It didn’t take long for Waze to get a foothold in the transportation space. The company launched in 2009 and today boasts millions of drivers who use the community-based GPS navigation app to help get them from point A to point B, notify them of speed traps and avoid traffic jams. It also didn’t take long for cities to take notice and ask for a peek at the traffic insights Waze was amassing. Thais Blumenthal de Moraes, the global lead of the Waze Connected Citizens Program, told GCN that the partnerships between cities and Waze all started with Rio de Janeiro in the run-up to the 2016 summer Olympics when the city wanted insight on where to build infrastructure to support the games.
Lyft filed confidentially for an initial public offering of stock, pulling out ahead of Uber Technologies in the race among ride-sharing companies to go public. San Francisco-based Lyft has submitted early stage documentation for its IPO, according to a statement Thursday. It has not yet determined how many shares it will sell in the listing or the potential price range for the stock.
Speaking as part of a panel, “Blockchain: The Connectivity Cure” during the Automobility LA conference and expo, Naghmana Majed, Automotive and A&D Solutions Leader at IBM, offered some sobering commentary on the state of Blockchain. “I see a lot of hype with Blockchain,” Majed said. “[But] we have to make some conscious decisions and ask, is this a good use case.” Majed’s comments went to the core of what Blockchain technology as a whole has been grappling with—even beyond the automotive space. With the value of Bitcoin no longer skyrocketing, Blockchain is still looking for a killer use case. And while there is plenty of excitement about applying the distributed ledger technology beyond cryptocurrency and into enterprise and commercial applications, the Automobility LA panel noted some significant challenges ahead.
Google’s self-driving car spinoff is finally ready to try to profit from its nearly decade-old technology. Waymo is introducing a small-scale ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area that will include a human behind the wheel in case the robotic vehicles malfunction. The service debuting Wednesday marks a significant milestone for Waymo, a company that began as a secretive project within Google in 2009. Since then, its cars have robotically logged more 10 million miles on public roads in 25 cities in California, Arizona, Washington, Michigan and Georgia while getting into only a few accidents — mostly fender benders.
Cities have historically been shaped by the way people travel. American cities have morphed and expanded with changes in transportation systems from the walking city (pre-1880), to a period with streetcars (1880 to 1920) to our current automobile city (post-1920 but mostly after the freeway era started in 1945). The dense mixed-use agglomeration of residences and workplaces in the pre-automobile era have now been broken up with the addition of sprawling suburbs and dispersed industrial districts. If shared driverless vehicles turn out to be as inexpensive, convenient and safe as expected, and they become the dominant mode of transport for a large section of the population, how would our cities change?
Lyft now controls the largest bike-share service in the United States. On Thursday, Lyft—known best for its rivalry with Uber to dominate the ride-sharing landscape—completed its acquisition of Motivate, the largest purveyor of bike-share systems across the country, servicing cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington. In fact, last year, 80 percent of bike-share rides in the U.S. used Motivate bikes, according to Lyft. In tandem, the City of New York announced it had signed off on a dramatic expansion of Motivate’s (now Lyft’s) service there, Citi Bike. Lyft will spend $100 million over the coming five years to triple the number of bikes available and to double the total area covered, eventually reaching roughly 40,000 bikes and 70 square miles.
More than a year ago, New Star, a Chicago Heights-based nonprofit that assists people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, started work on solving a problem that faces many of its clients — access to transportation. Most of the people New Star works with don’t drive, and using public transportation can be a challenge, Dan Strick, chief executive said. Also, they and their families don’t always feel comfortable using ride sharing services, he said. New Star hopes a new web and mobile application it expects to roll out next year, called SCOOT, will change that. Similar to Uber or Lyft, SCOOT, or Stronger Communities through Open and Organized Transportation, will make available drivers specifically trained in working with people with disabilities, and with vehicles specially equipped to transport them, Strick said.
Airbnb announced Thursday that it will begin testing prototype homes as soon as next year to accommodate the needs of owners or occupants who rent and share living spaces. The new project, called Backyard, is “an initiative to prototype new ways that homes can be designed, built, and shared,” the company said in a news release. Just as the company changed the way homeowners use their spare rooms, Airbnb said it would extend its thinking to architecture and construction more broadly. Backyard will assess how novel manufacturing techniques, connected devices and feedback from Airbnb customers can be used to design new types of buildings that adapt to flexible living arrangements.
Reversing decades of car-focused transportation in the United States will have to be led by cities. And if they can effectively get people out of their cars, this could be one of the biggest steps toward sustainability and slowing climate change. Cities “need to be the captain of your entire system,” said Andreas Mai, executive vice president of market development and innovation at transportation company Keolis. “And when I say, ‘entire system,’ I mean entire system. Every piece of the road, including parking, including biking, including e-hailing.”
When Uber, Airbnb and similar platforms were young and tiny, it was easy to believe that a global revolution would liberate more informal economic activity. Out with professional drivers, limousines and hotels; in with amateurs, bicycles and shared couches! It was an appealing vision, rooted in the countercultural rebellion against authority, hierarchy and expertise. That vision, however, lacked one thing: backing from political parties or social movements. Those parties, once in power, could have ensured that local platforms had adequate public funding not to be subject to the brutal laws of competition, protecting them from deep-pocketed commercial competitors. A similar effort in the previous century, a political project par excellence, gave us the welfare state. Instead of opening the provision of education or healthcare services to private providers, we deliberately sealed those domains from the pressures of the market. The welfare state that emerged had some hierarchical excesses, but it was a reasonable compromise, given the political and technological limitations of that era. Today, one can imagine a more horizontal provision of such services, more respectful of local autonomy, democratic decision-making and individual idiosyncrasies. The same goes for the economy as a whole.