“The two companies don’t own and operate EV fleets or a charging infrastructure, and they rely on contract drivers who operate vehicles of their own choice. That business model could prove antiquated in the Electric Age, as new companies entering the fray are choosing to manage their own fleets from a central hub and count their drivers as employees.”

Autonomous Vehicles

Apple reportedly wants to launch a self-driving EV in 2025 with a custom chip by Sean O’Kane, The Verge
“Apple has completed ‘much of the core work’ on a new processor meant to power its secretive autonomous electric car project known as Titan, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports. The milestone comes as Apple is reportedly now accelerating its timeline for the autonomous car it’s developing, with a new target of launching it in just four years.”

UPS will make deliveries using Waymo’s autonomous Class 8 trucks by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
“Waymo and UPS are expanding their nearly two-year-old partnership to include deliveries made using the Alphabet company’s fleet of autonomous Class 8 trucks. The companies had previously only conducted local deliveries using Waymo’s self-driving minivans; now, they will work together on longer-distance freight hauling.”

What Big Tech’s vision of transportation gets horribly wrong by Peter Norton, Fast Company
“Autonomous vehicles are pitched as the solution to all our transit woes, leading to disinvestment in public transit that’s safer, cheaper, and more sustainable.”

Which trends are driving the autonomous vehicles industry? by Ran Laviv, Maya Azaria, and Vandana Menon, World Economic Forum
“five key global trends of the AV industry that need to be considered while developing mobility policies in post-pandemic recovery efforts.”

Tesla’s recent Full Self-Driving update made cars go haywire. It may be the excuse regulators needed. by Faiz Siddiqui, The Washington Post
“Tesla’s decision [to issue a recall] comes as the Biden administration has stepped up enforcement of federal safety regulations regarding advanced driver-assistance systems — particularly Tesla’s habit of issuing software fixes without reporting underlying problems.”

Autonomous Vehicle Myths: The Dirty Dozen by Philip Koopman, Carnegie Mellon University, EE Times
“Safely operating immature, developmental technology on public roads, even with safety drivers, requires transparency and cooperation. Yet the industry’s stance towards regulatory authorities is all too often one of stonewalling, empty rhetoric, and opacity. To make matters worse, few regulatory agencies have deep expertise in the area of AVs, and so can struggle to counter unreasonable AV company statements.”

Vehicle Electrification

A Power Struggle Over Cobalt Rattles the Clean Energy Revolution by Dionne Searcey, Michael Forsythe and Eric Lipton, The New York Times
“The quest for Congo’s cobalt, which is vital for electric vehicles and the worldwide push against climate change, is caught in an international cycle of exploitation, greed and gamesmanship.”

As Tesla, Ford and others invest billions in EVs, will the power system be ready? by Herman K. Trabish, Smart Cities Dive
“The new White House zero emission vehicle target of 50% of new car sales by 2030 has a long way to go, a short time to get there, and big challenges along the way.”

America Isn’t Ready for the Electric-Vehicle Revolution by Steve LeVine, The New York Times
“Some in the battery industry seem to believe that because battery plants have been announced, materials suppliers will somehow appear to service them. For now, there is no evidence to buttress this argument.”

Lithium-ion batteries made with recycled materials can outlast newer counterparts by Carolyn Wilke, Science News
“Proving performance could boost battery manufacturers’ confidence in reused materials. Lithium-ion batteries with recycled cathodes can outperform batteries with cathodes made from pristine materials, lasting for thousands of additional charging cycles, a study finds.”

Trams, Cable Cars, Electric Ferries: How Cities Are Rethinking Transit by Somini Sengupta, The New York Times
“Urban transportation is central to the effort to slow climate change. It can’t be done by just switching to electric cars. Several cities are starting to electrify mass transit.”

Teslas in tunnels is an insult to public transportation by Travis Sanderson, The Nevada Independent
“The Vegas Loop is a low-capacity Tesla advertisement designed around the needs of shareholders and tourists — not Las Vegas communities.”

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

Like Basic Income, But for Transportation by Laura Bliss, Bloomberg CityLab
“Several U.S. cities are piloting ‘universal basic mobility’ programs that subsidize bus rides, e-bikes and scooters in the hopes of sparking an economic boost.”

For Transit, Owning the MaaS Customer Will Hinge on Owning the Back End by Senta Belay, Metro Magazine
From the Head of Urban Mobility at SAP: “the success of MaaS in the long run — that is, a MaaS that works for riders while remaining a viable business for transit agencies and commercial transportation providers working with them — will depend not only on front-end, but also (and, I would argue, predominantly) on back-end processing that truly fulfills MaaS vision while enabling business models that work.”

Cities have a new planning tool to fold ride-sharing into public transit systems by Rebecca Bellan, Tech Crunch
“Via is launching a new product designed to help cities plan how on-demand rides and fixed route transit, like buses and subways, can work together. This is the first time since Via acquired startup Remix in March that the company is offering a product that combines Remix’s collaborative mapping and transit-planning tools with its own on-demand transit data.”

Using Transit Tech to Create Equitable Access by Yannis Simaiakis, Metro Magazine
Words from the General Manager of Paratransit at Via. “The last few years have seen a rapid development of new and innovative technology that rethinks the current approaches to paratransit and ensures that people with disabilities have the tools they need to live independently, provide for their financial needs, and enjoy equal opportunity. The answer lies in TransitTech, tech-enabled solutions that are addressing today’s thorniest public transportation challenges. It can be leveraged in the paratransit world to build smart, transparent transportation systems capable of providing truly equitable service across an entire population. Best of all, this can be done cost-effectively for the transit agencies responsible for delivering services, ensuring that the benefits can reach riders in every corner of the U.S.”

University of California San Diego Launches Comprehensive Mobility Services Powered by Ford-owned Spin and TransLoc
“TransLoc’s transit orchestration software will support UC San Diego’s existing transit system to more efficiently dispatch and track more than 40 buses along fixed routes on campus to provide riders with real-time data on bus status, location and capacity. Next year, TransLoc software also will power UC San Diego’s small buses and low-speed electric passenger vehicles, to provide door-to-door service on campus for students, faculty and staff with mobility challenges and on-demand services to the full campus community during non-peak evening hours when operating full-size buses would be unsustainable.”

What does it take for cities to innovate at scale? by Bas Boorsma, Cities Today
“How can cities move beyond the incremental, and avoid ‘death by pilots’? How do we prepare for public-private partnerships that can deliver on city innovation agendas long term?” A thoughtful outline that doesn’t just apply to cities.

New Mobility For All: Bringing Emerging Transportation Options to Underserved Communities by Nathan McNeil, John MacArthur and Huijun Tan, National Institute for Transportation and Communities
“The research highlights a specific group of individuals and families who are historically underserved, who often have limited access to services and jobs, and lack mobility options. The Transportation Wallet program is an innovative approach to address their mobility needs. This research focuses on evaluating the pilot program, but there is still so much to learn and understand how cities, transit agencies and mobility providers can assist the people living in affordable housing communities”

Other News Affecting Mobility Technology

Mobility Data Interoperability Principles
“Over thirty public and private signatories have committed to implementing the Principles. Organizations who are interested in publicly committing to the Principles and their faithful implementation can submit the form.”

Tech Can’t Fix the Problem of Cars by Shira Ovide, The New York Times
“The promise of electric and driverless cars is that vehicles can become better for the planet and safer for us. Those are worthy goals, although there are significant barriers to getting mass numbers of such cars on the road. There’s also a risk that devoting our attention to these technological marvels may give us a pass from confronting a deeper question: How can we make our lives less dependent on cars?”

Transportation leaders react to passage of infrastructure bill with funds for transit, EVs, rail by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive
“Passenger rail and public transit leaders breathed a sigh of relief following Friday’s vote.”

Folks, the Infrastructure Bill Is Way Better Than You Realize by Nitish Pahwa, Slate
There are a lot of details to sift through here, but here are some top-line numbers: […] $7.5 billion to build electric vehicle charging stations; […] $5 billion for new school buses, including electric and hybrid and natural gas and biofuel models;

How the New Infrastructure Deal Will Make Transit Better by Kea Wilson, Streetsblog USA
“advocates are taking solace in a handful of provisions that will at least make the buses and trains America will get more accessible, equitable and green. Here are some of the highlights”

Public Transit Use Must Double to Meet Climate Targets, City Leaders Warn by Josyana Joshua, Bloomberg CityLab
As COP26 events focus on electric vehicles, a new report calls for $208 billion in annual public transit investments to decarbonize transportation.

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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