The Race To Code The Curb (4-2-19)

The humble curb is increasingly contested space. Mike Blake/Reuters

Everyone—from ride-hailing cars to delivery trucks to bikes and scooters—wants a piece of the curb. How can smart cities map and manage this precious resource?

The curb is hot. No longer just a home for parked cars and cigarette butts, this is where the action is in the 21st century city. It’s where electric scooters and bikes congregate, where delivery drivers drop off Amazon boxes, where Uber and Lyft cars scoop riders. Someday, it may be where driverless cars await their human cargo. Accordingly, this increasingly contested space has become a focus of serious attention from some of the world’s leading technology companies.

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Ford CEO Jim Hackett Tuesday joined the growing ranks of vehicle and tech execs willing to say publicly that self-driving cars won’t arrive as soon as some had hoped.

The industry “overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Hackett told the Detroit Economic Club. Though Ford is not wavering from its self-imposed due date of 2021 for its first purpose-built driverless car, Hackett acknowledged that the vehicle’s “applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex.” Bloomberg earlier reported the comments.

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This City’s New Bike Lane Law is ‘Bikelash’-Proof (4-11-19)

A cyclist on a bike path in Somerville, Mass. LISA POOLE/AP PHOTO

There’s been a strategic breakthrough on the front lines of the American bike wars: This week, the Boston suburb of Cambridge mandated that protected cycling lanes be installed on all streets that are slated for reconstruction under existing city plans.

Passed by the city council on April 8, the ordinance appears to be the first of its kind in the U.S., and allows Cambridge—a dense university town that already has an unusually high share of bike commuters—to ascend into the ranks of the most progressive bicycling cities in the country. Local law now requires the city to erect vertical barriers between cyclists and cars on any roadway that’s rebuilt, expanded, or reconfigured under the Cambridge Bicycle Plan, a proposed 20-mile network of separated lanes, or the city’s five-year street and sidewalk plan. Only in “rare circumstances” where the city manager must cite physical or financial restraints will there be exceptions.

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Uber’s Electric Jump Scooters Come To D.C. (4-9-19)

The scooters are free to unlock and cost $0.15 a minute to ride

The District’s micromobility options are expanding today with the introduction of electric scooters from Jump, the Uber-owned operator that already offers electric bikes in the city. Jump will roll out more than 500 dockless scooters across D.C. over the next several days.

In a statement, Loic Amado, Uber’s East Coast General Manager of Scooters, says the firm wants to provide “a wide variety of transportation options, from scooters to rideshare and beyond, requested right from the Uber app.” Free helmets via D.C.-based nonprofit Gearin’ Up Bicycles are available until May 7, according to a release. The scooters are free to unlock (people can reserve them in advance through the Uber app) and cost $0.15 a minute to ride.

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Flying Cars Will Only Be Eco-friendly If We Use Them Right

An artistic rendering of an electric flying taxi mid-flight. Dave Brenner/University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.

Skipping rush hour traffic by hopping in a flying taxi may seem like science fiction, but a number of corporations and startups are currently working on prototypes. In October, Cora—a company testing electric, autonomous flying cars—partnered with Air New Zealand in a step toward commercialization. And Boeing tested out their own self-driving air taxi in January. Even Uber has unveiled plans to launch a flying vehicle service by 2023.

These prototypes are electric and don’t give off any planet-warming greenhouse gases during flight, but mining and producing the electricity to charge their batteries is still an environmental cost. But the flying air taxis of the near future, which can both hover like helicopters and glide like airplanes, might be more energy efficient than you’d think—provided you carpool and only use them for long-distance travel.

That’s according to scientists at the University of Michigan, who recently considered the energy costs of these vehicles compared to ground-based cars.

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