Autonomous Vehicles
December 19, 2019

Car2Go Gone: I’ll miss my SmartCar

Sad news: Car2Go (ShareNow) is shutting down its North American operations (and pulling out of a few European cities like London and Florence).

The company cited operational costs and the lack of necessary infrastructure to support new technology, like electric vehicle car-sharing, for the decision.

The company says it has more than 230,000 users in Vancouver.

“Vancouver was really very, very attractive for Car2Go,” Gordon Price of the SFU Centre for Dialogue said. “We were the car-sharing capital of North America, maybe the world. It wasn’t true in the rest of North America.

We made the switch to car-share when we scrapped our car with an incentive from the Province – for a year of Car2Go!  Loved it, especially the SmartCar which could fit into those tiny left-over spaces in the West End.

Along with Evo and Modo, Car2Go was making a difference: Vancouverites in dense neighbourhoods were making the switch.  There was even sign of ‘share-turation’ on some blocks. (Hopefully, Evo and Modo can fill some of the void.)

Losing money over time is never a winning business strategy, but Daimler (Car2Go’s parent) strategy may have been to dominate the market prior to the availability of autonomous cars.  They got the timing wrong on that (indeed, it may be a lot longer before self-driving cars are seen in dense, complex cities) and are moving away from research and development of autonomous vehicles elsewhere.

It doesn’t always pay to be first.

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Finally the SUV (sport utility vehicle)  epidemic which is killing pedestrians and responsible for an alarming uptake in automobile emissions is getting  national press attention.  I have been writing about the fact that SUVs are the second largest contributor to the global increase in CO2 emissions in the last ten years. The power industry is the biggest contributor. Other industries such as cement, iron and steel production and trucks and aviation lag behind the emissions produced by these vehicles.

The SUV is the automobile manufacturer’s cash cow, getting around the usual standard safety regulations required for cars because it is built on a truck platform. These SUVs are not built for city driving where they are now recognized as killing machines. Trucks and SUVs suck up 60 percent of all vehicular sales, and the SUV is solely responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths. A pedestrian is twice as likely to die being hit by the higher front end of an SUV.  Statistics show that drivers in these massive rolling living rooms are 11 percent more likely to die driving one.

Here’s the math: currently 25 percent of global oil is for vehicular consumption and related CO2 emissions. SUVs are responsible for an  emission increase by .55 Gt CO2 to 0.7 Gt CO2, as they require 25% more energy than the average mid-sized vehicle. Even with more “efficient” SUVs, this form of vehicle is the reason that there is a 3.3. million oil barrels a day of growth in the last eight years. That’s 3.3. million barrels a day of oil so that people can ferry themselves and family around in an overbuilt, oversized den-like vehicle.

The International Energy Agency has a big warning that the enchantment with SUV’s will undo the progressive shift to electric cars, by requiring an additional two million barrels a day of global oil by 2040, directly offsetting the carbon emission savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.

As Naomi Buck in the Globe and Mail states: Savvy marketing persuades buyers that SUVs are safe, comfortable and prestigious. And even if the ads show them carving through magnificent outdoor landscapes or parked next to glinting oceans, that’s not what these vehicles are really about. To quote Mercedes-Benz’s promotion of its latest G-class SUV: “More spacious. More special. Welcome to the great indoors.”

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Ian Robertson notes: “Sounds exactly like the Transit Service Provider you’ve written about.”

Augsburg has the first German city to introduce a mobility flat rate. For a fixed monthly fee starting at €79, residents of the city will be able to gain full access to a range of mobility services.

Alongside public transport services, Augsburg has been offering car sharing and rental bikes. This municipal utility now combines the offers and centralises them in a nationwide unique flat rate. …

The scheme is the outcome of a year-long test phase conducted by Augsburg Stadtwerke. The city has long been endeavouring to attract more people to use public transport, including plans to make all trams and buses within the ‘City Zone’ free to use from 2020 onwards.

Ian is right: Augsburg has become a TSP, providing “Mobility as a Service” (Maas) as part of the New Mobility.  All kinds of names for more or less the same thing.

It’s important to note that TransLink is taking the initial step as well:

We are excited to say we are partnering with with Evo Car ShareModo Co-operative, and Mobi by Shaw Go bike share to help make multimodal travel easier, more convenient and more seamless for residents in Metro Vancouver.

It’s a trial program at the moment – specifically the  Shared Mobility Pilot Program.   But it’s important than the public agency is taking the lead, because it’s only a matter of time before the big private sector players maker their moves.  (Is that Amazon I see?)

 

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Motordom 1.0 is the impact on cities of rail and streetcar technology – the DNA of Vancouver.  Motordom 2.0 is domination by the vehicle, and the design of post-war urban regions.  Motordom 3.0 is the reaction and the reshaping of cities to accommodate more transport choices, including walking and cycling – Vancouverism for transportation.

Motordom 4.0 is the era we are entering: transportation impacted by information technologies.  Ride-sharing and hailing, for instance.  Since transport and land-use are intimately connected, one affecting the other, we should expect that urban spaces will become contested spaces.

And sure enough …

… to deliver Amazon orders and countless others from businesses that sell over the internet, the very fabric of major urban areas around the world is being transformed. And New York City, where more than 1.5 million packages are delivered daily, shows the impact that this push for convenience is having on gridlock, roadway safety and pollution. …

The immense changes in New York have been driven by tech giants, other private businesses and, increasingly, by independent couriers, often without the city’s involvement, oversight or even its awareness …  And it could be just the beginning. Just 10 percent of all retail transactions in the United States during the first quarter of 2019 were made online, up from 4 percent a decade ago, according to the Census Bureau. …

“In this period of tremendous growth in the city’s population, jobs, tourism and e-commerce, our congested streets are seeing ever more trucks,” said Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner. “The city is experimenting with enforcement and creative curb management initiatives to address this growing challenge.” …

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From SFU:

Urban Studies launches a new podcast, Temporarily Urbane.

First up: “Sticking Your Neck Out” – a discussion among three URB alums who have had the experience of running for elected office.

Listen and subscribe to be kept up to date.

 

Panel: 5G can enable smart cities—but at what cost?

Canada is racing to roll out 5G technologies nation-wide. Delaying the rollout of 5G risks putting Canada at a technological and innovation deficit, but overzealous implementation can lead to unforeseen consequences. 5G will propel smart-city technologies that improve urban and rural life—but the roadmap is still unclear.

Suhayya Abu-Hakima, Co-Founder, President and CEO Amika Mobile Corporation.
Stéphane Gagnon, Vice-President of the Communications Research Centre’s Applications and Performance Wireless branch University.
Rodney Vaughan, Sierra Wireless Professor in Communications at Engineering Science, Simon Fraser University.

Moderator: Fred Popowich, scientific director, SFU’s Big Data Initiative

 

Wednesday, October 30

6:30  – 8:30 pm

Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre

View Ticket Information

5G can enable smart cities—but at what cost?

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As you’ve probably noticed, residents all over Metro Vancouver are e-scooting on the streets despite the presence of prohibitory bylaws. Accordingly, some recognition is long overdue – and here it is: Shared Micromobility Guidelines.

Published in July by TransLink in collaboration with Metro Vancouver, the document is not designed to recommend the adoption of specific bylaws or policies but to inform municipalities of the relevant considerations for permitting shared micromobility devices within their jurisdictions.

The guidelines focus on six areas:

  1. The collection and sharing of Data to measure success.
  2. Payments and Price Structures that are financially sustainable and adaptable for integrated and secure payments.
  3. System Planning and Design for a fair balance between innovation and public interests.
  4. Right-Of-Way (ROW) Management to identify and manage risks.
  5. System Operations to ensure service providers are held accountable and have an appropriate level of risk management.
  6. Permit Structure and Conditions for short-term and long-term permit structures.

Few would disagree that these guidelines are a sign of progress.  But they stand to have little impact if provincial and municipal regulations and bylaws aren’t amended to permit the operation of these technologies.

For example, so long as the City of Vancouver continues to prohibit the use of e-scooters along trails and paths (the only place they legally can operate under the provincial Motor Vehicle Act), guidelines for shared micromobility services are virtually meaningless.

So, while I commend the creation of these guidelines, I eagerly await amendments to city bylaws, the provincial Motor Vehicle Act, and the new BC Active Transportation Design Guidelines.

You can buy one, you just can’t use it.

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You can forget about reducing vehicular emissions, a major source of climate change, if we can’t change our habits. As the International Energy Agency has stated while there are 350 plus of different electric models of vehicles planned in the next five years, only 7 percent of all automobiles will be electric by 2030.  Around the world sales of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) have fallen 2 percent, the first reduction in ten years. Surprisingly China and India have had substantial declines in the purchase of ICE vehicles, by 14 percent and 10 percent respectively.

The real challenge~and you see it in marketing everywhere~is the ICE motor vehicle manufacturers peddling of their darling, the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle)  built on a truck frame that gets around car regulations due to its truck platform. These SUVs are killing machines, and along with trucks represent 60 percent of all vehicle purchases and directly responsible for a 46 percent increase of pedestrian deaths. As well, drivers of SUVs are 11 percent more likely to die in an accident.

Automakers advertise the SUV’s as safe rolling dens for drivers, and there are now globally 200 million SUVs, up from 35 million ten years ago. Sales of SUVs have also doubled in a decade.

The numbers are staggering~half of all vehicles sold in the United States are SUVs, and in gas conscious Europe, one-third of all purchases are for SUVs.

And they have an appeal. “In China, SUVs are considered symbols of wealth and status. In India, sales are currently lower, but consumer preferences are changing as more and more people can afford SUVs. Similarly, in Africa, the rapid pace of urbanisation and economic development means that demand for premium and luxury vehicles is relatively strong.”

Given that 25 percent of global oil goes to vehicular consumption, and the related CO2 emissions, “The global fleet of SUVs has seen its emissions growing by nearly 0.55 Gt CO2 during the last decade to roughly 0.7 Gt CO2. As a consequence, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector, but ahead of heavy industry (including iron & steel, cement, aluminium), as well as trucks and aviation.”

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It’s hard to believe in this time of technology that we still require police officers to be vulnerable road users outside of their vehicles to flag over motorists for speed  transgressions on Canadian highways. Not only are they subject to being crashed into by the vehicle they are flagging down, they also may be hit by other  inattentive motorists.

I have written about how Switzerland has become the safest country in Europe on the roads by  regulating speed limits. In five years from 2001 to 2006 Swiss speed camera enforcement resulted in a fatality decrease of 15 percent per year, bringing road deaths from 71 annually down to 31. No need to have police flagging you down on the autoroute, a $330  ticket for driving 16 kilometres an hour over the speed limit  is in the mail.

The maximum travel speed is 120 km/h and it is rigidly enforced, making Swiss motorways the safest according to the European Transport Safety Council. Managing speed makes the roads easier to drive on, with consistent motorist behaviour and plenty of reaction time due to highway speed conformity.

A poll conducted by Mario Canseco  last year shows that 70 percent of  people in British Columbia are now supportive of the use of a camera system similar to the Swiss to enforce road speed limits in this province. While the Province has located 140 red light camera at intersections with high collision statistics, speed on highways does not have similar technology.

On the Thanksgiving weekend police forces across British Columbia announced a drive safely campaign, notifying that they would be out on highways  looking for anything that took away from safe highway driving. Anyone driving on highways from Abbotsford to Vancouver quickly saw the difference, with motorists staying to posted speed limits on highways.

But last month one  Delta Police Force member was nearly struck by a vehicle driver that was weaving in and out of traffic along a busy section of highway as the officer was outside of his vehicle attending to another stopped car.  That officer was nearly clipped and this was caught on a dash camera.

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… or at least Italy, from where John Graham reports:

In the south of Italy – here in Sorrento at the end of the Amalfi coast – the e-bike with fat tires is taking over. And not by the mountain-biker demographic, as you can see from the front basket and rear child seat.

This bike on the main pedestrian shopping street is their version of the mini SUV. The fat tires are for the rough and variable cobblestones.

The rider was a woman in her 40’s who got off and went into the cosmetic shop behind.

 

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Price Tag readers will know we’ve been writing and following up on the Massey Crossing saga, where the previous Liberal Provincial government decided a ten lane bridge would replace the Massey Tunnel. Trouble was this multi-billion dollar bridge became a boondoggle, unsupported by every mayor on Metro Vancouver’s Mayors’ Council. It was only the Mayor of Delta that thought the bridge was a brilliant idea, obviously putting the municipality’s proximity to industry and  Deltaport as factors over other smarter, more sustainable, and simply more thought out approaches.

The current provincial government thankfully took another look at the proposed crossing in a prepared report, and indicated that any option chosen would have to be agreed upon by the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council.

As Global News Sean Boynton reports five options for a crossing of the Fraser River near the Massey Tunnel were examined at a Metro Vancouver mayors task force and surprise! Not ONE of the options included the ten lane bridge being championed by the previous provincial Liberal government. Instead the consensus of the task force was to “replace the existing George Massey Tunnel with an eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel — two of which will be dedicated to transit.”

You can imagine how fun that hours long meeting was before consensus on an immersed tube tunnel construction was decided upon as the preferred option. This is built using prefabricated tunnel pieces that are put in place within the river bed. This option is estimated to be one-third the cost of a deep bore tunnel and will require one kilometre of tunnel and  moving 1.5 million cubic metres of soil that is salt sodden.

While cost estimates were not discussed, it is suggested that the cost of this option is similar to building a bridge. Environmental impacts would result from excavating both river banks, as well as mitigating  damage to existing fish habitats.

Next steps include having the recommendation of an eight lane tunnel reviwed by the finance committee of Metro Vancouver and board, followed up with a public process about the project and its impacts.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena  responded to the Mayors Council task force tunnel option by saying “It’s giving us a lot of direction. The previous government just went ahead with a very large bridge that was not what the Metro region wanted. So we wanted to consult with Metro [Vancouver].”

Thinking about the tunnel option, Richmond Councillor Harold Steeves observed that the two lanes that will be designated for public transit could in the future become a rail link. The previous ten lane bridge concept was too steep and had approaches in the wrong location to accommodate rail transit. Of course the other challenge that is already being discussed by transportation planner Eric Doherty  on twitter is that “Urban highway expansion is climate crime. Highway 99 expansion would not be on table if BC’s #cleanbc climate plan wasn’t a hollow shell.” 

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