Electric cars hit a new global sales record in 2017 — 1 million cars sold, with more than half of that in China — but there may be a hitch to mass adoption: the number of adequate charging stations available. Before consumers take the plunge on a new electric car, they need to know that they can charge it.
The number of electric charging stations in the US is small but growing. As of September 2018, there are an estimated 22,000 public charging stations in the US and Canada that are classified as level 2 and DC fast charging. (Typically, fast-charging stations supply 60 to 80 miles of range for every 20 minutes of charging.) By comparison, there are seven times more gas stations: about 168,000, according to FuelEconomy.gov.
Jaguar, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benzare all launching high-profile electric cars in 2019, and practically every major automaker is staking its future on lineups of fully electric vehicles. The rapid decrease in the price of batteries — more than 70 percent between 2008 and 2014 — and the introduction of more mass-market EVs is certainly encouraging some consumers to consider switching to electric. If these cars are going to be successful, though, drivers have to know they can recharge them.
Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, is planning to launch a driverless taxi service in the Phoenix area in the next three months. It won’t be a pilot project or a publicity stunt, either. Waymo is planning to launch a public, commercial service—without anyone in the driver’s seat.
And to date, Waymo’s technology has gotten remarkably little oversight from government officials in either Phoenix or Washington, DC.
If a company wants to sell a new airplane or medical device, it must undergo an extensive process to prove to federal regulators that it’s safe. Currently, there’s no comparable requirement for self-driving cars. Federal and state laws allow Waymo to introduce fully self-driving cars onto public streets in Arizona without any formal approval process.
The world is becoming more automated—from self-driving delivery vehicles to subscription commerce—but is tech creating convenience or concern for consumers?
According to an August 2018 Ipsos survey of US consumers, in the past year negative attitudes towards automation have softened a bit, especially among seniors and the employed. Security concerns, worries about isolation and fears that robots will take our jobs all shrunk year over year.
Columbus, Ohio, winner of the Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge in 2016, is using part of the $50 million it received to pilot a self-driving shuttle program. The driverless vehicles took to the streets late last week.
The vehicles are operated by May Mobility, a Michigan-based startup. No passengers are currently allowed on the shuttles, as the route is still being mapped and tested; however, riders will be invited to ride starting in December, according to program materials.
“We’re proud to have the first self-driving shuttle in Ohio being tested on the streets of Columbus,” Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement. “This pilot will shape future uses of this emerging technology in Columbus and the nation. Residents win when we add more mobility options to our transportation ecosystem — making it easier to get to work, school or local attractions.”