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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 12-16-22
Autonomous Vehicle Company Cruise Making News on Multiple Fronts
Kirsten Korosec’s November 30, 2022 article on TechCrunch+ shared how AV company Cruise has applied for a permit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its custom-built “Origin” vehicle on public roads in San Francisco. Cruise is already charging for rides in its autonomous Chevy Bolt EVs in parts of San Francisco. But the Origin is different – it is custom built to have no steering wheel or pedals and is designed to travel at highway speeds. In addition to California permits, the Origin will also need an exemption from the federal government to operate.
At the same time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now investigating whether Cruise’s current vehicles in operation in San Francisco are stopping too quickly or unexpectedly.
Why it Matters:
- Cruise’s plans represent a potentially significant development in the industry, as much of the AV deployments to date have involved “traditional vehicles” with steering wheels and other traditional elements that can be operated with a human safety driver in mind. Taking those features out signifies a further shift towards full autonomous operations.
- The investigation by NHTSA highlights that, as autonomous vehicles enter real world deployments, challenges will inevitably arise in their interaction with existing modes of travel.
- Cruise also recently announced on social media that it is making continued progress towards obtaining permission to expand its commercial robotaxi service to nearly all of San Francisco, which would be a milestone achievement in the progress of autonomous vehicles if it occurs.
Scientists Partnering with Nissan, GM, and Toyota to Alleviate Traffic Jams
On December 6, 2022, Fortune posted a story about how scientists are working with several automakers to help alleviate “phantom” traffic jams caused by human drivers unevenly braking and accelerating in traffic. A project on Interstate 24 in Nashville is pairing existing cruise control technology with A.I. and auto data connections to reduce the instabilities in traffic flow and the inefficiencies caused by human delays and inaccuracies in responding to changing traffic flow.
Why it Matters:
- Increased use of advanced driver assistance systems and AI technology could help reduce or eliminate many traffic jams, saving time for people, reducing congestion and leading to greater economic productivity if workers can spend less time in traffic.
- Another potential benefit of this technology is reduced fuel consumption – data from the New York State Department of Transportation found that what are known as “jack-rabbit” starts and hard braking by drivers can increase fuel consumption by 40 percent but reduce travel time by only 4 percent.
- It is likely that this study will need to be replicated in different areas and under different conditions to get a more complete sense of how the technology can benefit traffic.
Autonomous Vehicle Trucking Company Awarded Contract to Automate US Army Vehicles
A nation wide press release announced autonomous trucking technology company Kodiak Robotics was recently awarded a $49.9 million, two-year U.S. Department of Defense contract to help automate future U.S. Army ground vehicles. Specifically, Kodiak will help develop autonomous vehicle technology to navigate complex terrain, diverse operational conditions, and other challenging environments.
Why it Matters:
- The recent conflict in Ukraine has spotlighted the increasing importance of drones and other automated technology to the battlefield and to the success of combatants.
- One of the key potential applications is using AVs to perform dangerous tasks near or behind enemy lines which could reduce the risk to human troops and provide critical and timely battlefield information.
- Automation will likely have significant impacts on the risks and costs of war and the overall complexion of the battlefield and is worth closely watching.
Leading U.S. e-VTOL Companies Targeting Commercial Service in 2025
Joann Muller, Axios author shared a post on December 7, 2022 how electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (e-VTOL) are essentially cleaner, quieter helicopters designed to act as airborne taxis for small groups of people. Companies are targeting fares equal to those charged for an Uber Black ride, and industry analysts estimate the e-VTOL market will be worth $1 trillion USD by 2040.
Why it Matters:
- Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation are seen as the two leading e-VTOL companies. They are both targeting the mid-2020s to commence commercial operations.
- These forecasts rely heavily on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulatory process, since rules governing the national airspace were built for conventional aircraft and e-VTOLs are far from conventional.
- The industry is grappling with a question common to all transportation innovations which is how to ensure e-VTOLs deliver on the potential to streamline transportation for everyone.
AAM Primer for Cities Released
PR Newswire posted a press release on December 12, 2022 that Urban Movement Labs, in partnership with the City of Los Angeles, announced the publishing of Integrating Advanced Air Mobility: A Primer For Cities. Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) refers to new aviation technologies that take advantage of new propulsion systems and advances in autonomous operations. Proponents aim to leverage new technologies to reduce or eliminate negative externalities associated with traffic noise and emissions, while increasing accessibility. The primer provides other cities and jurisdictions information on how they might begin exploring their own policy response to emerging AAM technologies.
Why it Matters:
- Los Angeles government officials are used to transportation innovations and acting as a testbed for companies. Therefore, guidelines they publish should be taken as a sign by industry of how cities think their roles within AAM should take shape.
- AAM is still a technology that many people, even industry insiders, believe is still a few years out. However, now is the time to begin to work through potential effects of AAM on infrastructure, policy, airspace safety, and more.
Power Needs of BEV Transition Underestimated
On December 5, 2022, Canary Media released this story: RMI, Calstart, National Grid, Geotab, and Stable Auto collaborated on a recently-released report and found that demand for charging battery-powered cars and trucks at sites along highways will start to exceed the power draw of sports stadiums — and supplying that kind of power will require major interconnections to utility transmission grids. The authors honed in on Massachusetts and New York, given the states’ commitments to selling only zero-emissions passenger cars by 2035 and moving to emissions-free trucks by 2045 and 2050, respectively.
Why it Matters:
- By 2030, over a quarter of the 71 highway sites studied in the report will require more than 5 megawatts in charging capacity to meet peak charging demand, the report found — roughly equivalent to the power demand of an outdoor professional sports stadium.
- It takes only a few months to install EV chargers, but it takes years to approve and build major transmission grid extensions.
- If state agencies and utilities don’t coordinate on how to supply high-voltage grid interconnections to the mega-charging hubs expected in coming years, the result could be delays and higher costs that hinder expansion of a technology that is key to decarbonizing transportation.
The Climate Impact of Your Neighborhood, Mapped
This New York Times article from December 13, 2022 points out work by the University of California, Berkeley, partnered with EcoDataLab, to produce a map of emissions linked to the way people consume goods and services. The original idea behind the research, which began more than a decade ago, was to connect climate change with daily life, to help people understand how their choices contribute to a global problem.
Why it Matters:
- Usually, greenhouse gases are measured at the source: power plants burning natural gas or coal, cows belching methane or cars and trucks burning gasoline. But a consumption-based analysis assigns those emissions to the households that are ultimately responsible for them: the people who use electricity, drive cars, eat food and buy goods.
- Cities and local governments could use the data to identify the most effective ways to fight climate change — by, for example, encouraging developers to build more housing in neighborhoods where people don’t need cars to get around or helping households in suburbs more quickly adopt cleaner electric vehicles.
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)