April 2021 Tech Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: April 29, 2021

This month’s tech updates include news of still more AV consolidation, EV growth (and growing pains), rural MaaS in Japan, and e-fare privacy.

TNCs/Ride Sourcing Companies

What We Got Wrong About Uber and Lyft by Shira Ovide, The New York Times
“How can we believe that technology will help solve big problems if Uber’s great promise didn’t pan out?” Three lessons from Gregory D. Erhardt.

Uber and Lyft have a driver shortage problem, and it’s costing them a lot of money by Andrew J. Hawkins, Verge
“With the number of US-based drivers for both apps down around 40 percent, the two companies are pledging to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to lure people back into the driver seat.”

Uber posts record gross bookings in March as ride-hailing demand picks up by Ryan Browne, CNBC
“The tech giant’s mobility unit was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic last year as lockdown restrictions led to a collapse in demand for ride-sharing services. A boom in food delivery, however, helped limit losses in 2020.”

Uber expands higher-margin U.S. transit software business with three new agencies by Tina Bellon, Reuters
“Denver’s Regional Transportation District, Cecil County Transit in Maryland and the transit agency of Central California’s Porterville will use Uber’s software to operate their transit or paratransit service, the company said.”

Lyft launches health care transportation program by Nicole Wetsman, Verge
“The program, called Lyft Pass for Healthcare, lets health care organizations or social services agencies create a budget and set approved pickup and drop-off locations. They can share the pass with patients, who can apply it to their ride.”

Autonomous Vehicles

Auto leaders urge adoption of ‘common language’ for AV safety by Chris Teale, Smart Cities Dive
“The Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium (AVSC) released a best practice guide recommending AV developers track the severity and frequency of crashes and citable traffic law violations; maintain a defined space around a vehicle as a buffer between other objects; show safe vehicle control when in motion; and share its reaction time when it detects objects and events.”

All you’ve been told about driverless cars is wrong by Chris Middleton, diginomica
“Autonomy means a massive increase in road traffic, not the cut promised by developers. It’s time to rethink the concept.”

A Fatal Crash Renews Concerns Over Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ Claim by Aarian Marshall, WIRED
“[T]he incident again highlights the still-yawning gap between Tesla’s marketing of its technology and its true capabilities, highlighted in in-car dialog boxes and owners’ manuals.”

Here’s How Jalopnik Will Describe Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ From Now On by Rory Carroll, Jalopnik
“From now on, when referring to what Tesla calls its “Full Self-Driving” system, Jalopnik will say “Tesla’s Level 2 driver-assist system” or something similar. We’ll try not to mention Full Self-Driving without making it absolutely clear that the system does not allow the car to drive itself.”

Toyota is buying Lyft’s autonomous car division for $550 million by Andrew J. Hawkins, Verge
“Lyft is selling its autonomous vehicle division to a subsidiary of Toyota — the latest in a series of acquisitions that is seeing the world of self-driving cars grow increasingly smaller.”

Intel’s Mobileye will launch a fully driverless delivery service in 2023 by Andrew J. Hawkins, Verge
“Mobileye, the company that specializes in chips for vision-based autonomous vehicles, announced that it will launch a full-scale, fully driverless delivery service starting in 2023. The company, a subsidiary of Intel, is joining forces with self-driving delivery startup Udelv to run this new service. Deliveries will be made using a new type of cabin-less vehicle called The Transporter.”

Chipotle invests in self-driving delivery company Nuro by Julie Littman, Restaurant Dive
“The fast casual chain has made early investment in digital technology such as digital kitchens and Chipotlanes, and is now exploring ‘disruptive opportunities outside of traditional third-party relationships,’ per the press release.”

Autonomous Shuttles: What Do Users Expect and How Will They Use Them? by Daniel P. Piatkowski, Journal of Urban Technology
“Findings provide preliminary evidence for the existence of an enthusiastic early adopter population and also indicates that an autonomous shuttle service would likely be perceived as complementary to existing multi-modal systems in downtown areas. Additionally, regression results demonstrate that age, working downtown, and perceptions of bus service are associated with willingness to substitute the car for shuttle travel.”

Congress resurrects push to allow thousands more autonomous vehicles on the road by Andrew J. Hawkins, Verge
“Robot cars are back in the spotlight on Capitol Hill after previous efforts failed to pass comprehensive legislation allowing more autonomous vehicles on the road.”
“Safety advocates said the new bill ‘fails to provide consumer protection’”

Vehicle Electrification

New coalition calls on Biden admin to prioritize electrified transportation by Chris Teale, Smart Cities Dive
“A coalition of 37 transportation, industry, environment, labor, health, equity and civic organizations on Thursday called on the Biden administration to support an equitable transition to electric vehicles (EVs), including public transit and heavy-duty vehicles, in any upcoming infrastructure package.”

Study reveals plunge in lithium-ion battery costs by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
“Analysis quantifies a dramatic price drop that parallels similar improvements in solar and wind energy, and shows further steep declines could be possible.”

The US Is Real Close to Screwing Up Electric Vehicle Charging Forever By Aaron Gordon, VICE
“There is no such thing as ‘the’ EV charging network. It’s a complicated patchwork of plugs and proprietary software. And unless something changes, it’s only going to get worse.”

One small idea in Biden’s infrastructure plan with big benefits: Electric school buses by Kelsey Piper, Vox
“[O]ne of [the plan’s] smartest provisions has mostly flown under the radar — a proposal to switch at least one-fifth of the school bus fleet from diesel to electric.”

Why We Need to Electrify America’s School Bus Fleet by John A. Costa and Sonal Jessel, Governing
“It’s time to make the transition from smoke-belching school buses to emission-free vehicles powered by electricity.”
“Diesel fumes spewed by the buses we’re using poison children, drivers and neighborhoods. Transitioning to electric buses also can create good jobs and healthier communities.”

The Next Electric-Car Battery Champion Could Be European by Tara Patel and Ewa Krukowska, Bloomberg
“With Europe expected to lead the world in electric-car sales for a second straight year, an epic rush to build a battery-supply chain from scratch is playing out across the continent.”

Electric cars: What will happen to all the dead batteries? by Emma Woollacott, BBC News
“‘The rate at which we’re growing the industry is absolutely scary,’ says Paul Anderson from University of Birmingham.”

Proterra Added to Washington State’s Purchasing Contract by Matthew Mercure, NGT News
“Proterra Inc., a company that specializes in commercial vehicle electrification technology, has been selected by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services as a vendor to supply zero-emission battery-electric transit buses and charging infrastructure under the state’s regional cooperative purchasing contract.”

Bi-objective Optimization for Battery Electric Bus Deployment Considering Cost and Environmental Equity by Xiaoyue Liu, Aaron Golub, and Ran Wei, National Institute for Transportation and Communities
“[R]esearchers have created a web-based modeling tool that enables U.S. transit providers to explore the impacts of changing over their systems to battery electric buses, or BEBs. The researchers ran the model for TriMet in Portland, OR, as well, with TriMet results and analysis presented in the final report.”


Do Not Track: How to Implement the Next Generation of Fare Payment Without Shredding Riders’ Privacy by TransitCenter
“‘Do Not Track’ presents a four-point agenda to protect riders’ privacy and empower riders to choose the payment method that best works for them.” The full report is here.

Free Transit for Three Years in Charlottesville by James Brasuell, Planetizen
“Federal stimulus spending will enable the Charlottesville Area Transit to operate without fares for three years. The agency is also considering a plan to make the fare-free service permanent.”

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

Ageing is changing the way we move. Japan shows how transport systems can adapt by Takakazu Doi and Jonathan Soble, World Economic Forum
An interesting look at rural MaaS in Japan. The full report is here.

New York City taxis integrated into the Transit app by SmartCitiesWorld
“[The new feature] follows integration of the transport app with taxi mobility platform Curb which allows riders to get real-time estimated arrival times for the nearest taxis.”

Other Noteworthy Transit Technology News

Google Maps has a wild new feature that will guide you through indoor spaces like airports by Todd Haselton, CNBC
“Google said [the feature is] first rolling out in some malls in Chicago, Long Island, New York, Los Angeles, Newark, New Jersey, San Francisco, San Jose, California, and Seattle. In the coming months, it will also launch in airports, malls and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich. Other cities and locations will eventually support the feature, too.”

The Best Way to ‘Lure’ People to Public Transit Is to Make It Work by Aaron Gordon, VICE
“As transit agencies try and rebound post-pandemic, they must remember people use public transit when it is fast and convenient, not because of cheap gimmicks.”

Research into Technology for Transit Operations

The Transit Analyst Toolbox: Analysis and Approaches for Reporting, Communicating, and Examining Transit Data
Today, transit agencies gather and manage more data than ever. However, data processing, exploration, the development of performance metrics, and communicating decisions are often fragmented and scattered across many departments. The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program’s TCRP Synthesis 153: The Transit Analyst Toolbox: Analysis and Approaches for Reporting, Communicating, and Examining Transit Data will assist transit agencies that want to develop and/or adopt a data-driven culture.


We’d love to hear from you!

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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