Autonomous vehicles will soon start transporting passengers in New York City, but they won’t have to deal with the Big Apple’s notorious traffic. Optimus Ride will deploy low-speed autonomous shuttles on private streets within the Brooklyn Navy Yard later this year.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard hasn’t churned out a battleship in decades, but it has been developed into a 300-acre industrial park which hosts over 400 businesses with 9,000 employees. Shuttles will operate on a loop from a ferry dock on the East River, across the Navy Yard, to an exit to public streets at Flushing Avenue. Optimus Ride claims this will be the first “commercial self-driving vehicle program” in the state of New York.
Ford hasn’t shied away from the prospect of robo-cars.
Back in 2017, Ford brought on autonomous vehicle startup Argo AI to develop a self-driving program with plans to provide a self-driving taxi service in several cities by 2021. It’s been testing in Miami, Washington, D.C., Detroit, and maybe soon in Austin. Its cars can be spotted testing autonomous food deliveries in Miami. Autonomous pizza, anyone?
Ford cars were even used early in Uber’s self-driving program back before Volvo brought in thousands of its vehicles, including one that was involved in last year’s fatal crash in Arizona.
On Wednesday, the company announced a new autonomous vehicle factory in Michigan, part of a $900 million investment in the region. The factory is an even bigger sign that the auto company wants be part of autonomous technology. It’s supposed to be up and running by 2021, in time for that Ford taxi service to offer autonomous rides.
Along with producing more electric vehicles, the factory plans to take hybrid Fords and make them specifically for self-driving with cameras, sensors, and computers and a “unique interior.” The cars would be for a taxi service and also for transporting groceries or food deliveries. So instead of modifying cars to be self-driving ready, these cars would be made with self-driving as the main, original purpose of the vehicle.
To help utilities and industry stakeholders navigate the issues of increased electric vehicle (EV) adoption, the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has launched a new Transportation Electrification program, which will conduct research and bring together stakeholders to find solutions.
As part of the initiative, SEPA has tapped Erika Myers to serve as the newly created principal of transportation electrification. Myers brings over 11 years of experience working on EVs and over 16 years in the clean energy industry. She most recently served as director of research at SEPA.
“Electric vehicles represent a huge opportunity – as well as a large risk – to our electric utility members. Through strategic planning, we can mitigate the potential impacts of large-scale electric vehicle deployment and leverage these vehicles as grid assets,” says Myers. “I am thrilled to be leading this new Transportation Electrification pathway as the industry continues to evolve at a blindingly rapid pace.”
To understand the promise and peril of dockless scooters, look at Austin, Texas. This week, at least 9,000 of the zippy rentables are scattered on the capital city’s streets during this year’s South by Southwest festival. Nine different operators are vending cheap car-free transportation for the roughly 200,000 festival goers that have descended upon the city.
That might be great in theory, but mixed with big crowds, car traffic, a general lack of bike lanes, and a ton of free booze, the reality is cluttered sidewalks, tripping pedestrians, and some brutal scooter crashes.
Austin, in other words, is experiencing a Class 5 scoot-nado—a particularly intense variation on the shared-mobility disruption that cities nationwide have seen over the last two years. Which is why there’s a growing demand to bring scooter-sharing back to its roots, at least partly: Cities want docks for the dockless.
For the past few years, Metro has closed its rail system before midnight on Sundays through Thursdays and at 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, the result of scheduling more repair work overnight to address maintenance and safety issues. Those service hours have forced many late-night workers in the region, including those in the hospitality and healthcare industries, to take Metrorail alternatives in the early morning, from Uber and Lyft to taxis and carpools.
Now, Metro is aiming to alleviate the inconvenience from its shortened hours by subsidizing on-demand rides that late-night workers take within its service area. The transit agency has released a solicitation for companies that could provide discounted rides for these workers, between midnight and 4 a.m. seven days a week. Through a one-year pilot program, Metro would fund up to $1 million in subsidized rides, guaranteeing $3 per ride for up to 10 weekly rides for an individual late-night worker. The program could kick off as soon as this summer.