Mar 29, 2019

Self-driving cars need better infrastructure to operate

Clarence Anthony, CEO of the National League of Cities. Photo: Chuck Kennedy/Axios

Promising experiments with autonomous vehicles won’t go anywhere unless the U.S. figures out how to repair today’s broken infrastructure.

The big picture: Roads, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure in the U.S. received a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2017. The Trump administration and both parties in Congress agree infrastructure is a bipartisan issue, but they've made no progress in passing legislation.

What they're saying: At an Axios event I moderated yesterday in D.C., all four panelists — two members of Congress and two lobbyists — said roads and bridges need repair, but no one seemed sure how to pay for it.

  • Money authorized in 2015 for the short-term Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, runs out in 2020.
  • The Highway Trust Fund, which had been a stable source of road funding for decades, can't be sustained by the federal gas tax if the country is shifting to electric vehicles.
  • Motorists could be taxed for vehicle miles traveled instead, but that raises privacy concerns, noted D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“Policymakers need to take a step back and look at our funding structure ... we can't just rely on a gas tax. That's like funding your 401k with one stock that you know is going to go down.”
— Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)

Meanwhile, urban planners just want them to get on with it so they can keep up with changing technology.

  • “We have to take care of basic infrastructure while we also look at the flashy new technology coming," said Clarence Anthony, CEO of the National League of Cities. "Imagine AV systems being built on bad roads."
  • "Other countries are moving ahead pretty dramatically in this space," agreed Shailen Bhatt, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. "We entered the 21st Century at the top of the heap, but you don’t just stay there."

What to watch: After more than a year of inaction, President Trump and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle appear willing to start working together on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which could be considered by House committees as early as May.

Go deeper ... Hakeem Jeffries: Passing an infrastructure package is possible

Go deeper

Renewable energy industry eyes next coronavirus stimulus bill

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The renewable energy sector is pressing for the "phase 4" coronavirus response bill to provide the aid that was omitted from the recent $2 trillion rescue package — and they might have a wider opening this time around.

Why it matters: Wind and solar developers are warning of project cancelations and layoffs as activity is frozen, supply chains are disrupted, and companies risk missing deadlines to use tax credits.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 874,081 — Total deaths: 43,291 — Total recoveries: 185,194.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 189,633 — Total deaths: 4,081 — Total recoveries: 7,136.
  3. Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index: It's "a tale of two Americas" — as the rich are more likely to work from home and the poor are more likely to report to work.
  4. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  5. Coronavirus in custody: Inmates in all federal prisons are set to enter a 14-day quarantine on April 1.
  6. 2020 updates: Joe Biden said it's "hard to envision" the Democratic National Convention going ahead as planned in July.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Americans feel better about their finances after coronavirus stimulus

Data: Axios/Ipsos survey, margin of error ranges from ±5 to ±9 percentage points; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Americans have become more optimistic about the state of their finances in the last week, a new survey from Axios and Ipsos shows.

The state of play: While some remain worried, particularly those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, the data shows people are more confident about the security of their jobs and ability to take care of expenses after the passage of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.