Driverless Taxi Rides Are Headed Your Way This Year (2-19-18)

Ready for a completely driverless taxi cab? Riders in the Phoenix area will have the chance to summon a fully autonomous, self-driving vehicle when Google’s Waymo launches its ride-sharing service later this year, the company announced.

Waymo launched a pilot program last year, but has until now relied on vehicles that still have “operators” ready to take control in an emergency. And volunteers got to use the service for free. With the approval of Arizona regulators, it will soon start charging riders who will be able to summon a vehicle using a smartphone app, much like competitors such as Uber and Lyft. Those new vans will operate driverlessly.

“As we continue to test-drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a Waymo spokesman said.

Read Full Story Here (via NBC News)

This DC Taxi Driver Was a Superstar in Ethiopia (2-12-18)

Left: Photo collage by a fan (unknown) at the Hilton Hotel, late 1960s. Right: Hailu Mergia today.

In the 60s and 70s, Hailu Mergia was a famous musician in Africa. But famine in the 80s forced him to move to the US. Now he’s poised for a comeback.

As a young man living in Addis Ababa during the swinging 60s, Hailu Mergia was a superstar. The Ethiopian capital city was a bustling cosmopolis where art and culture flourished amid the country’s uneasy quest for independence.

His jazz and funk band, The Walias, performed for the domestic and international elite at the then-prestigious Hilton Hotel’s music club, which granted residencies to Ethiopia’s hottest bands. Crowds of dignitaries and foreign diplomats, Hollywood movie stars, famous musicians like Duke Ellington and Alice Coltrane, and important African figures like Manu Dibango would flock to the hotel to dance and jam until sunrise.

Read Full Story Here (via VICE)

D.C. Taxi Drivers Worry As Rideshare Firm Doubles Service Area (2-8-18)

Ridesharing company Via this week expanded to 24/7 service and doubled the number of D.C. neighborhoods where users can order rides, worrying cabdrivers who face increased competition.

“This is part of a big push we’re making in the D.C. market to be available to folks,” Via General Manager Alex Lavoie told The Washington Times.

The ridesharing company entered the D.C. market in 2016, and until this week, users previously could ride only during commuting hours along Metro’s Red line.

Read Full Story Here (via The Washington Times)

The Sharing Economy Needs To Be Better Partners With Cities (2-7-18)

Why can’t we be friends? A San Salvador taxi driver takes part in a demonstration against Uber. Jose Cabezas/Reuters

In the course of just a few years, the sharing economy has progressed from a few scrappy start-ups to an industry of mega-companies worth tens of billions of dollars. These platform-based businesses run on equal parts tech innovation and contract labor, with cities serving as the underlying foundation for success.

To put it simply, cities make the sharing economy work—they provide the dense, free agglomeration of customers, labor, and infrastructure these companies’ business models require. But it remains an open question whether cities and the sharing economy can be friends or enemies.

Read Full Story Here (via CityLab)

For Public Transit Agencies Losing Riders, Microtransit Might Be An Answer (2-3-18)

Debra Dezon, left, asks microtransit driver John Scott for a ride along the Georgia Avenue route of the District’s microtransit services system. Cities and transit agencies are experimenting with microtransit, which provide transportation options in underserved areas. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Declines in public transit ridership are pushing transportation agencies around the country, including in the District, to pursue partnerships with tech companies to incorporate ­on-demand, dynamic shared rides into their services.

Proponents of “microtransit” say they could increase the reach of public transportation by extending travel options to underserved areas and into off-hour travel times when bus service is infrequent or nonexistent. Cities also are betting that subsidized microtransit could potentially lure back riders lost to popular app-based services, such as Uber and Lyft. They view it as a creative way to meet growing needs and balance costs.

“We can’t continue to spend huge sums of money on local bus service if it’s not being utilized as well as it should,” said Gabe Klein, a former transportation chief in the District and Chicago. “So how do you enhance local bus service to make it more useful to people in the age of on-demand modes? That is where microtransit comes in.”

Read Full Story Here (via The Washington Post)