Waymo, the robotic car company created by Google, gets the go-ahead in California.
There was a huge leap forward for Google’s driverless cars last week when California’s Department of Motor Vehicles cleared the tech giant’s robotic cars to cruise through the state at speeds of up to 65 mph without a human on hand to take control in emergencies.
To start, the fully autonomous cars will give rides only to employees of Waymo, the Google unit that is dedicated to driverless vehicles. The self-driving cars will only travel on routes in Google’s hometown of Mountain View and four neighboring Silicon Valley cities: Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto. Until now, a backup driver was obliged to be behind the wheel. Read more here.
With autonomous-vehicle enterprises fanning out across the nation, California is rushing to deal with the less sexy side of driverless transportation: regulation.
The California Public Utilities Commission is set to vote soon on a self-driving vehicle pilot program, and ahead of that, it’s sorting through what Wired calls “some of the thorniest questions about driverless taxi services”:
What’s the safest way to roll them out? How should you regulate a technology that’s not “finished,” and never will be? What does the public need to know?
So far, it looks like the commission doesn’t want companies involved in the pilot to charge for rides or provide service to or from the airport. Shared rides also would be verboten. And participating vehicles would have to undergo 90 days of road testing before carrying passengers. That’s on top of the data companies would need to provide during the pilot.
As Wired points out, California is leading the way on regulating this new industry. Other states will be taking careful note of the laws that emerge. Read more here.
L.A. Metro has a big challenge on its hands: How can it increase ridership when car-ownership rates are high and gas is relatively cheap? In this battle between public and private transit, the agency thinks it might find a solution somewhere in the middle: microtransit.
Before launching whole hog into microtransit (smaller-scale, on-demand transportation), L.A. Metro has contracted with three companies — RideCo, NoMad Transit and Transdev — to conduct feasibility studies over the next six months.
The idea of microtransit isn’t new, but as L.A. Metro’s Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank told Techwire, starting with a feasibility study is unique. “It’s really getting the private sector to put a lot more skin in the game, earlier in the process, before we leap into the service.”
Three of California’s largest utilities, including Southern California Edison, have put together proposals totaling more than $1 billion to try to electrify the state’s transportation sector.
The costs of the requests by Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and SDG&E will be passed on to ratepayers and still need to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. The utilities say the projects will go a long way to reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
A lot more money could fuel improvements to California’s highways, airports and rail lines under a 10-year, trillion-dollar infrastructure plan proposed Tuesday by Senate Democrats.
The ambitious but broad-stroke Democratic plan amounts to an opening bid, nudging the White House and congressional Republicans to start down the road toward a major infrastructure bill that California lawmakers would help write.
By 2030, the market for automation in cars will be $102 billion. To put that into some perspective, that’s close to today’s domestic vehicle-manufacturing market, which IBISWorld estimates at $127 billion in revenues.
According to Boston-based Lux Research, software and apps will account for 53% of that $102 billion.
There’s no question that when it comes to ridesharing, especially when children are in the car, safety is paramount. Customers need to trust that their drivers are committed to keeping them safe and that the drivers are thoroughly and properly investigated before they’re allowed behind the wheel. There can be no compromise on public safety.
Sometimes, it takes a tweet to speak the truth: Bay Area residents must recognize our crumbling infrastructure.
Last week, commuters complaining about delays were surprised when Taylor Huckaby, a social media manager for @SFBart, did the politically unthinkable. When faced with hundreds of tweets, he was frank and honest about the financial and structural challenges facing the public transit agency, and the Bay Area’s infrastructure at large.