UK sets out legal framework for safety and accountability of automated vehicles

UK sets out legal framework for safety and accountability of automated vehicles

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have issued a joint report that makes a number of recommendations on the introduction of self-driving cars.

The report suggests that a clear distinction should be drawn between “features which just assist drivers, such as adaptive cruise control, and those that are self-driving”.

Under the law commissions’ proposals, when a car is authorised by a regulatory agency as having “self-driving features” and those features are in-use, the person in the driving seat would no longer be responsible for how the car drives.

Instead, the company or body that obtained the authorisation, described as an Authorised Self-Driving Entity, would face regulatory sanctions if anything goes wrong.

“The driver can no longer be the principal focus of accountability for road safety,” say the commissions, in a situation where they are not in control of the vehicle themselves.

The overarching recommendation of the report is the introduction of new laws which would introduce regulations and legal framework specifically tailored to cars capable of driving themselves.

The report, commissioned by the government funded Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in 2018, is the culmination of three consultations undertaken between 2018 and 2021, with input from “hundreds of stakeholders” from across the automotive industry and other sectors.

It has been presented to the UK parliament and the Scottish Parliament, but the law commissions say “it will be for the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to decide whether to accept the commissions’ recommendations and introduce legislation to bring them into effect”.

Transport minister Trudy Harrison said the introduction and development of self-driving vehicles in the UK “has the potential to revolutionise travel, making everyday journeys safer, easier and greener”.

She continued, “This government has been encouraging development and deployment of these technologies to understand their benefits.

“However, we must ensure we have the right regulations in place, based upon safety and accountability, in order to build public confidence.”

David Bartos, Scottish Law Commissioner adds, “How should the law deal with self-driving technologies? Our joint report sets out new laws for allowing automated vehicles on our roads, ensuring safety and accountability while encouraging innovation and development.”

Atlantia buys intelligent transport systems global giant Yunex

Atlantia buys intelligent transport systems global giant Yunex

Siemens Mobility has signed an agreement to divest Yunex Traffic, its international road traffic business, to Italian Atlantia, the Italian-owned holding company active in the infrastructure sector, including motorways, airport infrastructure and transport services.

The €950 million agreement marks the conclusion of a bidding process which has seen Atlantia beat off competition from a large number of international bidders, Atlantia said in a statement.

Munich-based Yunex Traffic is a global leader in the intelligent transport systems and smart mobility businesses. Its traffic management and urban mobility infrastructure and platforms are used in over 600 cities on four continents.

Siemens changed the name of the unit to Yunex Traffic from Siemens’ Intelligent Traffic Systems in February as part of preparations for a possible sale.

The deal is expected to close by September.

Atlantia says the acquisition will deliver savings and new business opportunities when integrated with its existing assets. “We aim to deliver operating and growth synergies between our assets and Yunex in the management of infrastructure, services and technological innovation, in order to improve the travel experience,” said Atlantia CEO Carlo Bertazzo.

Atlantia owns motorway toll-road groups including Spanish group Abertis, operates Rome’s airports and controls digital toll payment company Telepass. Through Yunex it hopes to expand into urban mobility.

“We are certainly keen to expand Yunex Traffic’s business in countries of interest to us, such as Italy, France and Spain,” Atlantia’s CEO told analysts, adding the intelligent transport system sector could generate a business value of around 1.5 billion euros a year in those three countries.

RideMicro app integrates shared and public journey planning

RideMicro app integrates shared and public journey planning

Wave Transit, a major public transport provider in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, is launching an on-demand service and mobility app that enables locals to plan, pay, and ride both shared and public transportation journeys.

By downloading and using the free RideMicro app Wilmington residents can assess public and shared transportation journey options with real-time arrival information, and hail and pay for on-demand rides.

Powered by Moovit’s white label app solution, the app supports an on-demand service that automatically assigns multiple passengers heading in the same direction to a shared vehicle.

Previously, the RideMicro pilot programme operated a phone-based request and dispatch service. The enhanced service provides more connections from surrounding areas to fixed routes and makes it easier to book and track journeys.

When a user inputs their destination, the app will display the most convenient public and shared transportation routes. If the user selects the Transit On-Demand option passengers are guided to a pickup location within a short walking distance. Rides can be booked up to a week in advance.

The app combines information from Wave Transit together with dynamic crowdsourced information to calculate the best route for each journey at any given time. RideMicro also provides step-by-step journey guidance including “get off” alerts.

Marie Parker, Wave Transit executive director says, “RideMicro fills in the gaps where one option may be too expensive and another option may not be convenient.

“RideMicro is one step towards a better, more comprehensive mass transit system. Helping more people safely and efficiently commute to work, school, shopping, appointments, or just for entertainment has never been easier or more cost-effective.”

Nuro refines autonomous delivery vehicle and gears up for production

Nuro refines autonomous delivery vehicle and gears up for production

American robotics company Nuro has introduced a third generation of its autonomous, last-mile delivery vehicle as it gears up to manufacture at scale later in the year. The vehicle is the first to benefit from a collaboration with Chinese-owned car maker BYD North America.

Formed in 2018 by two engineers from Google’s Waymo project, Nuro says that every new detail is to enable production at scale and it hopes to be the first company to achieve this in the “zero occupant” segment.

Nuro was the first company to receive an autonomous driving exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA) which it achieved on the basis that its vehicles are designed to carry goods, not humans.

Its second generation vehicle hit the headlines last year through a pizza delivery trial with Dominos in Houston, Texas.

The latest version, which has a maximum operating speed of 70km/h, is equipped with an exterior airbag that inflates across its entire front to reduce impact in the event of a collision. A network of self-cleaning sensors provide a 360 degree view of its surroundings. The vehicle itself has been reduced in size allowing more room for passing cyclists and pedestrians.

The delivery compartments have also been modified and can carry twice the previous version, roughly 24 bags of groceries and 220kg in weight. Modular units are available to provide heating and cooling compartments.

Serve’s pavement delivery robots achieve Level 4 autonomy

Serve’s pavement delivery robots achieve Level 4 autonomy

Serve Robotics’ driverless delivery robots have become the first to complete commercial deliveries at Level 4 autonomy. This milestone means the San Francisco-based walking pace pavement delivery robots are able to operate routinely without human intervention, and can rely on their onboard capabilities to ensure safe operation.

This industry first, says Serve Robotics, represents a major step forward for the autonomous vehicle industry, “significantly lowering the barriers for autonomous delivery at scale”.

Level 4 autonomy is the ability to navigate without human intervention in designated areas. The company’s robots are equipped with an extensive array of technologies that ensure safety by utilising multiple layers of redundant systems for critical navigation functions. This includes multiple sensor modalities—active sensors such as lidar and ultrasonics, as well as passive sensors such as cameras—to navigate safely on busy city sidewalks.

Serve Robotics’ achievement required development of a wide range of market-leading capabilities, such as automatic emergency braking, vehicle collision avoidance, and fail-safe mechanical braking.

“I’m proud that Serve Robotics has achieved Level 4 autonomy, which further enhances public safety by significantly reducing the potential for human error. This milestone begins to unlock the full potential of robotic delivery,” said Serve Robotics co-founder and CEO, Dr Ali Kashani. “This technical and commercial milestone is an achievement for the entire AV industry, and accelerates our mission to make delivery more accessible and sustainable.”

Serve’s technical breakthrough was possible with input from key technology partners, notably NVIDIA and Ouster. The NVIDIA Jetson platform, designed for robots and other autonomous machines, powers the AI computing necessary for the robots to understand their complex environment in real time. Ouster’s lidar sensors provide the small, lightweight, power-efficient sensing technology that enables the robots’ reliable self-driving capabilities.

“Serve Robotics’ accomplishment represents a breakthrough for commercial deployment of AV technology for sidewalk delivery,” said Murali Gopalakrishna, General Manager for Robotics at NVIDIA. “We look forward to Serve continuing to leverage the NVIDIA Jetson edge AI and Isaac robotics platforms to further advance their technological lead.”

Serve’s self-driving robots have successfully completed tens of thousands of contactless deliveries in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Founded in 2017 as the robotics division of Uber delivery service Postmates, Serve was spun off as an independent company in February 2021 backed by Uber along with 7-Eleven, Delivery Hero and other international investors.

Vienna metro trains to feature new level of dynamic journey information

Vienna metro trains to feature new level of dynamic journey information

New trains on the Vienna metro will be the first to feature a new digital passenger information and guidance system developed by Siemens Mobility.

The dynamic and visual presentation of information in the new X-car carriages are designed to make the use of mass transit in the city easier and more convenient. Screens inside the car above each train door display provide passengers with real-time information about further routes and connections at the next station.

“With the new X-car, the Viennese are getting a state-of-the-art metro car that provides all the latest information right where they need it. We are proud to be the first public transport company in the world to offer this service,” said Alexandra Reinagl, Managing Director of Wiener Linien.

The new Passenger Info Plus system has been developed by Siemens Mobility, tailored by Wiener Linien to meet the special public transport requirements in Vienna.

Screens above each door inside the X-car display relevant, continually updated information for the passengers. Screens above doors that will open at the next station show the direction of the station’s exits, other lines for transfers, and departure times for those lines.

Screens above the doors opposite the platform side display a digital metro network map and the train’s current position. The dynamic map shows the train’s position, direction of travel, next stop, and important transfer options. Additional information, such as the current status of other metro lines, or out-of-service elevators, can also be displayed on both sides of the car.

The X-car is currently undergoing extensive tests in preparation for its upcoming operating certification.

Wejo’s Neural Edge platform overcomes CV data overload and latency obstacles

Wejo’s Neural Edge platform overcomes CV data overload and latency obstacles

UK-based Wejo, a global leader in cloud and software analytics generated from autonomous, electric and connected vehicle data, has announced it is developing a neural edge platform that overcomes latency issues and data storage costs – the main potential obstacles in harnessing and scaling the power of real-time vehicle communications.

Leveraging existing collaborations with Microsoft Azure and Palantir Technologies, a developer of software for data analytics and data-driven decision making, Wejo Neural Edge optimises how data, from both other vehicles and smart infrastructure, is managed within the vehicle, further processes it at the “edge” and ultimately communicates to the cloud.

This process will not only reduce data overload and maximise data insights but will reduce costs for automotive manufacturer, supporting safer vehicles, enabling further advancements in electric and autonomous mobility while reducing congestion and emissions.

“When I started Wejo in 2014, I knew that the proliferation of new mobility technology would drive data to a tipping point. And we are at that point today,” said Richard Barlow, Founder & CEO, Wejo. “With today’s vehicles producing approximately 25 gigabytes of data per hour, and as vehicle technology advances adding more sensors, data filtering and neural edge processing technology is essential to reduce this overload and drive the industry forward.”

Key features of the platform are:

  • Filtering and analysing vast amounts of autonomous, electric, and connected vehicle data before transmitting only the essential information to the cloud. This is made possible by utilising in-car edge processing that Wejo is developing to filter only useful and valuable connected vehicle data before it is transmitted to the cloud.
  • Using machine learning algorithms to reconstruct vehicle journey and event data, Wejo Neural Edge can take 20% of the data from autonomous, electric, and other connected vehicles and reconstruct it to represent 100% of the data, without any loss in data fidelity or integrity. The positive environmental impact is significant, as less data requires less storage which in turn reduces power consumption.
  • Better enabling vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communications by standardising and centralising the data. Not only does this provide a key building block for communication in near real time, but it also supports communication with infrastructure services such as road signs, traffic lights and parking lots, so vehicles can easily anticipate the road ahead and optimise mobility experiences.
  • The platform can also support validation of digitals twins of both the vehicles and cities in which they operate, which has the potential to reshape how we view the entire product and service ecosystem related to mobility. In a simulation environment, a digital twin can be constructed to simulate how vehicles in different cities need to respond and navigate without having to outlay massive infrastructure costs of physical hardware and vehicle monitoring.

“At Wejo, we believe that digital twins will reshape everything from road safety, to insurance, advertising, after-sales and more,” said David Burns, Chief Technology Officer, Wejo. “With Wejo Neural Edge we can look at what a connected vehicle is doing a kilometre away, and then alter and change the driver experience of an autonomous vehicle based on the information that is coming from down the road.”

As more car manufacturers work to harness their vehicle data, Wejo neural edge platform and common data model will enable different manufacturer makes and models to speak the same data language, a key component supporting vehicle to vehicle communication and vehicle communications with infrastructure and services.

Shyam Sankar, Chief Operating Officer of Palantir Technologies adds, “Our ongoing partnership with Wejo is focused on the most complex and critical challenges facing the future of mobility. What Wejo is building atop Palantir Foundry, including their cutting-edge neural edge technology, is a testament to the depth of their vision, speed of execution, and power of combining our technologies.”

Florida DOT initiates multi-partner V2X data exchange platform

Florida DOT initiates multi-partner V2X data exchange platform

Iteris, the Californian-based global leader in smart mobility infrastructure management has been selected by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) as part of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) team to develop a connected vehicle data exchange platform.

Other participants in the FDOT program include Ford Mobility, which will supply V2X data from its connected vehicle platform; Florida International University; Amazon Web Services; Google; and several OEMs, and logistics and fleet companies.

The platform will enable FDOT to analyse real-time road conditions and communicate critical travel information to the traveling public, state and local government entities, private-sector partners, and other stakeholders.

The FDOT project is among the first in the United States to develop a vehicle-to-everything (V2X) data exchange, capturing data from thousands of devices across connected and automated vehicle together with smart mobility infrastructure networks. A key objective of the project is to standardise the collection, analysis and sharing of data from several proprietary systems, which have different coding and encryption methodologies, and to make additional considerations for privacy and safety.

“The primary goal of this technology is to save lives and move people more efficiently on roadways by sharing real-time driving conditions,” said Michael A Brown, SwRI’s Intelligent Systems Division engineer overseeing the project. “This data exchange will lay the foundation for FDOT to send alerts to drivers and traffic managers to coordinate routing, road closures and emergency response.”

The exchange will capture anonymous data both from FDOT-owned roadside units and proprietary data feeds of various car manufacturers. This connected vehicle data will be fused with a breadth of other data both from FDOT-owned infrastructure and third-party data feeds. This stream of enriched data will be the basis for real-time and historic analysis, leveraging a combination of machine learning and traditional algorithms.

“We are thrilled to join the team responsible for developing this vital V2X data sharing program for FDOT,” said Anita Vandervalk, vice president, strategic business development at Iteris. “The V2X data exchange will enable FDOT to communicate critical travel information to the traveling public, state and local government entities, private-sector partners, and other stakeholders.”

Dott wins Marseille e-bike service

Dott wins Marseille e-bike service

Dutch Micromobility company Dott has won a competitive tendering to introduce its e-bike sharing service in the city of Marseille, France, making it the only micromobility provider present in France’s three largest cities – Paris, Marseille and Lyon.

A total of 1,000 shared e-bikes will be available in Marseille from January 30, providing an efficient way to move across the city, free from congestion and without causing pollution.

Henri Moisinnac and Maxim Romain, co-founders, Dott issued a statement reading, “We are happy and very proud of this decision. Thank you to the City of Marseille for its trust in our expertise, we are looking forward to bringing Marseillais a quality, accessible and reliable service.

“This decision recognises ‘the Dott system’, which we have used since Dott’s creation. We are a mobility operator, not a digital platform. We operate the service ourselves everyday, with our own teams who are all colleagues and company shareholders. We are responsible, reliable and always seeking environmental excellence.”

Swedish researchers find shortest distance not always the least energy

Swedish researchers find shortest distance not always the least energy

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed tools to help electric delivery-vehicles to use as little energy as possible. The secret, they say, lies in looking beyond just the distance travelled, and instead focusing on overall energy usage. The approach has led to energy savings of up to 20 per cent.

“We have developed systematic tools to learn optimal energy usage. Additionally, we can ensure that electric vehicles are not running out of battery or charging unnecessarily in complex traffic networks”, says Balázs Kulcsár, Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology.

The research is the latest result from a joint project between Chalmers and Volvo Group that investigates how electric vehicles can be used for distribution tasks. The new algorithm for learning and planning the optimal path of electric vehicles is so efficient that it is already being used by Volvo Group.

In the study, the researchers investigated how a fleet of electric trucks can deliver goods in a complex and crowded traffic network. The challenge is how delivery vehicles carrying household goods should best plan their routes. By working out the optimal order to deliver to customers, the vehicles can be driven for as long as possible without needing to interrupt the work to recharge unnecessarily.

Route planning for electric vehicles has normally tended to assume that the lowest mileage is also the most efficient, and therefore focused on finding the shortest route as the priority. Balázs Kulcsár and his colleagues focused instead on overall battery usage as the key goal, and looked for routes with the lowest possible energy consumption.

“In real traffic situations a longer distance journey may require less energy than a shorter one, once all the other parameters that affect energy consumption have been accounted for”, Balázs Kulcsár explains.

The researchers modelled the energy consumption by looking into many factors including speed, load, traffic information, how hilly different routes were, and opportunity charging points.

The energy consumption model was then entered into a mathematical formula, resulting in an algorithm for calculating a route that allows the vehicles to make the deliveries using as little energy as possible. By accounting for extra factors such as these, the researchers’ new method allowed the vehicles to reduce their energy consumption by up to 20 per cent.

Because the electric delivery vehicles operate in complex real-world situations, there can often be unforeseen complications the energy usage forecasts will tbe further optimised through machine learning, with data collected from the vehicles being sent back to the tool for further input and analysis.

“Taken together, this will allow us to adapt route-planning to uncertain and changing conditions, minimising energy consumption and ensuring successful urban distribution”, Balázs Kulcsár says.

London to get shared electric mopeds from January

London to get shared electric mopeds from January

UK micromobility firm HumanForest is set to roll out its shared e-moped service in London from January, becoming the first company in the country to have a shared e-moped fleet.

100 of the electric mopeds will be available during a trial period and users will get five minutes free per day, rising to 20p per minute thereafter. By the end of the year the number of scooters is expected to rise to 200 as the trial expands.

“The arrival of our electric mopeds is an exciting moment for London and the UK. Our e-mopeds will be good for people and businesses looking to move around London in an affordable and sustainable way, helping to reduce air pollution in the City,” says Agustin Guilisasti, founder and CEO of HumanForest

“Our mission to “reForest” London is well and truly underway; following the successful launch of our e-bikes, these new vehicles will help people travel faster without releasing any emissions. The introduction of electric mopeds into the UK’s market will pave the way for embedding better and healthier ways of moving around our cities into our national transport ecosystem.”

The company’s reForest concept is explained thus: “As a tree removes CO2 from the atmosphere, people opting to make their journey on a HumanForest e-bike emit zero greenhouse gases. Working together, trees and people can drastically reduce the amount of CO2 in the air – they become a HumanForest.”

Users will be able to find the e-mopeds in dedicated parking spaces across London before unlocking them using the HumanForest app.

Prospective riders will also be required to have at least a provisional driving license before they can start riding.

The scooters will be capped at a top speed of 28 mph and will be equipped with helmets and storage compartments.

HumanForest has not provided details on where the trial will operate. At present, HumanForest’s e-bikes can be found in areas in the West, South, and East London.

Intel to take Mobileye public in 2022

Intel to take Mobileye public in 2022

Intel has announced plans to take its autonomous driving technology business Mobileye public in the US next year through an initial public offering (IPO) of newly issued Mobileye stock. The move will create a separate publicly traded company with Intel remaining the majority owner of Mobileye.

Israel-based Mobileye was acquired by Intel in 2017 and the two companies have confirmed they will continue as strategic partners, collaborating on projects as they pursue the growth of computing in the automotive sector.

The Mobileye executive team will remain, with Amnon Shashua continuing as the company’s CEO.

The Intel-owned journey planning app Moovit, along with Intel teams working on lidar and radar development, will be aligned as part of Mobileye.

In the four years since Mobileye was acquired by Intel, Mobileye has experienced substantial revenue growth and achieved numerous technical innovations to prepare for the deployment of autonomous driving at scale.

Intel CEO, Pat Gelsinger, says, “Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye has been a great success. Mobileye has achieved record revenue year-over-year with 2021 gains expected to be more than 40 percent higher than 2020, highlighting the powerful benefits to both companies of our ongoing partnership. Amnon and I determined that an IPO provides the best opportunity to build on Mobileye’s track record for innovation and unlock value for shareholders.”

Shashua, founder and CEO of Mobileye, adds, “Mobileye has realized accelerated growth and opportunity since joining the Intel family, nearly tripling annual chip shipments, revenue and the number of employees since the acquisition. Our alignment with Intel continues to provide Mobileye with valuable technical resources and support that has yielded strong revenue along with free cash flow that allows us to fund our AV development work from current revenue. Intel and Mobileye’s ongoing technology co-development will continue to deliver great platform solutions for our customers.”

Sensors on e-scooters help identify road maintenance priorities

Sensors on e-scooters help identify road maintenance priorities

London e-scooter trial operator Dott has partnered with cycling technology company See.Sense to test the use of e-scooters to measure road quality and identify dangerous areas.

A number of Dott’s fleet have been fitted with sensors from See.Sense, which monitored rider behaviour on the vehicles for a period of 10 weeks. The data collected covered 1,800 rides and a total distance of more than 3,300km with over 18 million sensor readings recorded in total.

Throughout each journey, See.Sense’s monitors detect changes in rider behaviour and help better understand the user’s experience on the road. The findings reveal areas which experience particularly high levels of braking or swerving and changes in the road surface.

Irene McAleese, co-founder & CSO, See.Sense, said, “Our technology has been created to provide safety focused data on the adoption and maintenance of infrastructure. We’re excited to partner with Dott on this project to demonstrate a scalable solution that provides cities with powerful data driven insights that will help cities unlock the true potential of micromobility.”

The sensors are designed to identify road quality “hot spots”, which will be shared with the authorities to suggest improvements in road quality, helping make the streets safer for all micromobility users. According to the partnership, braking and swerving can happen around uneven and rough road surfaces or potholes, causing a rider to react suddenly.

Data was also collected to compare surface types and See.Sense’s data could identify consistent patterns on road, cycle path and footpaths. Understanding when riders are using footpaths could be another indicator of a poor-quality road surface. Or it could be down to rider behaviour, allowing Dott to prompt e-learning modules, revise speed limits when the change in surface is detected, or further investigate unsafe riding.

The trial aimed to demonstrate how Dott can collaborate with See.Sense, city authorities and transport departments to provide a reliable service to its riders whilst gathering information to improve road safety.

Maxim Romain, co-founder and COO, Dott, said, “Quality infrastructure is key to helping users of micro-mobility feel safe whilst on the road. The results of this new trial reveal that e-scooters can do more than provide efficient, reliable and sustainable transport – they can also deliver valuable learnings to create smart cities which are safer and more pleasant for all residents.”

New York invests in off-grid Solar EV chargers designed for extreme weather

New York invests in off-grid Solar EV chargers designed for extreme weather

San Diego-based solar EV charger developer Beam Global says New York City has become its largest municipal customer with a latest order expanding the coverage of its EV ARC solar-powered EV charging systems to 89 units across the city.

The chargers are completely off-grid and require no construction, permitting or electrical work. A key design feature is their suitability for areas prone to extreme weather such as the flash floods New York experienced during Hurricane Ida in September.

The chargers will continue to function during power outages in part because the large flat solar panels sit 3m above the street level and the structure is designed and tested to withstand wind speeds of 120 mph.

“We are seeing an increase in extreme weather events across the US and globally,” says Beam Global CEO Desmond Wheatley. “Nobody can afford to lose their fuelling infrastructure for prolonged periods. The EV ARC can charge EVs during the power outages that are an increasingly common result of this climate shift and other factors affecting our grid.”

“Organisations in areas subject to hurricanes, rising sea water and flooding due to unusually heavy rainfall can experience permanent damage to traditional electric infrastructure,” adds Wheatley. “The EV ARC product can survive these events and provide vital power when the grid cannot.”

Serve secures strategic partners to scale US self-driving deliveries

Serve secures strategic partners to scale US self-driving deliveries

US self-driving delivery company Serve Robotics has secured $13 million seed funding from strategic investors including Uber, 7-Eleven and DX Ventures. The capital, says Serve, will “accelerate its path to commercial scale, driving its fleet expansion, geographic growth, and continued product development”.

Founded in 2017 as the robotics spin out from Uber’s delivery app Postmates, Serve is now an independent company and says it is “on a mission to make delivery more affordable, sustainable and accessible for everyone”.

The company last month announced its on-demand robotic delivery service will be available to Uber Eats customers in Los Angeles early next year.

Dr Ali Kashani, Co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics, says, “Serve Robotics is pleased to have the backing of strong strategic partners able to support our intention to provide sustainable, self-driving delivery at scale. This initial round of financial and strategic support will allow us to continue advancing our technology, growing our team, and expanding our partnership platform.”

Sarfraz Maredia, Vice President and Head of Uber Eats in North America, adds, “Uber and Serve share a commitment to convenience and reliability. As a Serve investor, we’re excited to help shape self-driving delivery technology that can meet changing consumer and merchant needs.”

BMW hybrids automatically switch to all-electric drive in 138 European cities

BMW hybrids automatically switch to all-electric drive in 138 European cities

BMW has expanded its eDrive Zones to a further 20 cities around Europe, including Copenhagen, Verona, and Toulouse.

Using a combination of navigation and geo-fencing, a plug-in hybrid BMW will automatically know when it enters an eDrive Zone and automatically switch to an all-electric drive.

First introduced to London in August 2020, the latest 20 cities to benefit from the technology are Aberdeen, Bregenz, Brescia, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Copenhagen, Cork, Coventry, Florence, Klagenfurt, Lille, Matosinhos, Naples, Oeiras, Oxford, Sheffield, St. Pölten, Toulouse and Verona.

This brings the total number of eDrive Zones across Europe to 138 and BMW has plans to roll out the zones in “at least” another 30 cities worldwide in 2022.

Commenting at the time of the UK launch of eDrive Zones, Pieter Nota, BMW AG board member for Customer, Brands, Sales said, “This is the flexibility that customers want, as they make the transition to electromobility. A plug-in hybrid vehicle combines the best of two worlds – emission-free city-driving as well as long-distance capabilities.”

Stockholm cracks down on “e-scooter jungle” urging users to behave

Stockholm cracks down on “e-scooter jungle” urging users to behave

Councillors in the Swedish capital Stockholm have voted to almost halve the number of rental e-scooters permitted in the Swedish capital, and to cut the number of licensed scooter rental firms from eight to three.

“We have put our foot down and cleaned up the e-scooter jungle,” Stockholm’s vice-mayor for transport Daniel Helldén said on Twitter.

E-scooters have become a controversial topic in Sweden since an 80-year-old cyclist died in September after crashing into a scooter left in a cycle lane.

Stockholm’s new restrictions will see the number of scooters available in the city fall from 23,000 to 12,000 in the new year. The city will also charge operators an annual fee of around €140 per scooter to encourage them to manage their fleets more diligently.

Helldén said that despite placing restrictions on the scooters, he was not opposed to them in principle. “Electric scooters are used for 60,000 trips a day in Stockholm, so there is a need. This is not about removing them, it’s basically a smart mode of transport if users behave,” he said.

Stockholm’s crackdown is in line with its Nordic neighbours. Authorities in Oslo imposed a night-time ban on e-scooters in July. In September, the Finnish capital, Helsinki, imposed a weekend night-time ban and lowered speed limits after a spate of accidents reportedly caused by drunken riders. Danish capital Copenhagen temporarily banned all scooters in October 2020, although it recently allowed their controlled reintroduction.

Atlanta survey cites bike lanes key to increasing female ridership

Atlanta survey cites bike lanes key to increasing female ridership

A new survey of Bird riders in Atlanta, Georgia has revealed that nearly half of shared micromobility users in the city are women, suggesting that access to shared bikes and e-scooters is helping to significantly level the gender gap that has dogged the cycling industry for decades.

According to the US Census Bureau, American women are about 60% less likely to commute to work on a bike. The difference is even more pronounced in some cities such as Seattle, where men accounted for 76% of all cyclists as recently as 2019.

But says Bird, the Atlanta experience demonstrates that this narrative can be changed.

The Atlanta survey of Bird riders reveals that shared scooters are helping level the micromobility playing, with under 51% of Bird’s Atlanta riders identifying as male.

The lack of safe separation from cars is often cited as a reason many riders, including many women, opt not to ride bikes and scooters. In fact, in the same Bird survey, 65% of respondents indicated that protected bike lanes would encourage them to use scooters more—the single biggest factor influencing that decision.

“I am heartened to see the increased gender balance in scooter riders in Atlanta,” said Sarah Kaufman, Associate Director at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. “Women are often harbingers of safe public spaces, and their use of Birds in Atlanta points to successful safety efforts in street and scooter design. The more cities can implement safe infrastructure, the more we’ll see a diversity of users, keep our residents safe, reduce traffic congestion and bring joy into mobility.”

In 2019, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms unveiled an action plan to increase protected cycling and scooter infrastructure. So called “complete street” overhauls are either completed, underway or scheduled for high-traffic thoroughfares like Cascade Road, Juniper Street and Monroe Drive.

There’s now a larger proposed $44 million project under consideration that would make Cumberland, the home of Atlanta’s famed professional baseball team, more bike and scooter friendly.

In addition to encouraging more sustainable transportation options and helping to significantly narrow the micromobility gender gap, projects like these also support local businesses. According to Bird’s survey respondents, nearly 7 in 10 Bird riders in Atlanta visited a local business on their most recent trip, with 86% of them reporting that scooter access made them more likely to do so.

New trucks failing to hit EU emissions limits in on-road tests

New trucks failing to hit EU emissions limits in on-road tests

On-road testing shows that some new trucks on Europe’s roads are exceeding the EU’s legal emission limits. Emissions when driving in towns or cities were particularly alarming, with highly toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions at least double the legal limits, according to testing undertaken by the Technical University of Graz on behalf of leading European clean transport campaigning group Transport & Environment (T&E).

Testing of an IVECO diesel long-haul truck found serious failures to comply with the current but outdated ‘Euro VI’ emissions limits. In official tests, the truck exceeded the on-road NOx emission limit by 11% overall.

In one of the city driving tests the NOx emission control system – hardware in the exhaust – malfunctioned, resulting in NOx emissions 11 times higher than the current legal limit.

Anna Krajinska, Emissions Engineer at T&E, said, “These results are a damning indictment of an emission standard that allows trucks to drive the air pollution crisis. To combat asthma, heart disease and cancer, all pollution from diesel trucks needs to be urgently reduced.

“Alongside a clear strategy for achieving 100% Zero emission sales for most trucks by 2035, we need an ambitious new EU emission standard for heavy-duty vehicles to be implemented by 2025 to replace the outdated Euro VI standard agreed more than a decade ago.”

Toxic pollution from road transport is a serious public health concern, with 50,000 people in Europe dying prematurely every year due to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution alone – a component of NOx. Road transport remains Europe’s largest source of NOx emissions. The testing results come in the wake of new World Health Organisation guidelines for NO2 that are 75% lower than current EU limits.

Heavy-duty vehicles represent just 2.4% of EU road vehicles, but they can contribute up to 40% to total NOx emissions. It is particularly concerning that during testing, the truck had particularly high urban NOx emissions on tests replicating a typical supermarket delivery trip and low speed driving typical in towns and cities, where air pollution is often at its worst.

T&E say an ambitious new emission standard for all vehicles could cut total EU NOx emissions by 4.2 million tonnes by 2050 and avoid 35,000 premature deaths. T&E calls for the implementation of four key recommendations:

  • Reduce emission limits to the lowest levels technically possible;
  • Regulate all pollutants which are harmful to human health and the environment and can be effectively regulated at the tailpipe;
  • Improve testing, approval and certification of vehicles to make sure buses and trucks meet emission limits whenever and wherever they are driven;
  • Ensure that emission limits are met throughout the lifetime of the vehicle.

The European Commission is expected to publish a proposal for a new Euro VII emission standard for heavy-duty vehicles by the end of 2021.

Anna Krajinska said, “A new EU emission standard is urgently needed to reduce pollution from trucks and buses. Yet, intense opposition from an automotive industry that puts profit before people, could succeed in getting the European Commission to propose a weak standard which would do little to cut emissions. This would be a disaster for clean air and human health.”

Ferrovial to develop 25 vertiports across the UK

Ferrovial to develop 25 vertiports across the UK

Global infrastructure operator Ferrovial has announced plans to build a network of 25 eVTOL vertiports across the United Kingdom.

The project will provide dedicated sites for eVTOL aircraft to take off, land, and recharge. The vertiports are expected to integrate with other transportation modes to better connect cities and regions across the UK.

Ferrovial has partnered with international architecture practice Grimshaw and global engineering, management, and development consultancy Mott MacDonald to develop the design and engineering components of the vertiport infrastructure.

UK-based eVTOL developer Vertical Aerospace says Ferrovial’s vertiports will facilitate the launch of operations with its VA-X4, a piloted, four-passenger, fully electric aircraft that Virgin Atlantic has selected for its future UK air taxi service.

“Our partnership with Ferrovial is an important step forward in bringing the VA-X4 to the skies,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO and founder of Vertical, in a press release. “Creating the right infrastructure for zero-emissions aviation is a critical part in making urban air mobility a reality.”

Vertical also confirmed a collaboration with Heathrow Airport to explore the launch of its services from the airport by the mid-2020s. Ferrovial, which has interests in 33 airports worldwide, holds the largest shareholder stake in Heathrow, as well as having part ownership of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Southampton airports in the UK.

In addition to working with Vertical Aerospace, Ferrovial said it has a collaboration agreement with the German eVTOL developer Lilium to “enable a fast and pragmatic deployment plan.”

“The partnership between vertiports and eVTOLs will provide high-speed, affordable, emissions-free travel to millions of people,” said Kevin Cox, who was recently appointed CEO of Ferrovial Vertiports. “This network will boost local economies with a new model of regional connectivity.”