There was plenty of news in every corner of the mobility universe this week. As Tesla takes another big step forward in its AV-ambitions, a (very) deep-pocketed competitor across the Pacific believes it can compete with the EV leader by doing everything differently than Musk & Co. And it should certainly hope it’s doing things differently than Polestar, the Sino-Swedish EV brand that’s recalling its cars for the second time in a month… Meanwhile, public transit faces no shortage of challenges in the wake of COVID-19, but Paris is still going full-steam ahead on a plan to double the size of its world-famous Metro system.
Third time’s the charm: After turning down rail initiatives in 2000 and 2014, Austin voters decisively approve a permanent property tax increase to fund two light rail lines in the Texas capital. The owner of a $330,000 home (the median house value in Austin) will pay an extra $330 a year. That should cover $4.5 billion of capital costs as well as the permanent operating costs of the new rail system, which includes a downtown subway and a link to the airport.
Portland area declines corporate tax for transit: In a sharp contrast to Austin, voters in the greater Portland area, which already has a decent public transit system and bike network, rejected a ballot measure that would have imposed a 0.75% tax on large employers to fund a variety of transportation improvements. Meanwhile, PDX’s neighbors to the north approved a new sales tax for transit.
Uber-backed referendum passes in California: Golden State voters easily approved a referendum pushed by Uber and Lyft that will allow the companies to classify their drivers as independent contractors, rather than as employees. The companies spent over $200 million to promote the referendum, overturning a state law that required gig economy workers to be treated as full employees. Uber and Lyft saw their stocks shoot up after the referendum passed, and have stated they plan to take the model nationwide.
Cash for climate: Some of Europe’s biggest VC firms are requiring startups seeking investment to demonstrate a commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. BlaBlaCar, the French carpooling service, is one of the most prominent companies backed by Leaders for Climate Action, a Berlin-based network of VCs.
Tesla finds another semi-buyer: The California automaker has yet to begin large-scale production of its electric semi trucks, but Pride Group Enterprises, a U.S. truck rental service, puts in an order of 150 of them. The purchase price isn’t public, but experts suggest the deal could be worth up to $100 million. This comes after Walmart, which has touted its own zero emissions goals, ordered 130 in September.
From China with love: After 80 years of talk about building a subway system, Colombia’s capital city finally breaks ground on a 15-mile metro line that will hopefully be in place by 2028. With the Chinese government-owned China Harbour Engineering Company getting the contract, it’s a potentially important diplomatic achievement for China — eager to extend its influence in Latin America. How do you say ‘Monroe Doctrine’ in Mandarin?
MDC PPP: Florida’s largest county is likely to ink a deal with Brightline to extend commuter rail into its northeast corner, as Miami-Dade County is to add five new stations between downtown Miami and Aventura. The proposed deal has the county paying Brightline a $50 million “access fee” plus $12 million a year.
MTA map draws mixed reaction: The unveiling of a new digital map for New York’s famed subway system has prompted pointed criticism from some transit map experts, including one who called it a “geographical mess.” There are indications that the judgement from your average New Yorker is not nearly as harsh, however.
The $8k EV! Chinese electric automaker Kandi announces details on its plans to sell its subcompact K23 & K27 cars stateside. California drivers are in for a real treat: after price cuts from the OEM plus federal & state subsidies, prices start at $7,999. Maybe get two, while you’re at it?
A first for Virgin: Virgin Hyperloop announces the first successful test-ride, as employees of the maglev innovator hit 100 MPH on the company’s Nevada test track. As the technology is theoretically set to top out at 600 miles per hour, it sounds like there’s still a bit of scaling up to do…
Get your crystal ball: Recapping last week’s CoMotion LIVE, GovTech’s Skip Descant looks at how public officials are responding to transit’s uncertain future.
Calling all keyboards! Our friends at Imperial College London and Tsinghua University Beijing are holding the Innovating Smart Cities Hackathon, November 19 to 27. If you’ve got an idea that will help bring about the UN’s goals for Sustainable Cities and Communities, apply today!
Mercedes bows out of driverless race: Despite high hopes to be one of the pioneers of driverless cars, Mercedes says it will no longer pursue Level 5 AVs. A company spokesperson tells Redaktions Netzwerk Deutschland that they don’t want to compete in “any race we can’t win.”
Robot road repair: The University of Liverpool has announced a spin-off, Robotiz3d Ltd, that will focus on developing autonomous vehicles to travel around cities identifying and repairing road defects. The hope is that the “Autonomous Road Repair System” will save cities a lot of time and money.
Tesla’s AV evades road debris: A video shot by one of the few owners of Tesla’s full self-driving beta shows the car’s steering wheel turning ever so slightly to avoid an object (looks like a crumpled bag) in the road. Tesla-booster Fred Lambert of Electrek says the video is encouraging, but “we need to see more” evidence that Tesla’s vehicles will evade debris systematically.
Chinese AV startup hits $5.3B valuation: Pony.ai, an autonomous startup with offices in China and the U.S., raises $267 million and gets to a $5.3 billion valuation after a funding round led by Teachers’ Innovation Platform, a Canadian teachers’ pension fund.
Even smaller cities find a lot to like about autonomy: A technology nonprofit in the small city of Westminster, MD. plans an autonomous corridor connecting residents to a few key destinations, including a retirement community, a local college and the city center. The group has its sights set on Olli, the driverless shuttle made by Phoenix-based Local Motors.
Allez-y, Volansi! San Francisco-based UAM startup Volansi launches a new drone delivery service in North Carolina, partnering with Merck to transport medical supplies across the state’s rural coastal communities
Italian job: Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport announces significant investments in bike paths and parking plus overall safety upgrades for its city streets to the tune of €137.2 million over the next two years.
Silence isn’t always golden: Germany’s micromobility star TIER Mobility and UK non-profit Thomas Pocklington Trust partner to add artificial sounds to e-scooters to warn visually-impaired pedestrians.
Step up: Unicorn, the Lithuanian e-scooter manufacturer, is adding an extra step to its vehicles where riders can put groceries, bags or even another person!
One cheap gear: E-bike makers are increasingly making single-speed bikes, allowing them to offer bikes for as little as $1,000.
Holland takes aim at e-bike deaths: Leaders in the famously bike-crazed country are concerned about rising injuries and fatalities linked to e-bikes. The solution? A digital technology that automatically switches off e-bike motors when they enter an area that is judged unsafe for high speeds. Can we perhaps get this on cars too?
Bloomberg CityLab looking at Karachi’s efforts to modernize what it calls the “world’s worst public transport system.”
Bloomberg CityLab with one more, analyzing the inroads made by progressive leaders in local governments this election.
The New York Times detailing how autonomous technology is already improving cars, even if Level 5 AVs are still years away.
Job Trends in partnership with New Mobility Careers.
- Micromobility is back and in a big way. Even as a number of European countries lock down, we’ve seen signs for optimism across the continent with Voi and Tier adding jobs in Europe, along with signs of life in the U.S. Is it a positive portent or will hiring stall in the same way the COVID reopenings have as winter falls? We’ll be keeping a close eye on it.
- The nature of those roles is also interesting and reflective of the maturation of the micromobility ecosystem: take a look at the tender-related jobs that companies are prioritizing as cities continue to add controls on how new mobility options roll out.
- And we were somewhat surprised to see FREE NOW, the ride-hailing app that emerged from the merger of mytaxi and Hailo, add new roles in sales and marketing; COVID challenges aside, there may be multi-sector bullishness in the market right now.
Three quick hits on the unusual opportunities front…
- If you prefer your new mobility job to keep you wet and not far from Lake Como, then here’s a bit of good news.
- What do cryogenics and the future of aviation have to do with each other? You’ll have to ask Airbus.
- And don’t forget that even supersonic aircraft need to land, which is why Boom needs to hire for this role.
Have a job listing that’s perfect for the CoMotion community? Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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