Business & Economy
October 19, 2018

The Rise of the TSP: Uber Over All?

Some recent stories about the impact of ride-hailing companies, particularly Uber, and the longer term implications.

First, another confirming story that ride-hailing is measurably increasing congestion – from Tech Crunch:

In San Francisco … ride-hailing services are undoubtedly partially to blame (for the rise in traffic and congestion), but not entirely to blame, according to a new study from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. …

Between 2010 and 2016, according to the SFCTA, ride-hailing services accounted for:

  • 51 percent of the increase in daily vehicle hours of delay
  • 47 percent of the increase in vehicle miles traveled
  • 55 percent of the average speed decline
  • 25 percent of total vehicle congestion citywide

So not surprising, then, that Uber wants to address the problem of congestion by supporting a mechanism that would reduce ‘free-riders’ on the streets they help congest.

From the Seattle Times:

Uber says it plans to spend money lobbying for congestion pricing in Seattle as part of a $10 million push for “sustainable mobility” policies in various cities.

The ride-hail app company and its rival, Lyft, have previously expressed support for the idea of tolling downtown streets in Seattle, where Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration is working to develop a proposal.

But Uber’s new commitment to actively press for congestion pricing in the city, shared with The Seattle Times last week, could be the biggest boost yet for an effort certain to encounter political roadblocks, including concerns about affordability.

Uber thinks big and it thinks strategically – literally globally.   It can afford to.

From Vanity Fair:

The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had received proposals from Wall Street banks estimating its initial public offering at a market valuation as high as $120 billion, virtually twice its current private-market valuation, and larger than the combined market capitalizations of General Motors , Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. …

Uber … has a large, global footprint, and is possibly a primordial holding company for a series of future companies …  Uber already has one of the largest food-delivery platforms around today, and it is expanding its freight business, which has the possibility to grow infinitely. And then there’s the driverless car I.P. that the company owns, not to mention the investments in other global ride-sharing services …

“Some people see Uber as a car company,” (an Uber insider said).  “Uber sees itself as the next potential Amazon.”

I think this is bigger than even the evolution of another Amazon (if it first doesn’t buy or dominate Uber.)

We’re still thinking about transportation as essentially a problem of hardware: expensive pieces of metal crammed with technology, jamming the streets and highways. Motordom 1.0.

We analyse the problem from the point of view of the user, each distinguished by the hardware of choice: car or truck drivers, transit users, cyclists (and okay, maybe shoe wearers).

We assume this is primarily a problem for government – the owner of the streets, the licensor of vehicles, the regulator of traffic.

We need to shift our focus to Motordom 2.0 – the integration of every imaginable mode of movement, joined by information technology, delivered to us by a service provider who sells us transportation in the way telecommunications providers sell us data.  The TSP: the Transportation Service Provider.

We should be thinking not about hardware but about what Motordom 2.0 will really be about – issues of ownership, regulation, taxation and equality.  Above all, the vision we have for our urban environments, what we build, for whom, and who gets to decide.

Uber or its successor will likely want to be that decider – the shaper of cities, the creator of wealth, the leader of civilization.  Because that’s what we call what we build, how we move, and who rules over it all.

Read more »

Further evidence of the rise of the ‘Transportation Service Provider’ – a single entity that, Uber-like, tries to consolidate as many transportation choices as possible.  Especially, in particular, Uber.

From The Sun:

But what if Uber has larger ambitions for Express Pool and the rest of its suite of services, and it’s actually aiming to compete directly against public transit system? Andrew Macdonald, the company ’s Toronto-based vice-president for Uber’s Americas operations and global business development, was unfazed by the question. He said he sees Uber and transit as complementary services in taking on Uber’s real competitor: individual vehicle ownership.

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Big things start with people coming together over big ideas. In this case, it’s a set of ideas to foster and increase regional growth through economic integration between Metro Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.

PT has previously covered Cascadia material HERE and HERE.

Your chance to mix, mingle, network and learn is on its way to Vancouver.

2018 Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference

Vancouver (Hyatt Regency Hotel)

Tuesday October 9, 2018
Specialized sessions, Registration, Kick-off reception

Wednesday October 10th, 2018
Main Session

p.s. It’ll cost ya $C 400.

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Finally, an article which deals with a critical question regarding self-driving cars: will they require isolation in the urban environment and have to be given their own restricted rights-of-way?  Or will other users, especially pedestrians and cyclists, have to be trained and regulated to give autonomous vehicles priority?  

This article deals only with pedestrians and the problem of jay-walking.  But what if the presence of cyclists sharing space with vehicles proves too problematic, especially when the cyclists are an annoyance as much as potential fatalities, to automated vehicles.  Will the progress made toward complete streets and shared spaces be sacrificed in order to facilitate another utopian vision, another variation on Motordom?

 

Whether self-driving cars can correctly identify and avoid pedestrians crossing streets has become a burning issue since March after an Uber self-driving car killed a woman in Arizona who was walking a bicycle across the street at night outside a designated crosswalk. … Meanwhile, other initiatives are losing steam. Elon Musk has shelved plans for an autonomous Tesla to drive across the U.S. Uber has axed a self-driving truck program to focus on autonomous cars. Daimler Trucks, part of Daimler AG, now says commercial driverless trucks will take at least five years. Others, including Musk, had previously predicted such vehicles would be road-ready by 2020.

With these timelines slipping, driverless proponents like Andrew Ng, a machine self-learning researcher, say there’s one surefire shortcut to getting self-driving cars on the streets sooner: persuade pedestrians to behave less erratically. If they use crosswalks, where there are contextual clues—pavement markings and stop lights—the software is more likely to identify them. …

Rodney Brooks, a well-known robotics researcher and an emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in a blog post critical of Ng’s sentiments that “the great promise of self-driving cars has been that they will eliminate traffic deaths. Now [Ng] is saying that they will eliminate traffic deaths as long as all humans are trained to change their behavior? What just happened?” …

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TransLink, UBC and City of Vancouver engineers and planners have told us what they think about the technology for the Broadway to UBC rapid transit line.  There’s no room for more busses on this monster corridor, and LRT has too-low capacity.

This information came out at the July 28 Town Hall meeting mentioned recently in Price Tags along with significant background.

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PT contributor Scot Bathgate forwarded us this video from Ford from a few months ago that takes the “kids on bikes witnessing the otherworldly” trope last seen in the Netflix series Stranger Things, and goes one step beyond.

And although it’s odd for a car manufacturer, one so long steeped in motordom mythology, not only embrace the role of the bicycle in a liveable community, with fleeting glimpses of mass transit and pedestrian activity (and always a glowing, flying orb), it’s all about Ford telling us that the company really understands the importance of mobility mix — the new marketing mix.

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Thanks to John Graham, architect with Graham Sherwin Studio, for this recommendation of Along for the Ride, a new blog on self-driving cars and urbanization by Sarah Barnes:

I’m pretty sure some Price Tags people will want to know about this…written by an urbanist friend in London (ex-UBC urban geography, ex-London School of Economics Urban Planning Masters program).

It’s a fantastic weekly summary of all things vehicular, particularly automated. She’s a delightful writer too.

Barnes was until recently in automated vehicle policy and planning at Siemens, and is now with Beryl, a London-based urban cycling technology company developing lighting products and systems.

Subscribe to Along for the Ride here.

Image courtesy of Siemens PLM Software.

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I’ve been predicting the rise of the “Transportation Service Provider” — a consolidator of every mode of movement imaginable, integrated with technology, and designed to provide consumers with a suite of services for which they pay (as with telecommunications) one provider with a lot of money.

This is based on the assumption a single provider or oligopoly can emerge. Look to see some of today’s giants try to get even bigger and more diverse as fast as possible in order to dominate the market.

Here’s the latest example, via Michael Alexander.

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