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Deployment: A Transportation Technology Policy Update
This update reports on policy and regulatory issues associated with emerging transportation technologies and solutions. The updates are complemented by solution-minded analysis based on the team’s experience and knowledge. Policy is an important tool in managing and leveraging the power and opportunity of innovative transportation technologies, and this update will be sent every two weeks to arm you with need-to-know developments. Please reach out with any questions, feedback, or suggestions!Subscribe
week ending 01-20-23
Hong Kong Airport Plans to Deploy “Robobuses” This Year
On December 22, 2022, Transport Topics shared this: Hong Kong International Airport has announced plans to begin utilizing autonomous buses starting this year to ferry passengers around the airport. This announcement follows approximately four years of trials utilizing a vehicle made by Chinese company BYD.
Why it Matters:
- One of the airport’s priorities is alleviating a labor shortage using automation. This is also a theme in other industries, such as trucking, which is also facing a labor shortage and looking towards automation as a partial solution. The airport plans at least initially to keep backup safety drivers in the vehicle.
- Airports provide a wide variety of potential use cases for autonomous vehicles, including baggage handling, mowing, delivery of goods and other uses such as perimeter checks that Hong Kong’s airport is also trialing. These examples and evaluation of important policies surrounding their use on the landside and airside of airports, is likely to increase substantially in the next couple years.
- Airports provide an interesting regulatory environment as several actors could potentially be involved on the domestic front – the airport itself, the US Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Study Points to Potential Concerns About Autonomous Vehicles and Climate Change
The Washington Post published an article on January 13, 2023 about a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It finds that the energy required to operate a global fleet of autonomous vehicles could generate as much greenhouse gas emissions as all the current data centers in the world. The researchers behind the study noted the importance of computing power and efficiency as challenges to be solved to help the industry operate more sustainably.
Why it Matters:
- The study assumes a global fleet of one billion autonomous vehicles operating one hour per day and generating .3 percent of the world’s greenhouse gasses. However, it will probably be decades, if not longer, before the world sees that amount of autonomous vehicles on the road. By that time, the computing efficiency of such vehicles is likely to be much greater and emissions much lower than at present.
- It should also be noted that even non autonomous vehicles utilize a significant amount of computing power these days and so the challenge is not limited to the AV space.
- The study points to the challenge that digitalization of industries poses in terms of computing resources, natural resources (think minerals for electric vehicles) and other drains on the energy supply and resulting emissions.
EasyMile Advances Plans to Provide Autonomous Vehicles at the 2024 Paris Olympics
Graham Hope wrote an article on January 17, 2023 that was posted on IoT World Today. It detailed how autonomous vehicle shuttle company EasyMile continues to move forward on plans to deploy driverless autonomous shuttles as part of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. In partnership with operator Keolis, the company recently completed trials of two unmanned shuttles that require only remote supervision at France’s National Sports Shooting Center.
Why it Matters:
- The Olympics provide the stage for a potential grand showcase of the evolution of AVs over the last few years, with a large percentage of the world watching.
- Given the volume of people participating and attending the Olympic Games, the event provides an opportunity to understand how different use cases perform and how much of an impact they can make on safety, sustainability and other transportation goals.
- It will therefore be interesting to track other mobility efforts at the games, including any personal delivery devices, micromobility offerings, and other innovative transportation options.
New Permissive Regulatory Action from the FAA on BVLOS Drone Operations
A January 6, 2023 press release was circulated on PR Newswire with the following content: Earlier this year, the FAA approved highly automated beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations for Percepto’s drone-in-a-box solution, allowing the company to perform operations up to 200 feet above ground level. The company plans to use this approval to conduct automated aerial inspections at a solar power plant in Texas.
Why it Matters:
- As referenced during a CES panel, conducting operations beyond visual line of sight is the drone industry’s biggest operational hurdle, so even incremental approval from the FAA for one specific company marks continued steps towards a universal BVLOS regulatory regime.
- The press release references the business cases that could be unlocked if highly automated BVLOS drone operations were to become the norm: oil and gas, mining, utilities, wind farms, and other industrial sites requiring regular inspection.
- The FAA reauthorization bill will be legislated this year and the drone industry will be working to use that legislative vehicle as a way to require the FAA to speed up not only drone regulations but also those for all advanced air mobility operations.
Automakers Continuing to Enter eVTOL Industry
Axios published on January 5, 2023 that Stellantis, which makes Jeep and Chrysler vehicles, recently announced a partnership with Archer Aviation to lend engineering expertise to the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) company. In addition to contributing brainpower and expertise to the aviation company, Stellantis also invested $150 million into the company to further Archer’s goal of launching commercial service in 2025 between Newark airport and a Manhattan heliport.
Why it Matters:
- Who and what automakers invest in is worth tracking, given their amount of resources and generally careful business practices.
- The most critical part in unlocking the business case for eVTOLs is securing regulatory approval from the FAA, and that will require either fitting these new technologies into existing airspace rules and regulations or creating a new scheme.
- eVTOL companies are also looking at inter-city people movement as the first business case, which will require new or adapted infrastructure to accommodate this new mode of travel.
Heavy EVs Pose Safety Risks
The Associated Press (AP) shared this story by Tom Krisher on January 11, 2023: During the annual Transportation Research Board conference in D.C., NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy expressed concern about the safety risks that heavy electric vehicles pose if they collide with lighter vehicles. EV batteries are heavy, and especially as consumers seem to be demanding EVs with greater range, batteries will continue to increase in weight until new chemistries are refined. Homendy noted by way of example that an electric GMC Hummer weighs about 9,000 pounds (4,000 kilograms), with a battery pack that alone is 2,900 pounds (1,300 kilograms) — roughly the entire weight of a typical Honda Civic.
Why it Matters:
- Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have also been trending heavier over the past few decades, and research has shown that heavier vehicles pose greater risks to vulnerable road users – pedestrians and cyclists, for example – as well as passengers of lighter vehicles in the event of an accident.
- As ICE vehicles and EVs increase in weight, there may be negative effects on infrastructure and pavement durability.
U.S. Likely to Emerge as Global Battery Powerhouse by 2030
CNBC.com published this story on January 5, 2023: Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the total build out of EV battery manufacturing capacity in North America will go from 55 gigawatt-hours per year in 2021 to almost 1,000 gigawatt-hours per year by 2030. According to an October report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the planned investment in domestic battery factories is more than $40 billion.
Why it Matters:
- According to industry analysts, this capacity will provide more than enough batteries for the U.S. to reach the Biden Administration’s goal of 50% EV sales by 2030.
- Virtually all of the planned plants included in the DOE announcement will make lithium ion batteries and will be joint ventures between automakers and battery manufacturers like Panasonic, Samsung, LG Chem or SK Innovation.
- Similar to other new infrastructure announcements, though, domestic workforce availability is a major question and may cause some of these big buildouts to stall or be delayed.
Wyoming Introduces Bill to Ban EVs by 2035; Fails in Committee
A January 18, 2023 article on Autoweek.com detailed that earlier this week, legislators in Wyoming made news when they introduced a bill that would have banned the sale of electric vehicles in the state by 2035. The move attracted national attention, which was one of the primary points of the bill, according to sponsors. “I personally think the idea of an EV vehicle ban is ridiculous, but it’s no more ridiculous than a ban on gasoline vehicles,” said bill co-sponsor WY State Sen. Ed Cooper. Through interviews, the legislators behind the bill made clear that they are most concerned about what the continual transition to electric vehicles will mean for grid reliability.
Why it Matters:
- This was a bit of legislative theater, and one which bill sponsors readily acknowledged. However, given the amount of national attention they received, it clearly resonated both with people who support the EV transition and those who do not.
- Another concern the WY legislators raised was the effect on jobs an EV transition might have. WY produces a lot of oil and gas, and those facilities employ a large number of people. The state representatives wanted to call attention to the need for workforce development in an EV context.
All the recommendations are free to access
- Internet of Things World Today – Subscribe to IoT World Today (informaengage.com)
- Industry Dive Publications – About – Industry Dive
- Government Technology – Government Technology State & Local Articles – e.Republic (govtech.com)
- SAE Smart Brief – SAE SmartBrief – News – SAE Smart Brief
- Route Fifty – Route Fifty – State and Local News and Analysis (route-fifty.com)