Jan 3, 2020

Ride-sharing of the future

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Auto companies, counterintuitively, are trying to get people to give up their cars — by making shared transportation more appealing with vehicles that recognize you, anticipate your needs and customize your ride.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing apps are making urban congestion steadily worse. In San Francisco, people spent 62% more time sitting in traffic in 2016 than in 2010. Uber and Lyft admitted they're part of the problem.

Driving the news: In Las Vegas next week at CES, the world's largest tech show, carmakers and other suppliers will offer the most advanced look yet at their plans for ride-sharing of the future.

  • Continental, a big auto tech supplier, will showcase technology that builds trust by updating passengers on their ride status while providing tailored messages and information on points of interest, upcoming events or connecting transportation.
  • Valeo will demonstrate acoustic technology that uses active noise cancellation to create a personalized media and communication zone so passengers can select who in a shared vehicle can hear them speak, and when.

What they're saying: "We need to move beyond the car," argued Cruise CEO Dan Ammann in a recent blog post, a remarkable statement for a former president of General Motors, one of the world's largest carmakers.

  • Cruise, he wrote, plans to reduce congestion by making shared rides "more compelling by providing an awesome experience at a radically lower cost."
  • "If our roadways are not getting any bigger, we need to use them more effectively, which means shifting some people into higher-volume forms of transit," May Mobility CEO Alisyn Malek tells Axios.
  • "We don't pretend that self-driving cars as a technology platform can solve the larger-scale issues around congestion and efficiency," Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky said in an interview. But, he said, shared AVs can help by plugging gaps in existing transportation systems.

Yes, but: Convincing more people to use shared transportation is a hard sell, as Ford learned with its defunct Chariot private shuttle bus service.

  • Mass transit accounts for just 1% of all U.S. passenger miles traveled, and just 2% of total trips, according to the University of California-Davis.

The bottom line: With the right combination of incentives — something more than a comfortable seat and a robust internet connection — people might be persuaded to leave their cars at home.

  • The most important carrot could be convenience: In New York, bus ridership soared after a car ban on 14th Street cleared the way for buses, shortening travel time by 30%.

Go deeper

Cruise says new self-driving van will save passengers $5,000 a year

Cruise Origin, a driverless EV that Cruise plans to use for ride-sharing. (Photo: courtesy of Cruise)

Cruise unveiled a six-passenger, electric, driverless vehicle in San Francisco Tuesday night, heralding it as the start of a new era of low-cost, shared transportation that will save the average household $5,000 a year.

Why it matters: With no steering wheel, pedals or gasoline engine, the boxy Cruise Origin, co-developed with Honda, represents "the transportation system you’d build, if you could start from scratch," according to Cruise CEO Dan Ammann, a former president of General Motors.

Go deeperArrowJan 22, 2020

Everyone's piling into the car of the future

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Some of the biggest surprises at CES came from big-name companies that seemed to stray from their traditional expertise: Sony debuted an electric car, Hyundai introduced a flying taxi and Toyota launched an entire city.

Why it matters: The mobility mash-up shows how multiple industries are converging around their desire to own the transportation experience for consumers — whether they are riding alone, or with strangers, with a robot behind the wheel or soaring over cities.

Go deeperArrowJan 10, 2020

Texas commuters have the highest climate impact

Reproduced from StreetLight Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Transportation is a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, but the worst offenders aren't congested cities like New York and San Francisco. Instead, it's sprawling, car-dependent metros like Dallas and Houston, a new analysis finds.

Why it matters: Even dense, traffic-choked cities can offset their carbon output with better urban planning and other, cleaner forms of transportation, says StreetLight Data, which studied mobility behavior in 100 cities to create its new U.S. Transportation Climate Impact Index.

Go deeperArrowJan 17, 2020