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Five for Friday: Driving into the Future

October 28, 2016

Welcome to your weekly roundup of tech news and insights. With the Cubs in the World Series, one has to wonder if Back to the Future was only off by a year after all. . . Let's not jinx things yet and instead talk about what it really means to get down to brass tacks and drive off into the future of self-driving vehicles.

1. From Car and Driver - Bloomberg and the Aspen Institute have teamed up to help cities embrace self-driving vehicles. Although largely thought of with a private lens (Tesla's coverage is almost exclusively about the cars it sells to individual consumers, e.g.), there's no doubt that cities and states will have to think about the glamorous topics that will bring this technology to many others such as land use, zoning, transportation schemas, and much more.

 

What's really exceptional about the announcement from Bloomberg Philanthropies is their view that self-driving cars can reduce segregation and connect people to jobs, housing, and new opportunities. I stress 'can' here because, as both Bloomberg and my business partner will tell you, equity is a great opportunity within self-driving car technology but it is not inherently part of it. Private/public interests will have to work together in order to make it a reality.

 

As I mentioned in the post script of last week's blog entry, we're doing some very exciting things over here at Apparatus and one that I'd like to introduce you to is Drive Together Minneapolis, a project we're rolling out to bring together policymakers, industry members, and the public in order to discuss the issues of autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, and car-sharing in order to create a framework for planning and decision-making. It's exciting stuff and we can't wait to share what we've been working on.

 

Find more information about Drive Together Minneapolis here and watch for updates!

 

2. From NYT - Of course, autonomous vehicles will reach far further than taking you in and out of the city. This week, 2,000 cases of Budweiser were delivered by Otto, Uber's self-driving vehicle operation.

 

Commercial truck driving is a huge part of our economy (70% of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks - American Trucking Associations) so there's plenty of controversy to go along with this achievement of technology. Some will point to the current driver shortages and wonder if it'll all work out in the end (fascinating 2015 report on the driver shortage available here -- did you know not even 6% of truck drivers are women?) but there are always many considerations when an industry is faced with such an enormous shift. More to come.

 

3. From Information Week - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent a letter to Google this week informing it that the technology driving its self-driving car can be considered itself a driver, and therefore can legally take to the roads. This is a big deal because it officially broadens the definition of what a driver 'is'. This is also a big deal because it gives a peek into just how much infrastructure we have in place to support a traditional view of driving/drivers. There's much that still needs to be changed or reimagined and this is just the beginning.

 

4. From Wired - Apparently we were sharing a brain wave last Friday because the writing team at Wired was also looking at the future of cities vis-a-vis self-driving cars. Check out this fun read for some insights into the ways smarter (and therefore) reduced driving will have a significant impact on urban centers as well as suburbs. (I particularly agreed with Jarrett Walker's comments that policy will be at the heart of transformation. Please refer to item 1 in this blog post for more information.)

 

5. From Forbes - Break out the mortarboard because Google/Alphabet announced its self-driving car business is officially spinning off. To no one's real surprise, Google's testing of self-driving cars has been going so well that it's time for the business to go off on its own, try some survey classes, and live on ramen noodles for a while. With the way autonomous vehicle excitement is going, I'm guessing Google won't have to worry about this side of the business moving back home and sleeping on its couch anytime soon. 

 

 Good work continuing to be great at practically everything, Google.

 

 

 

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