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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

As the popularity of single-passenger ride-hailing soars, cities struggling with worse congestion and longer travel times are starting to experiment with autonomous shuttles, especially for short trips.

Why it matters: AV ride-sharing could help to efficiently bridge gaps between other forms of transportation services, from public transit to bikes and scooters. This could reduce congestion and enable more travelers to complete their trips more quickly, though cities and companies may need to offer incentives to spur adoption.

What's next: AVs that could be introduced in the near term would be capable of short-distance applications — making connections to public transit and operating in dense urban areas with traffic restrictions. Their routes could change based on demand.

  • Yes, but: AVs are not likely to solve urban traffic congestion on their own, and they will still need more thorough testing and certification to earn consumer's trust.

Companies like Uber, Lyft and Ford that plan to offer diversified transportation services could operate three complementary types of fleets:

  1. E-scooters, bikes and e-bikes — and eventually autonomous pods for 1-2 passengers
  2. Shuttle fleets, including autonomous features
  3. Ride-hailing fleets for individual and shared rides, eventually using robotaxis

What's needed: Intelligent digital platforms — whether developed by cities or by transportation companies — could integrate different modes of transportation into a personal travel plan that's optimized for consumer preferences like shortest travel time or lowest price.

  • Together with corporate and government incentives for ride-sharing, these platforms could also help cities to reach targets for congestion and emissions reductions.

The bottom line: As ride-sharing displaces privately owned vehicles, different forms of AVs could play larger roles on city streets. While not a panacea, their use in on-demand services could make urban transportation more efficient.

Evangelos Simoudis is the author of “The Big Data Opportunity in Our Driverless Future” and the founder and managing director of Synapse Partners, which advises and invests in companies working on AVs and next-generation mobility.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.