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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the most part, the hype surrounding AVs has focused on the cars: how safe they are, when they'll arrive, whether they'll work. But less attention has been paid to how these vehicles will work together as fleets — often shared along the model of ride-hailing services — to receive instructions, pick up riders, pool efficiently and get the right people to the right destination at the right time.

Why it matters: If AV makers flood cities with driverless vehicles, they could add to the traffic pressures created by badly managed ride-hailing fleets. Efficient deployment will require vehicles, operators and travelers to communicate in real time to match supply and demand.

Background: A 15% increase in ride-hailing trips can put 59% more vehicles on the streets, 30% of which are empty (and the services have no incentive to maximize vehicle utilization). And a recent study by the San Francisco Transportation Authority found ride-hailing services are responsible for 51% of the city’s traffic slowdown over the past six years. New York City has already capped ride-hailing licenses in response to traffic concerns.

What's needed: To curb crowding, cities could implement centralized control of AVs — like air traffic control for planes — to direct vehicles from multiple manufacturers and service providers.

  • While airplanes have different onboard hardware and software, all aircraft connect to a single control system, most of which is now automated.
  • A similar system could capture demand and evenly distribute vehicles, pooling travelers and managing key performance indicators such as wait and travel times.
  • To get all parties onboard, including carmakers and mobility providers, the control layer would need to be a vehicle-agnostic platform that could coordinate and optimize fleets in real time. The engine powering the platform would provide data on resource management and service operations that would benefit all players.

Where it stands: The industry is starting to pay attention.

  • A Deloitte article earlier this year argued that “cities likely need a comprehensive, interoperable system that transcends existing infrastructure, drives standardization and interoperability.”
  • As Here Mobility's Liad Itzhak put it: “Smart cities will need a platform, since mobility isn’t their core service. They’ll need the R&D that connects all the different mobility services independently.”

The bottom line: Shared AVs promise to make transit cheaper, safer and faster, with fewer vehicles moving more people. A centralized infrastructure would help realize this promise.

Raphael Gindrat is co-founder and CEO of Bestmile.

Go deeper

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Starting next season, MLB teams will be required to provide housing for minor league players.

Why it matters: "This is a historic victory," Harry Marino, director of the nonprofit Advocates for Minor Leaguers, told ESPN. It's also just the beginning of a fight for improved quality of life.

Poll: U.S. leadership approval rebounds from Trump low

A Gallup report published Tuesday found approval of United States leadership in 46 countries and territories hit 49% — up from 30% at the end of Donald Trump's presidency, and matching former President Obama's first year (2009).

Why it matters: Biden's efforts to reengage with the international community following the Trump administration appear to be improving the global approval ratings for U.S. leadership, though this poll does not take into account the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.

These technologies could bring America to net zero emissions by 2050

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The newest section of a project from Third Way, the Bipartisan Policy Project and Clean Air Task Force examines how energy breakthroughs could accelerate America's transition to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: The report chapter, provided first to Axios, is part of a broader effort known as the Decarb America Research Initiative, which explores the best ways to move the U.S. toward a net zero carbon emissions future by 2050.