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The Montrose Avenue overpass in Chicago. Photo: Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Cities are souring on the controlled chaos of current ride-hailing systems, and fleet management systems could work in concert with policy and infrastructure to mitigate the issue.

Why it matters: If autonomous vehicles make ride-hailing cheaper and more efficient, city traffic could slow even further — but fleet management systems could help cities manage the challenge, ideally before AVs are widely deployed.

Background: As of January 2019, 36% of American adults have used Lyft or Uber — up from 15% in 2015 — and automakers are optimistic that AVs could be more widely deployed in the next few years, including in ride-hailing fleets.

The impact:

  • Inefficiencies in routing and communication mean vehicles are idling in city centers and taking congested paths between destinations.
  • Ride-hailing was responsible for half of the slowdown in San Francisco's traffic from 2010 to 2016, its transportation authority estimates. A new Transport Policy study found that the deployment of 2,000 AVs in downtown San Francisco could bring traffic speeds down to 2 miles per hour.

Fleet management software could route vehicles around dense, highly trafficked areas on alternative routes. AVs in particular will need to be routed around areas with heavy traffic from the get-go, because once in traffic, they will likely remain on their programmed route.

Yes, but: Fleet management technology can't be deployed at scale without more accurate maps, directions that factor in a vehicle's capabilities, and idle vehicle management.

  • Companies like Toyota and Deepmap are developing HD maps using existing data from test AVs already in use.
  • There are tasks AVs currently cannot perform, like navigating through a construction site. Routing vehicles around their own limitations will be crucial.
  • Routing vehicles away from cities' thoroughfares while they're awaiting their next passenger could involve infrastructural solutions paired with tech solutions, like waiting lots near popular downtown pick-up and drop-off points.

The bottom line: Fleet management could begin to address congestion now, and prevent it from becoming far worse as AVs are introduced.

Chris Blumenberg is the co-founder and CTO of rideOS, which is developing transportation planning and mapping technologies.

Go deeper

4 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.

6 hours ago - World

Scoop: Germany urges Congress not to sanction Putin’s pipeline

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The German government has urged members of Congress not to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, arguing that doing so will "weaken" U.S. credibility and "ultimately damage transatlantic unity," according to documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: At a time when roughly 100,000 Russian troops are massing at its border, Ukraine views Nord Stream 2 as an existential threat to its security. The pipeline would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion.