Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Led by an ambitious state senator, Florida has become a hotbed for self-driving cars, thanks to its mild weather, unique demographics and lenient laws.
Why it matters: States at the forefront of autonomous vehicle testing stand to reap the economic benefits — and perhaps problems, too — of self-driving cars.
The driving force behind Florida's ascension is state Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, a former platoon leader in the Iraq War who, as a freshman legislator in 2011, turned to the internet to search for a "big idea" he could champion.
Then last June, Florida enacted a new law (co-sponsored by Brandes) that makes it even more attractive for companies to test and deploy AVs in the state.
What's happening: The AV-friendly environment has sparked plenty of activity in the Sunshine State, which recently launched the second phase of construction on SunTrax, a 475-acre AV testing facility near Orlando.
Other cutting-edge transportation technology is also being deployed in Florida.
The bottom line: More than 300,000 people a year are moving to Florida, already the country's third most populous state, with the population projected to hit 26 million by 2030. Growth like that requires preparation, says Brandes.
Plus.ai encountered sleet on its cross-country trek. Photo courtesy of Plus.ai
Self-driving truck company Plus.ai says it completed the first coast-to-coast commercial freight run with an autonomous truck.
Why it matters: Driving both day and night, Plus.ai completed the 2,800-mile trip from Tulare, California, to Quakertown, Pennsylvania, in less than three days, an important milestone in validating the system’s ability to safely handle a wide range of weather and road conditions.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
A new consortium is trying to wrangle how to manage and share data gathered from all those dockless scooters and e-bikes popping up in cities.
Why it matters: Scooter and bike trip patterns can yield a lot of valuable information that public agencies can use to manage their infrastructure and set regulations. But the push for data access also raises concerns about privacy.
What's happening: SAE International has pulled together cities, public agencies and micromobility providers like Uber, Lyft, Spin and Bird, to try to create best practices for sharing trip data.
Traffic in Seattle. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images
Ford and Microsoft have figured out how to leverage quantum computing — the powerful but not yet commercialized technology — to tackle traffic in Seattle.
Why it matters: By running quantum-inspired algorithms on conventional computer hardware, companies can process more data, giving them a head start on solving complex problems like how to direct thousands of vehicles simultaneously to smooth traffic flow.
In one scenario using Microsoft's approach, 5,000 vehicles — each with 10 possible routes — requested directions across Metro Seattle simultaneously.
Kansas City, Missouri, is set to offer free bus rides to all of its citizens, becoming a guinea pig for other large cities looking to improve access to transportation, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh writes.
Why it matters: "I think this is only the beginning for the next step in good transportation equity," Mayor Quinton Lucas told Axios.
The state of play: The base bus fare in Kansas City is currently $1.50, and a regular bus pass costs $50 a month.
What's next: Lucas hopes the buses will be completely free for all residents by June 2020.
Worth noting: Other places have free bus fare for residents, but it's mainly in college towns as a service for students and university employees such as Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or Ann Arbor, Michigan.
USMCA: Unions skeptical Trump’s trade deal will bring back auto jobs (Niraj Chokshi — The New York Times)
Market basket: Nuro’s driverless delivery robots will start serving Walmart customers in Houston (Andrew J. Hawkins — The Verge)
Signal static: FCC votes unanimously to open auto airwaves for WiFi (Margaret Harding McGill—Axios)
NACTOY finalist 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Photo: GM
In the next week, I and 49 other journalists must cast our final ballots for the 2020 North American car, truck and utility vehicle of the year.
Why it matters: I am trying to squeeze in extra seat time in the nine finalists that were announced in November, and my driveway has been extra crowded lately.
Here are some quick impressions of the top contenders, in no particular order:
Worth noting: We judge vehicles against competitors in their respective segments; not against each other.