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Director of Business Development and Programs - Stantec GenerationAV
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 02-03-23
San Francisco Expresses Opposition to Wider Deployment of Robotaxis
NBC News shared a report on January 27, 2023 that the City of San Francisco has come out against efforts by Cruise Automation for wider deployment of its commercial robotaxi service, citing safety concerns as well as concerns about vehicles blocking traffic or executing other improper maneuvers. Cruise currently operates a fleet of robotaxis in limited areas of San Francisco from 10pm to 6am and is seeking permission from the California Public Utilities Commission to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through nearly the entirely of San Francisco. Cruise is owned by General Motors and represents the automaker’s only foray into AVs.
Why it Matters:
- This discussion highlights a broader tension between private companies that want to deploy more broadly, especially those with a “robotaxi” model and cities that are concerned about use of their streets, the impact on public transit, and safety concerns. San Francisco has also made it clear that they do not appreciate Cruise’s attempt to deploy without consulting them. This dynamic is likely to intensify in other locations as autonomous vehicles grow in number and location.
- On the private sector perspective, the AV companies are likely concerned about cities trying to regulate or slow AVs, impacting their ability to deploy quickly, and feel that human driven cars are not subject to the same scrutiny. San Francisco has expressed similar opposition to Waymo’s expansion plans.
- From a broader perspective, Cruise’s deployment plans are remarkable as they intend to deploy robotaxis commercially throughout a major city. If they succeed, this will be a first in human history and could herald attempts to replicate this effort soon in other cities.
California is Revisiting Regulations that Prohibit Autonomous Trucks
Govtech.com, the online portal to Government Technology, published an article that the California Department Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently held its first public workshop since 2019 on autonomous vehicle regulation and considered whether and how to roll back regulations that currently prohibit trucks from being driven autonomously. The workshop was attended by a representative of Stantec GenerationAV and included about 100 members of the public and numerous industry representatives.
Why it Matters:
- The autonomous vehicle trucking industry has lobbied for years to roll back a regulation that prohibits AVs over 10,000 pounds. At the DMV hearing, trucking industry representatives argued that this industry is already operating safely in many other states, will not negatively impact jobs and that California is being left behind economically and in innovation. This hearing shows that their advocacy efforts are bearing fruit as the general tenor of the discussion was not if but how to regulate AV trucking in the state.
- On the other side, many representatives from labor argued that the technology is not safe, would take away jobs, and that at a minimum a safety driver should be inside a vehicle at all times. The hearing showed that these two sides continue to talk past each other without resolution.
- The hearing itself consisted almost entirely of fairly high level statements from both sides and not a lot of detail on how exactly AV trucking should be regulated. The DMV’s timeline for making any changes to regulations is unclear.
- Legislation has been introduced in the California assembly that would require a human safety operator in an autonomous truck at all times. It remains to be seen how much support this bill will garner.
FMCSA Requesting Public Input on Integrating Autonomous Trucks onto Interstate Highways
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for overseeing the safety of commercial motor vehicles, their drivers, and their operation in interstate commerce. Since 2017, the agency has engaged in multiple stakeholder outreach activities to understand issues related to automated trucks so as to update vehicle safety standards in light of technology innovations. On February 1, 2023 the agency posted a regulatory action on the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. Government, enabling the public to weigh in on how FMCSA can best support roadway safety as automated trucks increase operations.
Why it Matters:
- At the time of sending this newsletter, almost 80 comments have already been submitted to the Federal Register regarding ADS-equipped CMVs. Upon brief inspection, most of those comments appear to be from truck drivers likely organized by OOIDA, the association representing independent owner-operators.
- The fact that FMCSA has leapt past NHTSA in promulgating regulatory updates indicates the strength and viability of goods movement as a use case for AVs as compared to people movement.
- This action from a DOT modal agency may send a message to Congress that it is time to refocus on AVs since the legislature’s last attempt to pass legislation in 2017.
UPS, Amazon Propose Drone-Vehicle Delivery Collaboration
Supply Chain Dive released an article by Max Garland, Senior Reporter, on February 1, 2023. It detailed how vehicles beyond vans and box trucks can be used in tandem with delivery drones if specific patent applications become reality. UPS and Amazon have both recently filed patent applications describing processes to enable drones launching from in-transit “intermodal carriers” on trains, containerships, trucks or other vehicles. These intermodal carriers, which are similar in appearance to intermodal shipping containers, could be equipped with systems for loading, launching and retrieving the drone.
Why it Matters:
- Most transportation technologies are viewed as a single solution, designed to operate independently. However, collaborative delivery methods using trucks and drones, for instance, represent a unique way of thinking about the future of goods movement.
- Some companies are backing away from drones as a method of delivering goods, but patent applications indicate that R&D teams at these two companies are still sinking resources into advanced aerial mobility.
Increasing Focus on Transmission Lines
An article posted in January 2023 on Govtech.com, the online portal to Government Technology, explained that for years, many states have set ambitious goals and incentives to promote renewable electricity projects. Now, more of those states are turning their attention to the transmission lines, substations and transformers needed to get that electricity from wind farms and solar plants into homes and businesses. But it won’t be easy. It can take much longer to plan, permit and build transmission lines and other distribution infrastructure than to launch solar and wind operations. And while recent federal legislation includes billions for grid upgrades and planning, the states’ role in spending that money is still being determined.
Why it Matters:
- A 2019 analysis by global consulting group Wood Mackenzie found that reaching 100% renewable electricity would require adding 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines — doubling the existing total — at a cost of $700 billion.
- Permitting transmission line upgrades and buildout will continue to be a hurdle unless policy changes are pursued that would speed up regulatory review processes.
Investments in Hydrogen as Clean Fuel Source for Aircraft
WNCT.com is 9 On Your Side online news for all of eastern North Carolina. On January 17, 2023 they published an article how Airbus recently announced that it is planning to design, build, and demonstrate a “megawatt-class propulsion system” intended for a large-scale passenger aircraft, featuring hydrogen fuel-cell technology with cryogenic hydrogen storage, in less than four years. The company says it “could be tested in flight by the middle of this decade—around 2026,” and it calls hydrogen “a very compelling option” in the company’s quest to bring zero-emission aircraft to market by 2035.
Why it Matters:
- Commercial air travel accounts for about 2% of greenhouse gas emissions globally or, in the U.S., more than 3% of GHG emissions and about 10% of total transportation emissions.
- Such solutions may fit in well with a future in which big-picture research suggests fuel cells could have a big future in aviation, shipping, and heavy industry.
- Hydrogen fuel-cells might replace some jet engines on a smaller scale well before the internal-combustion engine is completely banished from cars.
Thoughtful Zoning Policy Could Revitalize Urban Transit
Govtech.com shared a news article on January 20, 2023 that land use changes, particularly those related to housing near transit stations, could add thousands of new homes in the Puget Sound region of Washington state. The Urban Institute recently released a report calling attention to parking, density and other policy areas cities can address to begin to make neighborhoods around transit more urban and housing rich.
Why it Matters:
- Increasing housing near transit helps to alleviate housing availability shortages, while also placing more people in close proximity to transit and easing the dependence on private cars.
- Parking policies are a ripe area for change and innovation and could be thought of in concert with policies around micromobility.
Oakland, California Approves New Smart Loading Zones to Better Manage Their Curbs
Populus.ai. released news on January 19, 2023 detailing how the City of Oakland recently announced a new permit for commercial fleet operators to leverage a frictionless, hardware-free method to pay for curb use and reduce potential parking tickets. The City is partnering with Populus to launch Smart Loading Zones that will allow operators to pay for their use of space through GPS technology from their delivery or on-demand vehicles.
Why it Matters:
- With the rapid rise of commercial delivery, cities everywhere — including Oakland — have experienced unprecedented demand for use of their curbsides for pick-ups and drop-offs by a variety of fleets.
- Permitted operators will no longer need to use cash or credit cards to pay for parking at designated meters but will instead have the option to share vehicle location data with Populus to seamlessly pay for their use of curbsides on a per-minute basis.
- Populus will leverage the Curb Data Specification (CDS), a new data standard that was championed by cities for cities to pilot and scale dynamic curb zones.
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)