Urban planning

Expert Voices

Ride-hailing caps don't address the root causes of urban congestion

A Lyft ride hailing vehicle moves through traffic in Manhattan on July 30, 2018 in New York City.
A Lyft ride-hailing car moves through traffic in Manhattan on July 30, 2018, in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Last week, New York City passed the nation’s first cap on new licenses for ride-hailing vehicles, like those driving for Uber and Lyft, citing in part concerns over worsening congestion and declining transit ridership. The decision represents the culmination of alarm over app-based ride-hailing companies and could serve as a blueprint for cities across the U.S.

Yes, but: Privately owned vehicles driven for personal use still dominate our transportation system, in large part because using one is cheap, fast and comfortable after the initial investment. Any regulatory solution to congestion must focus on personal vehicles first. Short of that, placing limits on Uber or Lyft will be a mere drop in the gas tank.

Expert Voices

Competing business models emerge as more AVs hit city streets

Waymo self-driving SUV
A Waymo self-driving vehicle in Mountain View, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As autonomous vehicle companies conduct more tests of robotaxis and autonomous shuttles, they are also experimenting with what business models will best support them. Waymo is testing trips funded by third-party businesses, Via and EasyMile are looking to city buses, and Lyft is piloting an autonomous ride option.

The big picture: Autonomous vehicles can become an on-the-road reality only when they become a business with paying customers. Finding these customers is one of the key questions raised by this potentially transformative technology.