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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 11-4-22
Cruise Expands Driverless Service to Nearly All of San Francisco
Several platforms, including thelastdriverlicenseholder.com and CleanTechnica, shared the following news on November 1, 2022: Autonomous vehicle company Cruise announced that it is expanding its driverless service to cover nearly all of the City of San Francisco. Cruise has been operating a commercial robotaxi service in portions of northern and western San Francisco. The expanded service area is currently limited to Cruise employees but, per the CEO, is expected to open to the public in a few weeks.
Why it Matters:
- This announcement represents a significant expansion of Cruise’s service and advancement for AVs in general. San Francisco is one of the most challenging driving environments in North America, including steep and winding streets and heavy traffic at times. If Cruise can succeed in this environment, it may be a significant opening for AVs more generally.
- Cruise previously obtained a driverless deployment permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) with authority to operate in specified areas of San Francisco. It is unclear whether Cruise needs to return to the CPUC to obtain approval for commercial service within the broader areas of San Francisco it intends to operate in.
- Cruise’s announcement comes amidst some setbacks in the autonomous vehicle area, including the closure of Argo AI. It will be interesting to see if Cruise continues to make forward progress during this time when other players in the space are struggling.
Tesla Is Under Criminal Investigation for Its Self-Driving Claims
Reuters published a five minute read on October 27, 2022 that Tesla is under criminal investigation by the United States Department of Justice over claims that its vehicles, utilizing its Autopilot system, are “full self-driving.” The investigation is focused on whether Tesla misled consumers by making unsupported claims about the capabilities of Autopilot and follows a series of crashes over the past several years.
Why it Matters:
- Tesla is already under investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over a series of crashes involving Tesla vehicles. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has already filed a complaint alleging the company falsely advertised its vehicle’s capabilities. The company is now under even more increased scrutiny.
- Since Tesla’s Autopilot requires human drivers to remain alert and intervene where necessary, it is an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), not fully automated.
- Despite its “Full Self Driving” claims, Tesla warns drivers to maintain attention and control while using Autopilot which may complicate the investigation, according to sources in the report.
AV Company Argo AI Is Shutting Down
TechCrunch+ shared news on October 26, 2022 that Argo AI, an autonomous vehicle hardware and software startup, recently announced that it is shutting down operations. Most of the company will be absorbed into its two main financial backers, Ford and VW, and represents a significant shift of the players in the autonomous vehicle space.
Why it Matters:
- Argo’s announcement follows a period in which expectations about commercializing AV technology have proven more challenging than expected. However, other AV industry players have expressed continued optimism in the space and that “bumps in the road” are inevitable.
- Ford has indicated that it is shifting its focus more towards advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) versus autonomy. This represents a wider shift by automakers towards an interim strategy of equipping cars with ADAS to alleviate some of the safety concerns with human driven vehicles.
- This and other similar moves towards ADAS could have significant implications. For instance, ADAS continues to require human driver attention, which raises accompanying concerns about human response time during emergency situations. Therefore, the potential safety impacts of taking the human entirely out of the driving situation with full automation will not be available, at least in the short run. Additionally, much of the state legislation passed to date in this area applies to full automation (ADS), not ADAS, meaning that ADAS vehicles will not necessarily be subject to more stringent regulation.
Robotics Company Unveils Autonomous Vehicle for Agriculture
On November 3, 2022, Automation.com shared an article about a New Zealand-based company called Robotics Plus and how they have unveiled an autonomous multi-use, modular vehicle which can execute a variety of orchard and vineyard machine tasks. According to the company, the vehicle allows a single human operator to supervise a fleet which can optimize tasks and allow intelligent and targeted application of sprays, weed control, mulching, mowing and crop analysis.
Why it Matters:
- AV passenger shuttles and other similar uses have gotten significant attention from the press and investors. However, it is important to note the progress and development of autonomous vehicles in other contexts, such as agriculture, and the potential for increased crop yields using this technology.
- According to the company, the first technology application for the vehicle will be intelligent spraying – varying the rate to ensure spray is being efficiently used. It will be interesting and important to track what impact this has on efficiency and crop yields.
- The use of this technology has important workforce implications for agricultural workers. It will likely trigger concerns from labor groups representing workers in this field.
Commercial Drone Delivery Coming to Germany
News posted on the IoT website on October 28, 2022, by John Yelling shared that Wingcopter and the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences have partnered with the German federal government to begin commercial drone delivery services of consumer goods to rural communities. The pilot project will use Wingcopter’s electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) drones to deliver goods from medium-sized cities to smaller villages, where personnel will make the last-mile deliveries via electric cargo bikes.
Why it Matters:
- Significant drone deployment has occurred in countries in Africa, where airspace regulation is not as strict or controlled. Deployment in Germany is notable due to the country’s more complex regulatory environment, but the fact that the German federal government has financially invested in this pilot demonstrates a strong commitment to this technology.
- Drone delivery is often touted as an innovation with equity built in, however actually reaching underserved communities is difficult. This partnership is an interesting take on a hard problem, with drones essentially serving as “long haul” goods movers and people continuing to serve the last mile delivery needs.
Coming Soon – Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Charging Stations along the I-10
A Next-Gen Transportation (NGT News) story on October 21, 2022 detailed the following news: TeraWatt Infrastructure says it is developing a network of high-powered charging centers for heavy-duty and medium-duty electric trucks along the Interstate 10 highway, stretching from the Port of Long Beach-Los Angeles, Calif., to the El Paso, Texas, area. TeraWatt Charging Centers will be purpose-built to serve heavy-duty and medium-duty electric fleets, featuring dozens of direct current (DC) fast chargers, pull-through charging stalls, on-site driver amenities, and more.
Why it Matters:
- Charging infrastructure for battery-electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is critically important to adoption rates so focusing on important freight routes like the I-10 is smart.
- The sole focus on charging infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is relatively new, especially since site access does not look like it will be restricted to specific companies.
- TeraWatt Infrastructure and this buildout will be important to watch since commercial and public fleets will continue to turn over as time goes on.
EVs Continue to Threaten Fire Preparedness Among the Public Safety Community
Daniel C. Vock wrote an article for Route Fifty on October 21, 2022, sharing how many fire departments aren’t ready for electric vehicles. According to Michael O’Brian, the chief of the Brighton Area Fire Authority in Michigan, “I truly believe that for the most part, our fire service is behind in preparing our firefighters for responding to incidents involving electric vehicles. It depends on where you are at in the country, but probably less than 10% of the U.S. fire service is well-prepared for a response.”
Why it Matters:
- EV fires are much more difficult to extinguish than fires caused by or within Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. Why is this? Per Chief O’Brian: “With an electric vehicle, we do not have access to the cells that are on fire. It is an enclosed package. So we are not extinguishing fires anymore, we are cooling them.”
- What is a question that has gone unanswered in Chief O’Brian’s eyes? “Take a parking deck. The question that needs to be raised is about the built-in fire protection, such as sprinklers: Is it adequate for the fire hazard that today’s car creates?”
- As Stantec advises clients on EV implementation and transition, there are many important questions to address in addition to procurement and infrastructure.
Looking Ahead: EV Charing Via Streetlights
Green Car Reports released an article on October 27, 2022 how U.K.-based streetlight charging company ChargeLight partnered with Sustainability Analytics to conduct a study about the carbon footprint of a streetlight-based electric vehicle charger. The study found that if this method were to be widely implemented, there could be up to an 88% reduction in the carbon footprint of a streetlight charger when compared to a standalone charger. The primary reason for that reduction is because streetlight chargers repurpose existing infrastructure, reducing infrastructure installation time, and expanding access.
Why it Matters:
- Innovation in charging delivery is always a good thing, so perhaps something as ubiquitous as streetlights should be considered to expand charging access for EV owners and operators.
- There are still several unknowns about this streetlight charging technology. However, it is worth keeping an eye on due to the effects it could have on the EV ecosystem.
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)