October 2021 Tech Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: October 31, 2021

News of large-scale investments in zero-emission transit keeps rolling in. Meanwhile, scrutiny of Uber, Lyft, and Tesla’s AV features continues.


Studies say Uber and Lyft offload soft costs on drivers and communities by Devin Coldewey, TechCrunch
“As the average cost of a ride on Uber, Lyft and other ‘rideshare’ services has risen over the years, it’s become clear these companies were never entirely forthright about their business models. Now a pair of studies suggests even the investor-subsidized prices don’t tell the whole story, with costs being borne by drivers and communities.”

When one person uses a ride-hailing app, all of society pays by Sarah DeWeerdt, Anthropocene Magazine
“A car trip made via ride-hailing app such as Uber or Lyft has external costs that are 30-35% higher than a comparable trip made via a personal vehicle, according to a new study. The ride-hailing app trip has hidden costs to society to the tune of 32-37 cents more, on average, from the impact of pollution and traffic.”

For Uber and Lyft, the Rideshare Bubble Bursts by Greg Bensinger, The New York Times
“Piece by piece, the mythology around ridesharing is falling apart. Uber and Lyft promised ubiquitous self-driving cars as soon as this year. They promised an end to private car ownership. They promised to reduce congestion in the largest cities. They promised consistently affordable rides. They promised to boost public transit use. They promised profitable business models. They promised a surfeit of well-paying jobs. Heck, they even promised flying cars. Well, none of that has gone as promised.”

Autonomous Vehicles

Colorado city says big autonomous-shuttle pilot is ‘super valuable’ by Ryan Johnston, STATESCOOP
“‘What’s unique is scale,’ Svitak said. ‘EasyMile has never had a fleet this size before — and the ODD, or operational design domain, which is essentially where it’s operating — is complex. Not the most complex they’ve ever had to do, but for example, it’s in mixed-traffic, on public roads, there’s roundabouts, and other things, including relatively modest daily traffic.'”

Germany: Hamburg gets first fully automated tram by dw
“Deutsche Bahn and Siemens have premiered a new, digitally automated train, hailing it as a ‘blueprint for digitalizing the rails in Germany, Europe and the world.'”

U.S. NTSB head criticizes Tesla over vehicle self-driving feature by David Shepardson, Reuters
“The head of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board on Monday criticized electric carmaker Tesla Inc’s decision to provide new self-driving software to vehicle owners without addressing safety concerns that the agency raised after a series of fatal accidents.”

Tesla fan attacks on government’s new safety advisor are ‘calculated,’ says head of safety agency by Matt McFarland, CNN Business
“Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said Tuesday that the recent backlash from Tesla’s fanbase towards a newly-appointed federal safety advisor is a deliberate attempt to shift away from safety questions about the automaker’s technology.”

The Anger of Tesla Fans Is Becoming a Problem by David Zipper, Slate
“They’re mobilizing to stop a needed crackdown that’s barely begun.”

Tesla’s aggressiveness is endangering people, as well as the cause of good government by Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times
With as many as 10 deaths under investigation by regulators, evidence of the hazards that Tesla drivers misusing their cars’ self-driving systems continues to emerge. But there’s another, less-heralded danger posed by the Tesla-can-do-no-wrong fans. The victims here aren’t innocents sharing the road with Tesla drivers, but the causes of good government and sound safety regulations.

Vehicle Electrification

CA to Vastly Increase Investments in Zero Emission Vehicles and Infrastructure by Melanie Curry, Streetsblog California
“The investment plan, a final version of which will be decided at some point soon, is a massive investment new by the state. includes $2 billion over three years for heavy-duty ZEV vehicles and charging station, including transit buses, school buses, and short-haul trucks.”

Automakers are spending billions to produce battery cells for EVs in the U.S. by Michael Wayland, CNBC
“As supply chains globally remain in distress, automakers are spending billions to localize production of battery cells to meet what’s expected to be a rapid adoption in electric vehicles. Other than Tesla, the country’s electric vehicle sales leader, automakers have been reluctant to invest in battery cell production until recently.”

Toyota has gone from lobbying against EVs to spending billions on battery development by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
“Toyota, the largest automaker in the world, announced that it will spend $3.4 billion on ‘automative batteries’ in the US through 2030 — a little more than two months after it was revealed that the company was quietly lobbying elected officials in Washington, DC to slow the transition to electric vehicles.”

Amid air quality concerns, districts embrace electric buses by Michael Casey, AP
“For several years, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools had toyed with replacing some of its 1,000 diesel buses with cleaner electric vehicles. But school leaders said the change would be too costly. Then 12-year-old student Holly Thorpe showed up at a school board meeting to tout the benefits of going electric and returned to encourage the district to apply for a state grant. Two years on, the school board on Wednesday approved a district plan to use state money to replace up to 50 diesel buses with electric models over the next several years.”

Student Transportation Of Canada Orders 1000 Electric School Buses From Lion Electric by Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica
“Student Transportation of Canada has placed a conditional order for 1000 electric school buses from Lion Electric, headquartered in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec. STC is a subsidiary of Student Transportation of America, a leader in student transportation in North America.”

Proterra selected by Capital Metro in one of the largest electric transit bus procurements in North America by Automotive World
“Capital Metro in Austin, Texas has approved a plan to purchase 26 40-foot Proterra ZX5 Max electric transit buses, featuring a total of more than 17 megawatt hours of battery storage capacity. The plan approved by Capital Metro also contains options for the agency to acquire an additional 126 40-foot electric transit buses and chargers over five years.”

MBTA has a bad plan for electrification by Jarred Johnson, CommonWealth Magazine
Agencies like the MBTA that existing catenary-based electric vehicle infrastructure have interesting choices to make about how or whether to integrate battery-based technology.
“Recently, the T published a document justifying its decision to abandon its existing electrification network and replace it with battery-electric buses (with diesel heaters). […] A TransitMatters analysis finds that if the existing electrification system were used to power additional routes—as is possible with available, off-the shelf buses—retaining the existing electrification would not only save the T millions of dollars per year, but accelerate bus electrification efforts.”

Île-de-France Mobilités: bendy e-buses for Paris by electrive
“Île-de-France Mobilités, the entity responsible for organising public transport in the Paris metropolitan area, is awarding a contract to a consortium of Van Hool, Kiepe Electric and Alstom to build a fleet of 24-metre-long, all-electric, double-articulated buses.”

Amazon, Ikea and other big companies commit to zero-emission shipping by 2040 by Hamza Shaban, The Washington Post
“In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in global trade, a coalition of companies that includes Amazon and Ikea has pledged to use only ocean shippers that use zero-carbon fuel by 2040.”

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

Wave Transit launches new regional microtransit pilot project by Mass Transit
“RideMICRO provides flexible transportation to portions of Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender Counties, and is entirely grant funded through a partnership with NCDOT. Wave Transit launched its microtransit service, RideMICRO, on Oct. 11, as a one-year pilot project.”

Bird Scooters Will Now Annoy Riders Into Getting Off the Damn Sidewalk by Shoshana Wodinsky, Gizmodo
“The gist of the new ‘Smart Sidewalk Protection’ system that the company rolled out on Wednesday morning, which is essentially an on-scooter GPS system that’s designed to track whether that scoot is on a sidewalk or any ‘other indications of unsafe operation.'”

The Power of Electric Bike Libraries by Laura Bliss, Bloomberg CityLab
“Climate-friendly e-bikes are a key part of plans to decarbonize urban transportation. To speed adoption, more cities are offering lending programs that can expose more riders to this new mode.”

Other Noteworthy Mobility Technology News

Public Transportation Can Save The World — If We Let It by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
Amid the continuous upheaval of the transit industry in the wake of COVID, this article reasserts how crucial transit is and touches on the roles technology can play:
“Transit leaders will also need to resist the urge to outsource services to tech startups promising salvation, experts say. For the past decade, tech companies have been aggressively lobbying local governments looking for subsidies or relaxed rules for services that seek to compete with or undermine transit. Ride-hailing apps like Uber or Lyft, autonomous vehicle companies, and even air taxi startups will publicly say they want to compliment and improve transit, but what they really want is more people using single-occupancy vehicles.”


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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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