May Tech Updates

  • Author: Kevin Chambers
  • Date: June 15, 2023

May was a month chock-filled with transit technology hyperbole. Autonomous vehicles are "basically impossible," delivery robots are in a "regulatory nightmare," and our electric vehicle future has "already arrived" (in Norway). Also, AI and transportation equity, being cautious about electric buses, shifting institutions in shared mobility, and the rise of flying taxis. These are just a few of the many stories about mobility and technology assembled for mobility managers.

Autonomous Vehicles

Delivery robot expansion hampered by “regulatory nightmare” by Max Garland, Smart Cities Dive
"While no states outright ban delivery bots, tech developers have decided to take a cautious approach to expansion rather than flood the market with robots and risk backlash."

Serve Robotics, Uber Eats will deploy up to 2K delivery robots by Aneurin Canham-Clyne, Smart Cities Dive 
"Serve Robotics and Uber Eats have signed a commercial agreement to deploy Serve’s delivery robots at scale, Serve announced Tuesday. The deal is an expansion of an existing partnership between Serve and Uber Eats."

Tesla wins Autopilot crash case in California by Kirsten Korosec, TechCrunch
"The jury awarded no damages to Los Angeles resident Justine Hsu, who sued Tesla in 2020 alleging negligence, fraud and breach of contract. This appears to be the first case involving Autopilot to go to trial. Reuters was the first to report the verdict."

Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” sees pedestrian, chooses not to slow down by Jonathan M. Gitli, Ars Technica
"Tesla released a new version of its controversial 'Full Self-Driving Beta' software last month. Among the updates in version 11.4 are new algorithms determining the car's behavior around pedestrians. But alarmingly, a video posted to Twitter over the weekend shows that although the Tesla system can see pedestrians crossing the road, a Tesla can choose not to stop or even slow down as it drives past."

Pete Buttigieg says there's 'real concern' about the way drivers interact with systems like Tesla's Autopilot by Sam Tabahriti, Insider
"'There is a real concern that's not limited to the technology, itself but the interaction between the technology and the driver,' the Transportation Secretary said about investigations into Tesla's software at a news conference Tuesday."

California lawmakers and AV industry battle for future of self-driving trucks by Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch
"Risk and safety is what the conversation around AB 316 comes down to. Bill authors and supporters have pointed to instances when robotaxis malfunctioned on city streets in San Francisco and Teslas operating under the automaker’s advanced driver assistance systems like Autopilot have caused fatal accidents."

BYD: Autonomous Vehicles Are "Basically Impossible" by Chris Teague, The Truth About Cars
"Though it did not directly name Tesla, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and others, the company said 'There may be many industries and businesses that invest a lot of money on this tech, and after investing for many years, it will prove it leads nowhere.'"

May Mobility Launches On-Demand Automated Public Transit For Arizona 55+ Community by Richard Bishop, Forbes
"May Mobility is offering rides in what they call “the first on-demand public transit service using AVs in Arizona.” Located northwest of Phoenix, the retirement community’s residents will access these mobility services with an app and back-end software provided by Via."

San Francisco doesn’t want driverless cars to offer 24-hour taxi service. Here’s why by John King, San Francisco Chronicle
"The number of reported traffic incidents involving self-driving taxis has surged this year in San Francisco, according to city officials seeking to block the state from giving a green light to such vehicles around the clock."

Vehicle Electrification and Earth Day Announcement Round-up

Electric Buses Are the Future. Agencies Are Still Right to be Cautious. by Christof Spieler, TransitCenter
"When I talk to people who plan, schedule, and operate transit systems they’re really worried about the push for electrification, and for good reason. I’ve heard about three big issues with converting bus fleets to battery electric buses."

Europe’s Transit Firms Realize China Is The Only Scaled Manufacturer Of Low-Carbon Solutions by Michael Barnard, CleanTechnica
"Europeans aren’t shying away from Chinese electric buses, they are just adopting them incredibly slowly. Meanwhile, a Nigerian firm has partnered with Yutong to deliver 12,000 electric buses."

MTA commits to reducing emissions by at least 85 percent by 2040 by Mass Transit
"The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has committed to reducing the emissions that result from operations of the authority’s trains, buses and facilities by at least 85 percent by 2040 from a 2015 baseline."

In Norway, the Electric Vehicle Future Has Already Arrived by Jack Ewing, The New York Times
"About 80 percent of new cars sold in Norway are battery-powered. As a result, the air is cleaner, the streets are quieter and the grid hasn’t collapsed. But problems with unreliable chargers persist."

As U.S. Races Ahead, Europe Frets About Battery Factory Subsidies by Jack Ewing and Melissa Eddy, The New York Times
"The European Union is trying to assemble the building blocks to produce electric cars, but subsidies are luring companies to the United States."

A California bill could help EVs prevent blackouts by Gabriela Aoun Angueira, Canary Media
"The state might require every electric vehicle to be capable of powering your home — and the grid — through a process called bidirectional charging."

Chevy’s dead Bolt locks door to fleets, consumers by AJ Artis, GreenBiz
"The demise of the Chevy Bolt leaves a hole in the marketplace and raises questions about EV transition."

Long popular in Asia, floating solar catches on in US by Isabella O'Malley, Associated Press
"Floating solar panel systems are beginning to boom in the United States after rapid growth in Asia. They’re attractive not just for their clean power and lack of a land footprint, but because they also conserve water by preventing evaporation."

This abundant material could unlock cheaper batteries for EVs by Casey Crownhart, MIT Technology Review
"As concerns about the battery supply chain swell, scientists are looking for ways to cut down on battery technology’s most expensive, least readily available ingredients. There are already options that reduce the need for some, like cobalt and nickel, but there’s been little recourse for those looking to dethrone lithium."

Mobility as a Service and New Mobility

OP-ED: Shifting institutions to create the shared mobility revolution by Benjie de la Peña, Mass Transit
"The rules, norms and organizational arrangements for our transportation systems are requiring a shift because of advancements in technology and the need to create more accessible, affordable and sustainable ways to get around."

Flying taxis are coming. Cities will need dozens of vertiports. by Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive 
"The consulting firm estimates that a large, dense, high-income city, such as New York or London, would need 85 to 100 takeoff and landing pads, which could be distributed among 20 to 30 vertiports. Medium-size cities such as Atlanta, Dallas or Denver might require 10 to 18 sites with up to 65 total pads."

U.S. forms team to set strategy on flying air taxis by David Shepardson, Reuters
"The FAA earlier this month issued an "updated blueprint" for airspace and other changes to accommodate future air taxis. Last year, it issued a proposal to update its air carrier definition to add 'powered-lift' operations to regulations covering other commercial operations like airlines, charters and air tours. The FAA said that under the blueprint, air taxi operations will begin at a low rate, similar to helicopters, and using existing routes and infrastructure such as helipads and vertiports."

Assessing The Environmental Impact Of Shared Micromobility Services: A Guide For Cities by NUMO
"Focusing on life cycle emissions assessments (LCA), the guide builds on existing LCA standards and presents micromobility-specific guidance to help cities clarify their use cases for environmental impact data, request the right data and use insights to inform policy and program design."

Mobility could be transformed by 2035, with US car sales dropping 30%: report by Michael Brady, Smart Cities Dive
"By 2035, mobility could be transformed by autonomous vehicles, the growth of micromobility, apps that connect people to multiple transportation modes, shared mobility and government regulation, according to an April report by consultancy McKinsey & Co."

Pittsburgh Mobility Pilot Builds on Transportation Equity Goals by Skip Descant, GovTech
"The Move PGH pilot project in Pittsburgh has provided some 1 million scooter trips, with about a third of those replacing a trip by car. The pilot uses "equity zones" to make these trips more accessible to all residents."

How Bird, Lime, Spin and Superpedestrian want cities to regulate shared e-bikes and scooters by Michael Brady, Smart Cities Dive
"The guidance may 'help cities address points of friction that have hampered programs in the past,' the release says. The companies will share their recommendations today at the National Association of City Transportation Officials conference in Denver."


Cybersecurity Issues and Protection Strategies for State Transportation Agency CEOs, Volume 1: Project Summary Report by Marisa C. Ramon, Austin T. Dodson, John P. Wolff, and Joah R. Sapphire
"Chief executive leadership of transportation agencies have placed substantial emphasis on the protection of IT systems against cyber threats. Less focus has been devoted to the risks to operational technology (OT) and equipment or in protecting transportation business operations. [This report] seeks to mitigate that imbalance, especially as physical OT assets become increasingly connected through electronic networks and managed remotely by software."

Toward a National Regulatory Framework for Automated Vehicles: Challenges and Opportunities
"[This report], from TRB's Technical Activities Division and the TRB Forum on Preparing for Automated Vehicles and Shared Mobility Services, summarizes a series of panels from 2022 on the roles of the public and private sectors in vehicle automation."

Other News and Opinion Involving Transit and Technology

Elon Musk’s Boring Company plan for a 69-station ‘Vegas Loop’ is anything but nice by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
"It bears repeating: Musk has simply recreated underground the same failed above-ground systems he claims to want to conquer."

How AI can advance, harm transportation equity by Kalena Thomhave, Smart Cities Dive
"AI could make transportation more accessible, affordable and safe, said Kofi Nyarko, electrical and computer engineering professor at Morgan State University, at a webinar last week hosted by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Transportation Research Board. For example, AI could optimize routes for uses such as demand-responsive transit serving people in rural areas.  But Nyarko emphasized 'responsible AI' is critical because 'AI has the potential to either exacerbate or alleviate existing biases and discrimination in transportation.' Because AI systems learn from data, he said, biases in AI training data provided to the algorithms being trained could lead to systems perpetuating existing biases and inequity."




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