Sep 14, 2018

U.S. cities building on Las Vegas' success with autonomous buses

A Navya Arma autonomous electric shuttle on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. Photo: Jason Ogulnik/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Last November, Las Vegas launched an autonomous bus route along a tourist-heavy stretch of Fremont Street, sponsored by AAA and using a Navya AV operated by Keolis Transit.

Why it matters: Cities across America are beginning to test driverless buses — including pilots in Austin and Detroit — but Las Vegas was the first to deploy them on public streets in mixed traffic, and its program is now the largest AV bus pilot in the U.S. Other than a first day snafu, when another truck ran into the AV, the service has run safely and without incident.

The details: The AV shuttle is a free service for Las Vegas visitors and residents that provides transit between the Downtown Container Park and the Fremont Street Experience. Passengers traverse eight city intersections, six traffic lights, and two stop signs — all without a driver, though the bus does host an onboard "attendant" who acts as an ambassador, educating riders on how the AV technology works.

Since launch, the service has transported more than 35,000 passengers, helping to test the acceptance of AVs in public transit. Early signs are positive: It has earned a passenger rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars for its driving, according to Francis Julien at Keolis Transit.

What to watch: The next step in the evolution of the service is to ensure infrastructure can support the evolving operational capabilities of the AVespecially as service expands to more and longer routes — and to make the bus more accessible to people with disabilities.

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

Go deeper

Bernie's plan to hike taxes on some startup employees

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced legislation that would tax nonqualified stock options at vesting, rather than at exercise, for employees making at least $130,000 per year.

The big picture: Select employees at private companies would be taxed on monies that they hadn't yet banked.

Judge rules against Trump policy limiting public comment on energy leasing

Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday overturned a 2018 Trump administration directive that sought to speed up energy leases on public land by limiting the amount of time the public could comment.

Why it matters: U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush's decision voids almost a million acres of leases in the West, according to The Washington Post. It's a victory for environmentalists, who tried to block the change as part of an effort to protect the habitat of the at-risk greater sage grouse.

  • The ruling invalidated five oil and gas leases in Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, and affected 104,688 square miles of greater sage-grouse habitat, per The Associated Press.
  • Leases in greater sage-grouse habitat will return to allowing 30 days of public comment and administrative protest.

The big picture: From Axios' Amy Harder, this is the latest in a long and convoluted list of regulatory rollbacks the Trump administration is pursuing on environmental rules that courts are, more often than not, rebutting. With Congress gridlocked on these matters, expect the courts to be the default way Trump's agenda faces checks (unless, of course, a Democrat wins the White House this November).

Your best defense against coronavirus

Photo: Adrian Greeman/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Washing your hands is the best way to protect against the novel coronavirus, according to doctors and health officials, as the virus continues to spread around the globe.

Why it matters: Frequent hand washing can stop germs from spreading in a community, a known preventative for COVID-19 and influenza.