The big news this week is a big bummer: a new UN report finds little hope that the world will meet the goals agreed to in the Paris climate accord. Without dramatic change, global temperatures will rise by 2.8°C over pre-industrial levels by 2100, far above the 1.5°C target agreed to in Paris.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we should just give up. On the contrary. To that end, the European Union is poised to ban internal combustion engine cars by 2035.
In other news, Elon Musk completes his takeover of Twitter, naturally leading to speculation about whether assuming ownership of a major social network will distract him from his role leading the world’s most valuable automaker, which is dealing with plenty of its own controversies.
Meanwhile, this week offers mixed opinions on autonomous cars. Ford stuns by announcing the closure of Argo AI, arguing that there is little prospect of profitability in autonomous ride-hailing. And yet, GM-backed Cruise plans to expand its robotaxi footprint to two more cities and Hyundai partners with WeRide to develop hydrogen-powered robotaxis in China.
Also, Bird starts pulling scooters from mid-sized cities, Lyft relaunches a monthly subscription service, China has big plans to compete with FedEx, and the very scary truth about what Halloween means for pedestrians in the United States.
A very bleak climate report: Efforts to reduce carbon emissions remain “woefully inadequate,” says a new report from the United Nations. On the current trajectory, global emissions will fall by less than 1% by 2030 and average temperature will increase by 2.8°C over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, well above the 1.5°C increase targeted by the Paris climate agreement. “We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over,” says Inger Anderson, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, which authored the report.
EU to ban ICE cars by 2035: The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament announce an agreement among member states to bar the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035. Automakers in Europe responded with caution, embracing the target by urging governments to make investments in charging infrastructure and make it as easy as possible for OEMs to obtain the raw materials necessary for batteries.
Elon Musk’s big week: We’re not here to comment on the political implications of Musk’s takeover of Twitter, but we wonder how much owning an unprofitable but hugely influential social network will distract him from his duties at Tesla – which now is reportedly under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department over its Autopilot system.
For what it’s worth, GM has temporarily paused advertising on Twitter while the company seeks to “understand the direction of the platform under new ownership.”
Cruise’s soft open for Austin & Phoenix: GM’s AV subsidiary is inviting people in Austin and Phoenix to join a waiting list for future robo-taxi operations. The company, which in June launched fully driverless ride-hailing in San Francisco, has said it plans to extend the service to Austin and Phoenix by the end of the year. Phoenix is already home to driverless ride-hailing by Waymo and some Lyft customers in Austin have been able to take autonomous rides in the last month.
Argo AI shuts down: Argo AI, the driverless startup backed by Ford and VW, shuts down after Ford concludes that the pursuit of Level 4 autonomy is unlikely to be profitable anytime soon. In an earnings call with shareholders, CEO Jim Farley said that after $100 billion invested in L4 autonomy across the auto industry, “no one has defined a profitable business model at scale.”
Plano takes a look at autonomous pods: The rapidly-growing Dallas suburb is considering a futuristic gondola system of autonomous pods. The electric, solar-powered pods carry between 1-4 people and would generally run above existing roads. Travelers would be able to pick their destination and not have to deal with any stops before. Great concept – if it works.
Hyundai & WeRide pursue hydrogen-powered AVs: WeRide, the Chinese robotaxi operator, announces a partnership with Hyundai to develop hydrogen-powered autonomous vehicles for the purpose of ride-hailing and street cleaning. The appeal of hydrogen fuel cells, especially for robotaxis, is that they can be recharged in a few minutes, much more quickly than an EV battery.
Lyft tries subscription service again: The ride-hailing service relaunches Lyft Pink for $10 a month or $99 a year, about half its previous price. The new deal offers a variety of discounts for rides and scooter or bike-sharing. Subscribers will be able to take “priority” rides –– those that come with the shortest wait –– without paying the typical surcharge. They’ll also get access to one free bike or scooter unlock per month and free upgrades for Lyft’s car rental service. If you are a frequent Lyft user who regularly pays extra to get a ride immediately, the subscription will probably save you money.
Bird flies away from smaller markets: The scooter operator announces plans to withdraw from an unspecified number of small and mid-sized cities in the U.S. Although Bird kicked off its operations five years ago by ignoring local regulations, now it’s avoiding cities that don’t put limits on the number of operators or scooters. Many of those markets have become saturated with scooters, making it very hard to turn a profit.
A very scary Halloween fact: More pedestrians are killed by cars on Oct. 31 than any other day of the year. Beyond prompting the usual (and very justified) calls for cities to design streets to reduce car speed and protect pedestrians, some neighborhoods and cities are closing down streets to cars to create safe zones for trick-or-treaters. CityLab looks at different approaches around the country.
Are drones a delusion? Devin Coldewey predicts in Tech Crunch that drones are not going to revolutionize logistics. Among other things, he says, they are too damn loud. And not in a cool way.
The MTA’s customer service revolution: The New York Times talks to Sarah Meyers, the woman hired five years ago to improve how New York’s notoriously opaque transit agency communicates with its millions of customers.
China’s plan to replace FedEx: China is looking to some of its most influential companies, including TikTok and fast-fashion retailer Shein, to build a global logistics network that competes with the likes of FedEx, UPS and Amazon. Quartz examines the global economic and political implications.
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