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Photo: AMoTech

With public transportation ridership declining across the board and labor costs remaining high, cities such as Las Vegas, Jacksonville and Austin, are exploring how autonomous vehicles can fill in key gaps, whether by taking over routes with lower ridership or providing first- and last-mile trips to transit centers.

What to watch: Bus travel presents a prime opportunity to capitalize on autonomy, but will passengers feel comfortable boarding a bus with no driver? So far, a number of cities have piloted the use of autonomous shuttles for tourists (as Las Vegas has on Fremont Street), on closed corporate campuses and on divided roads. A permanent, fixed, open-road bus route has yet to launch in the U.S., but the town of Neuhausen, Switzerland, is pioneering one.

Since March 2018, the Neuhausen transit authority has been operating a Navya 11-passenger autonomous bus (nicknamed “Trapizio”) on a regular fixed route, integrated into its public transit bus system.

Instead of a driver, the vehicle hosts a “steward” who welcomes passengers and can control the vehicle if necessary as it makes a 10-minute loop through town. After 8,000 rides on Trapizio, the city is already looking to add a second route.

The bottom line: Neuhausen shows that AVs are ready for public transit prime time. To make it work, transit agencies will need government support for vehicle licensing and authority to operate on open roads, as well as riders trusting enough to board a bus with no steering wheel.

Paul Comfort is vice president of business development at Trapeze Group and the former CEO of the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore.

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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

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The big picture: Positive fourth quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. (Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images)

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.

Trump gives farewell address: "We did what we came here to do"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump gave a farewell video address on Tuesday, saying that his administration "did what we came here to do — and so much more."

Why it matters, via Axios' Alayna Treene: The address is very different from the Trump we've seen in his final weeks as president — one who has refused to accept his loss, who peddled conspiracy theories that fueled the attack on the Capitol, and who is boycotting his successor's inauguration.