Convergence of Sharing and Automation: Need for Proactive Public Policy and Research Understanding

By Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen

In recent years, on-demand passenger and courier services – known as Mobility on Demand (MOD) – have grown rapidly due to technology advancements; changing consumer patterns (both mobility and retail consumption); and a combination of economic, environmental, and social forces. MOD is an innovative concept based on the principle that transportation is a commodity where modes have economic values that are distinguishable in terms of cost, journey time, wait time, number of connections, convenience, and other attributes. Earlier this month, we wrote about innovations in goods delivery that are transforming transportation and consumer behavior as travelers increasingly turn to MOD. In this blog, we discuss four potential impacts of driverless vehicles and the need for proactive public policy to maximize the potential benefits and minimize potential adverse impacts.

Potential Impacts of Vehicle Automation

In the near future, automation could be the most transformative change transportation has seen since the advent of the automobile. While MOD is already impacting many cities, it has the potential to have even more notable impacts, particularly in four key areas:

Travel Behavior: It should be emphasized that the impacts of automation on travel behavior are uncertain and difficult to forecast due to a number of highly variable factors, most importantly societal acceptance and use. One potential outcome is that existing roadway capacity may increase due to more efficient operations associated with technology (e.g., closer vehicle spacing known as platooning, etc.). Additionally, operators could “right-size fleets,” providing consumers with vehicles sized based on the number of passengers and trip length. However, there is a possibility that automated vehicles (AVs) and shared AVs (SAVs) could induce demand by making motorized travel more convenient and affordable than personal driving. This could adversely impact congestion. Additionally, automation has the potential to fundamentally change historic relationships between public transportation and private vehicle use, which could support or detract from public transit ridership (we will discuss the future of public transportation in our next blog). In summary, the impacts of AVs on congestion will likely depend on whether the vehicles are predominantly shared or privately owned as well as public policy, such as pricing and restrictions on zero occupant vehicles.

Land Use and the Built Environment: AVs could result in reduced parking demand, particularly in urban centers that can create opportunities to repurpose urban parking with infill development. Infill development has the potential to increase urban densities and could in turn support higher-occupancy transportation modes. However, vehicle automation and telecommuting growth could also make longer commutes less burdensome, which could encourage suburban and exurban lifestyles.

Labor: Automation has the potential to reduce labor costs. However, automation is not likely to completely eliminate transportation jobs. With an aging population, we may likely need attendants to assist people with disabilities and older adults, security personnel, and a high-tech workforce to maintain an automated fleet.

Social Equity: While AVs have the potential to enhance access and economic opportunities for underserved communities, there are numerous challenges that could impact the equitable deployment of AVs. A few challenges could include: 1) affordability/payability (the services are simply too expensive for low-income households or require banking access); 2) availability (the services are not available equally in all neighborhoods); 3) accessibility (the services are not accessible to people with disabilities); and 4) digital poverty (the services require a smartphone or data plan to access). Additionally, AVs may employ machine learning and artificial intelligence that could create other equity concerns. While machine learning – if designed well — can help minimize human bias in decision making, it is also possible that such systems can also reinforce historic bias and discrimination in the transportation network. Just as humans learn to drive through experience, many perception algorithms use machine learning that is trained by events based on past experience. In a driverless vehicle future, machine learning may also impact where vehicles are pre-positioned, roam, charge, and other defining operational characteristics. Learning biases could create notable equity challenges in the future. There is a risk for discrimination when designing transportation algorithms for machine learning systems, including the potential for exclusionary transportation.

Need for Proactive Policy in a Driverless Vehicle Future

Public policy can have a notable influence on the success or potential challenges of driverless vehicles. Public agencies should consider proactively guiding public policy in four key areas to maximize the potential benefits of AVs:

Pricing: Public agencies should consider employing pricing based on occupancy, time of day, and congestion to encourage higher occupancy SAVs and discourage single- and zero-occupant vehicles.

Incentivizing Urban Growth and Urban Growth Boundaries: Metropolitan Planning Organizations, local governments, and other public agencies may want to consider policies that limit outward growth and encourage urban in-fill development to discourage the potential suburban and exurban growth pressure that AVs could create.

Workforce Development Programs: Local and state governments should develop workforce development programs designed to prepare for and respond to a driverless future. This should include a broad program encompassing job training/re-training and job placement resources to minimize the potential adverse labor impacts of vehicle automation.

A Comprehensive Equity Policy: Public agencies at all levels of government should consider a comprehensive equity policy to ensure SAVs are equally accessible and available to everyone. This should include policies that ensure access for people with disabilities, un- and under-banked households, low-income communities, households without access to smartphones or mobile data, and others. Additionally, this should include policies that prevent discrimination and bias from machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other systems that impact or guide the operations of AVs.

The public and private sectors, along with key stakeholders (e.g., non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, and foundations) should partner to develop proactive policies to prevent and overcome these challenges. Proactive policy and research understanding will be critical to balance public goals with commercial interests and to harness and maximize the social and environmental effects of driverless vehicles.

Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen are currently studying the impacts of connected and automated vehicles on state and local transportation agencies as part of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) study 20-102(11).

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

 

Public Transit in the City of Tomorrow

By Tim Lane

 

The next 15 years promises to bring a sea change in how we commute as a society. We may very well look back on this moment in history as the transition point between static and fluid public transit. Today, under the established, static model, the public largely adheres to set schedules to commute around our cities. We travel within the constraints of the system. Tomorrow’s fluid model may look drastically different. Traditional modes like buses and light rail will be partnered with new advancements like autonomous car fleets and the Hyperloop. Stitched together, the transportation experience will be catered to the individual’s commuting needs.

 

“Broadly speaking it’s exciting that the mix is happening,” said Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director of the National League of Cities’ Center for City Solutions. “These things that for so long were science fiction are now becoming fact.”

New Technologies

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments is the fast-approaching reality of autonomous car fleets. A recent report from the independent think tank ReThinkX found that by the year 2030, 95% of passenger miles in the US will be serviced by fleets of autonomous, electric vehicles. The biggest question, perhaps, is whether this advancement will progress in the public or private sector.

 

“Uber is pretty clearly reducing public transit use,” said Dave Chandler, Director of Economic Development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. “The trend of public transport went up from 2008 until two years ago and has declined since. People look at it and think it’s probably Uber. It’s a competing model currently.”

 

This competing model could only become more formative if private companies perfect and invest in autonomous fleets that don’t value their public transport counterparts. However, there is a brighter possibility. One where cities step in with fleets of their own.

 

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“I think there could be autonomous fleets at the municipal level,” Rainwater said. “It might be hard to conceptualize right now, but London is already trying to create a co-op. It is a model where cities act much like car rental agencies. They already have a ton of experience with fleet management. It’s a skill that could be used.”

 

Another alternative to protecting and promoting public transit would be to forge tight, reciprocal relationships between cities and public transportation. This could improve the overall commuting experience and ensure ridership equity.
“I think as we move to autonomous models we are starting to see some of those private/public partnerships pop up,” Rainwater said. “I think we’ll only see that relationship deepen.”

 

With increased sharing of transit and rider information, commuters will be able to depend on accurate travel times. Meanwhile, if approached correctly, private companies could be pressured to be a complement, not a competitor, to public transportation as a whole.
“I have some optimism about things like Uber building in more equity that could change the equation,” Chandler said.

 

Hyperloop, though grander in scale and seemingly further out than autonomous cars, could also instigate a huge change in public transportation. By slashing commute times and freeing up highway space, the Hyperloop would be a boon on multiple fronts.

 

“Hyperloop could be a game changer for places like Baltimore and D.C.,” Rainwater said. “I think that if the private sector can prove the concept, then the public municipalities could follow.”

 

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Smart City Planning

Even with all of the exciting technological advancements around transportation, without a considered, encompassing vision by cities, public transit won’t advance to its full potential.

 

“I think there are two basic paths that we could go down,” Chandler said. “The bright path is based on the consideration that more and more people are living in cities. Public transit is the most efficient way to move around in a compressed, compact environment. And the really neat thing is what has happened in last 20 years. There have been examples of people — combinations of architects, developers, and local government — designing transit-oriented developments.”

 

By planning cities around basic public transit needs, people can be easily connected with jobs in the city. With more and more manufacturing and information-based jobs created each year, the demand for flexible, creative workspaces will only rise. The importance of getting people to and from these dense, urban environments quickly and efficiently will be huge.

 

“The interactive nature of urban design and transit is underappreciated,” Chandler said. “Transit needs that design in order to function well.”

 

There have also recently been encouraging advancements in cities with historically low-functioning public transit systems.

 

“It’s really cool to see Denver and LA, which were built as very different cities, now trying to stitch it together,” Rainwater said. “It’s exciting to see the cultural pressures pushing people in this direction.”

The Morning Commute in 15 Years

A typical morning commute might begin by leaving your apartment located in the new development by the river. This and other areas are now designed with efficient transportation in mind, as well as the usual amenities.

 

From there, you hop into an autonomous transit car that’s been pre-scheduled, via your phone, to arrive at your doorstep at 7:30 AM. On any given morning, different neighbors might also share the ride, depending on time, day, route, and destination. The city’s transit system will take into account traffic patterns, commute time, and overall system efficiencies to decide the next stage in your journey.

 

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The car drops you at a bus stop along a main thoroughfare, and a minute later the bus arrives. There’s no need to pay to board — your progress is tracked anonymously using the latest in blockchain tech, and your account debited automatically. The bus glides down streets in a dedicated lane, making great time thanks to less congestion. But also, thanks to the city’s convenient new on-demand services, which means bus stops can now be spread farther apart, requiring fewer stops.

 

Then maybe you realize you’re running late for a meeting you forgot — across town from the office. You tap the new coordinates into your phone and are given new options in real time: Either pay for a private service to meet you at the next stop (unfortunately, all on-demand city cars are tied up in rush hour traffic), or have the city’s transit app reroute your commute. You’re instantly given an exact time of arrival and can alert your coworkers if you’ll be late, or rest assured knowing that you’ll make it on time.

 

While there may be big technological jumps in the next 15 years, the biggest change will be to the overall experience as a whole. We’ll still rely on modes of transit like buses and light and heavy rail, but utilized in concert with newer advancements like autonomous fleets and the hyperloop. The city of tomorrow will feature a fluid transit menu of options, working together for quick, efficient travel.

 

Will we still hate our daily commutes? Maybe. It will always be more difficult to rewire human nature than technology. But with the right planning, tracking and mix of smart systems, we’ll have to work a lot harder to complain about such an easy ride.

 

This Week in the Headlines: June 26th – July 2nd, 2017

Welcome to Move Forward’s weekly news wrap-up, featuring the mobility stories you don’t want to miss. This week’s edition features news of VIA Metropolitan Transit’s launch of their new mobile ticketing app, goMobile, along with news of Daimler’s focus towards ride-sharing, developments in legislation for autonomous vehicles, and more.

VIA launches new moovel app:

VIA Metropolitan Transit launched goMobile, its new mobile ticketing app powered by moovel, on June 28, 2017. “The VIA goMobile app is part of VIA’s ongoing investment in innovation, and part of several recent initiatives that will help transform the rider experience.”

My San Antonio: “VIA launches app to let San Antonians pay for rides via phone” by Samantha Ehlinger, June 28, 2017.

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The future(s) of mobility: How cities can benefit:

A new report by McKinsey includes moovel as a company leading the way in the shared mobility space. “Mobility services such as Uber, Daimler’s Moovel and Lyft have already played a significant role in the shifting urban mobility landscape and will continue to do so, competing with public transit as well as private vehicle ownership.”

Sustainable Brands: “AVs, Shared Mobility, IoT to Shape Future Urban Mobility, Says New McKinsey Report” by Staff, June 23, 2017.

Ride-sharing and motor car companies:

Financial Times cites Daimler’s creation of moovel as an example of how leading motor car companies are changing their strategies in the face of ride-sharing services. “Daimler has taken a lead in ride-hailing, by purchasing taxi-booking apps Hailo and MyTaxi, and then incorporating them into its “moovel” app, a one-stop shop for all of its transport services.”

Financial Times: “Is it the end of the road for the motor car marque?” by Patrick McGee, June 26, 2017

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Self-driving cars to put the focus back on humans:

Two city designers predict that autonomous cars will make populations “less machinelike and more human.” They believe that the self-driving car revolution will possibly replace vehicle-centered cities with urban environments that reduce car-dependency and put people first.

Fast Company: “Cities Full of Autonomous Vehicles Could End Up Less Machinelike – And More Human” by Antonio Gomez-Palacio and Alan Boniface, June 22, 2017.

Call for federal regulation for autonomous testing:

As self-driving cars become more prominent in the automotive industry, some believe the federal government needs to establish a national standard pertaining to testing, crash liability, and design requirements. During the past several months, over 50 bills have been introduced in 20 states aiming to provide some degree of regulation on AVs.

USA Today: “Regulators scramble to stay ahead of self-driving cars” by Nathan Bomey and Thomas Zambito, June 25, 2017.

New legislation promotes AV testing

Republican Congressmen on the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee introduced federal regulation regarding the testing and future deployment of autonomous vehicles. If passed, this legislation will increase the number of semi-autonomous and autonomous cars tested on American roadways.

Jalopnik: “New Legislation Aims To Put 100,000 Driverless Test Cars On Public Roads” by Allana Akhtar, June 27, 2017.

‘Smart’ Columbus reinforces transit initiative

Michael Stevens, Columbus’ chief innovation officer, was sworn in as Central Ohio Transit Authority’s newest board member this week. This move will allow the “Smart Columbus” initiative to take larger strides towards implementing innovative public transportation technology.

Government Tech: “Columbus, Ohio, Innovation Officer’s Transportation Board Appointment Will Help Align Smart Columbus Efforts With Other Mobility Options” by Kimball Perry, June 28, 2017.

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Overcrowding is the root of transit delays in NYC:

The New York Times examines the ongoing issues with the NYC subway system and its high rate of delays. According to experts, aging subway cars are not to blame for this problem; rather an increase in ridership (up nearly 2 million riders since the 1990s) has caused significant transit delays and congestion.

The New York Times: “Every New York City Subway Line Is Getting Worse. Here’s Why” by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Ford Fessenden, and K.K. Rebecca Lai, June 28, 2017.

New technology influences the future of transportation:

The Guardian discusses the emergence of technology in all aspects of the transportation industry, in particular citing the impact of digital solutions on cars, trains, and airplanes.

The Guardian: “Trains, planes and automobiles: the transport systems embracing smart tech” by Nicola Slawson, June 29, 2017.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

#TransitTrends Episode 4: Data + The Connected Car

Take a second to think about the number of Terms & Conditions disclaimers we, as technology users, agree to without a second thought. We’re quick to hit “Accept These Terms” in order to tinker around with a new app or install the latest update to our cell phones even though we’re very likely clueless to what we’ve agreed to.


While we openly accept to share data regarding search history, current location, favorite music and more with huge technology companies like Google, Apple and Spotify, many cringe at the thought of sharing information from their personal vehicles. However, some fail to realize that the connected car is no different from our cellular devices. The data collected from vehicles can easily benefit urban mobility for many years down the road.

In episode four of Transit Trends, we sit down with Iain Macbeth of Transport for London and discuss how the information from a connected car can improve transportation systems across the globe.

Stay up to date with the latest Transit Trends episodes by subscribing to the moovel YouTube Channel. Leave a comment below or tweet us with #TransitTrends if you have a topic you’d like us to discuss in the future.

 


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

How Can the Internet of Things Make Living Simpler?

The Internet of Things is starting to play a very important role when it comes to creating the future experience of mobility, but we need to look beyond automobiles because mobility involves more than just cars. One of the very interesting areas to look at are connected homes where many companies already are experimenting with different solutions putting mobility into an entire new context.

The impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) can already been seen in homes from smart and connected kitchens and appliances, home security systems and connected door locks, energy meters and thermostats to lightning systems. This connectivity allows consumers to remotely control their home, save them money and have a greater piece of mind.

In order to provide a seamless customer experience, the IoT in connected home devices and services need to be connected to each other and exchange data accordingly. Mobile connectivity is crucial in the smart home because it allows devices and consumers connect with their vehicles, tablets and smart phones.

CES 2016: Applications connecting cars and homes

At this year’s CES (Consumer Technology Association) in Las Vegas, many companies presented their visions and prototypes of a connected future. Among the automotive companies, two of the global leaders announced strategic partnerships with electronic giant LG and online retail giant Amazon respectively.

Volkswagen’s BUDD-e is packed with lots of futuristic technology. A single display combines entertainment system and instruments. It offers driving information, navigation directions, entertainment details, and video streams for the camera-based “e-mirrors.” On the two-spoke steering wheel, pressure-sensitive touchpads that respond to prods and swipes replace traditional buttons.

The car also can be controlled via touchscreens, gesture control, or by announcing “Hello BUDD-e” to activate the voice-recognition system. Volkswagen’s designers also envision that the BUDD-e could be another node in the Internet of Things, connecting to your smart home to check a security camera or to adjust your thermostat. And this is where the collaborations with LG comes in.

LG supplies its smartphone app technology to help drivers check the status of home devices such as temperature in homes or fridges, lighting at home, or even get a visual image of a visitor at their home’s door.

Ford on the other side announced a partnership with Amazon and taps into Alexa and Echo. They are developing ways to their SYNC equipped vehicles with the smart home by integrating the two systems to provide voice control access between cars and homes. Drivers will also be able to access internet-enabled devices, such as lights, home security systems among many others.

Connected homes: Applications from around the world

One of the segments that jump started with the IoT was the smart security. Interoperability of different systems and vendors is one of the challenges of IoT and this is what the Z-Wave Alliance is trying to resolve. Z-Wave is a wireless communications specification designed to allow devices in the home (lighting, access controls, entertainment systems and household appliances) to communicate with one another for the purposes of home automation. Z-Wave is supported by over 325 manufacturers worldwide and more than 1,350 products are available already.

On the other side, there are many smaller companies and innovations popping up everywhere that are worth taking a closer look at.

For instance, Santa Monica based Ring builds a simple yet powerful Wi-Fi enabled doorbell that streams live video of a home’s front doorstep directly to a smartphone or tablet. Ring enables residents to not only see who is at their door, but also talk with them.

Yet another startup – Flexibell – builds another intelligent doorbell that does not even need a Wi-Fi connection anymore. The doorbell uses an in-built SIM card and connects to any phone on the market.

The most prominent connected home application so far has been Nest’s thermostat. The company is now broadening their focus on security products as well such as smoke and CO (Carbon Monoxide) alarms and camera surveillances. Germany based Tado is betting on the same market featuring yet another thermostat. The user needs to make some basic adjustments to the thermostat and it starts adjusting itself how to heat a home most efficiently.

Tado knows where you are currently located at, even if you are not at home and can use that information to adjust the temperature accordingly. Thanks to its companion smartphone app, Tado knows location because the app automatically sends geo-location back to the device in your home – depending how far you are away from your home Tado adjusts the temperature accordingly.

Yet another very new startup in that sector is Estonia based Sympower that helps to keep the electricity system in balance, minute to minute, by switching on and off together electric heating, air conditioning and hot water appliances across the country. In addition, by shifting the time of the use of electricity to the cheapest hours, Sympower’s smart controller reduces the cost of electricity by up to 30 percent. Speaking off energy savings, some of the intelligent light bulb manufacturers enable a blinking feature on their bulbs indicating that energy costs are low now.

The future of connected and smart homes

There will be probably multiple more gadgets like the ones described, but the bigger (and more interesting) challenge lies in a mobility or portability approach of devices and services. One of the problems is that all these devices are expensive. Generally, people are forced to install each system by hand – or hire someone to do it, which makes things even more expensive. And if someone is renting, forget about it because very often they are not allowed to retrofit their home.

Portland Oregon based Pike and IOTAS aim to solve this problem. The companies work with real estate developers to build the IoT technology into apartment buildings. The idea is to bring the smart home to everyone. The system operates via a central online service. If people opt-out, all the lights and outlets would still work just as they do in a normal apartment. And if their internet or cloud connection goes down, existing rules will prevail.

If people think this a bit further ahead, rules and settings could follow them from home to home – and potentially to hotels and AirBNB’s as well. This means that they are able to finish the Netflix show they started watching in one hotel and in the other one, the temperature in their AirBNB would be already set based on their preferences and connected chairs would all have the correct height settings when they arrive.

Speaking of the furniture of the future, in a recent TED Talk, Hasier Larrea discussed that with shrinking home sizes, furniture would need to adapt itself to the various needs in such an environment, but there are still important barriers keeping us from living smaller, and people must get past them. Hasier argues that the use of robotics holds the key for making living spaces act like if they were twice or three times bigger. Downsizing in square footage does not have to mean downsizing functionality or experience anymore.

It seems quite obvious that after the connected car, people are in for another revolution – the connected home. There is a lot of innovation happening, but clearly the disruptive part will happen once people are able to move from location to location without carrying along the baggage of the past.

Do you think that connected and smart homes will make our lives simpler? Will it be difficult for people to adapt to the technology? Share your opinions in the comment section.


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.