keeping us connected
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 3-3-23
Cruise Still Awaits Decision on Request to Operate New Autonomous Vehicle
On February 25, 2023, The Detroit Free Press reported that Cruise Automation is continuing to wait for a decision on a petition it filed in February 2022 with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to build and operate the Cruise Origin in commercial service in the United States. The Origin is a small bus-like vehicle that will transport up to six people without a driver.
Why it Matters:
- The Origin is different in nature from the Chevy Bolts which Cruise is currently utilizing to operate a commercial robotaxi service in San Francisco. Because the Origin has no steering wheel or other manual controls, it requires an exemption to operate from NHTSA since current federal safety standards are written for cars that have a steering wheel and pedals.
- There remains interest in putting together a federal regulatory and legal framework to authorize such vehicles on US roads. But until that happens, autonomous vehicle operators will have to move forward with requests for exemptions on a case-by-case basis, which slows down the ability of these companies to deploy.
- Cruise’s long term plans rely on ultimately using vehicles like the Origin which are ready made for autonomy, but the article reports that NHTSA is reportedly in no hurry to make a decision on Cruise’s request. So while Cruise plans to build 5,000 Origins this year at a facility called Factory Zero in Detroit, there remains significant regulatory uncertainty for Cruise and other companies seeking to operate such vehicles.
Nevada a Hotspot for Lithium
According to a February 8, 2023 Batteries News article, the domestic lithium scene is heating up in the desert of Nevada. Hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into the state, including a $700 million government loan into a lithium mine, and a $650 million investment by General Motors Company into Lithium Americas Corp. and its upcoming Thacker Pass Lithium Mine.
Why it Matters:
- Tesla, Inc. announced they too will be making an additional $3.6-billion Nevada investment of its own, into a new 4,000,000 sq ft facility, dubbed Giga Nevada.
- As Buy America guidelines continue to affect the production and sale of battery electric vehicles in the U.S., these types of investments will be critical to increased adoption rates by consumers.
- These endeavors take a lot of capital and a friendly state regulatory environment, however, so Nevada stands a good chance of retaining its informal title of “Lithium Capital of the U.S.”
Trucking Industry Doubtful about Future of Battery Electric for Long Haul
Tom Quimby, senior editor of Commercial Carrier Journal, a brand reaching the freight transport business, reported in February 2023 that trucking executives and industry representatives continue to raise concerns about the inadequacies of battery electric drivetrains within a long-haul trucking application. Operational concerns include capability, lack of charging infrastructure, battery safety, battery lifecycle management, and much more. The Biden Administration has prioritized zero emission goods movement towards achieving U.S. climate goals. However, the trucking industry hasn’t seen an attempt to answer concerns about battery electric drivetrains or a focus on other alternative fuels such as hydrogen.
Why it Matters:
- America relies on truckers to move goods, and there is a tension between greening up goods movement and fulfilling Americans’ demands for short shipping windows.
- Even though there has been significant investment in deploying battery electric charging stations, there will need to be immense investment in charging or fueling infrastructure appropriate for heavy duty vehicles, such as CNG, renewable diesel, or hydrogen.
- The trucking industry is not opposed to adopting cleaner vehicles, but there must be a recognition of operational realities and the thin margins upon which truckers and trucking companies exist.
NIMBYism and Renewable Fuels
In February 2023, Government Technology reported how the Port Westward Industrial Park in Columbia County, Oregon has been at the center of a controversial renewable fuel project. NEXT Renewable Fuels is proposing a $2 billion plant that would convert organic oils and fats into 50,000 barrels per day of renewable diesel, but opponents, including environmental groups and local farmers, argue that the proposed build would put crops and wildlife at risk.
Why it Matters:
- Those against the proposed renewable diesel facility cite a lack of research on the benefits of renewable diesel, along with potential disruption to the rich soil in the area and risks posed by any pipe bursts or other leaks.
- NEXT plans to use fish oil shipped from Alaska as feedstock for their plant versus the usual corn or soybeans that are used for renewable diesel.
- Oregon is known for its focus on reducing climate emissions and GHG, but NIMBYism is a real barrier and one companies must take into account before sinking capital or other resources into planned projects.
San Diego Expands Transit Oriented Zoning
The San Diego Union-Tribune and David Garrick reported on February 14, 2023 that San Diego took a bold step to jump-start production of high-rise housing and backyard apartments in mid-February by loosening rules that govern where such homes can be built. The City Council voted 5-4 to soften rules allowing taller apartment buildings and more backyard units when a property is near mass transit. Now, the transit line can be as far as one mile away, instead of the previous half-mile requirement.
Why it Matters:
- The policy change makes 5,224 additional acres close enough to transit eligible for developer density bonuses. It also increases by 4,612 the acreage eligible for the backyard apartment “bonus” program.
- Not surprisingly, the policy change had supporters and detractors, with supporters confident that this zoning update would increase the availability of homes for low- and moderate-income San Diegans.
- A local resident who was among the detractors claimed that “Numerous studies have shown that living beyond 1/2 mile from transit discourages transit usage and reinforces the need for occupants to use automobiles. This isn’t transit-oriented development, it’s infill sprawl.”
All the recommendations are free to access
- Planetizen – Planetizen | Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education
- Robotics & Automation News – Robotics & Automation News – Market trends and business perspectives (roboticsandautomationnews.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)