Can Self Driving Cars Provide Cities a New Way to Understand Road Conditions?

roads

If you happen to drive, ride a bus, take the train, or hop in the occasional Uber or Lyft, you’ve likely experienced the deteriorating nature of roads and general infrastructure throughout the United States. Often littered with potholes, plagued by delays and cancellations, or just simply congested to the point of being useless, U.S. infrastructure is in dire need of rejuvenation. Just as manufacturers like Tesla, Ford, Mercedes, Apple, or General Motors race to roll out the newest and most advanced form of AV software and autonomous vehicles, drivers around the United States continue to wonder if American infrastructure will even be able to support the mobility 2.0 revolution when these new technologies hit the roadways. While the political environment around the United States feels more divided than ever, one thing most Americans do agree on one thing: immediate infrastructure investment.

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Inter Partes Review Appeals: The Federal Circuit's Standing Requirement

Patent

Under the America Invents Act, manufacturers possess a powerful tool for combatting overly broad competitor patents: inter partes review (IPR). IPR allows any party to challenge one or more patent claims by filing a petition with the Patent Trials and Appeals Board (PTAB) at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), showing that the challenged claims are likely invalid on specific grounds. A petitioner is not required to show that it has suffered actual injury due to the challenged patent. This means that anybody can challenge patent claims by IPR.

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Here Comes the U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement

Trade

The North American Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA for short – just took one step closer to no longer existing. As originally reported by the NY Times, the United States and Mexico announced that they had reached agreement on some key provisions that would change from the 24-year-old NAFTA.  Details are scarce, apparently in part because negotiations with Canada continue.  The reported details include:

  • At least 75% of a light vehicle’s value must be manufactured in North America (up from 62.5%) to qualify for zero tariffs.
  • Automakers will be required to use more local steel, aluminum, and auto parts.
  • A certain portion of the vehicle will be required to be made by workers earning at least $16/hour.

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Vehicle Subscription Plans Gaining More Attention, Scrutiny

Consumers are familiar with the two traditional options for vehicle ownership—buy a car, or lease a car.  However, a new option has been emerging in recent years: vehicle subscriptions.  A vehicle subscription includes a set monthly payment for a certain period of time- as short as a day or two or as long as several years.  The subscription generally includes insurance, vehicle registration, maintenance, and may include roadside assistance.  Depending on the service, a consumer can subscribe to one car, or to a fleet of cars to use on an as needed basis.

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Electric Scooter and Bike-Sharing Backlash Is Forcing Cities to Rethink Transit 2.0 Initiatives

Scooter

If you happen to live in, or have visited, a mid-size to large city in Canada or the United States over the past few years, you’ve likely seen a millennial cruise down the sidewalk on an electric scooter, sipping their Chai Tea latte on their way to eat some avocado toast at their local eating establishment. A modern play on the Razor scooters and Schwinn bikes of yester-year, these transit 2.0 systems are powered by rechargeable battery, rent by the minute to commuters in urban settings, and in some instances, can be left wherever the rider desires. These scooter and e-bike systems have popped up in cities around Canada and the United States, seemingly overnight. To some, these are seen as a salvation to the unending chaos and congestion of the urban commuting nightmare, and to others, they are simply a scourge on urban living.

Private companies that go by the name of Lime, Spin, Bird, MoGo, Divy, CitiBike, and others have slowly rolled out platforms to provide docked and dockless bike and scooter systems over the past few months. At times, this rollout has been in direct partnership with cities and community organizations as they look to expand the micro-transit infrastructure often lacking in urban cores and surrounding neighborhoods. But, as often the case, many of these systems have shown up abruptly, with little warning to the local community or government, and have left commuters and pedestrians to fend for themselves on city sidewalks and bike lanes. Unfortunately, the good-natured goal of these companies has often been cast by the wayside, literally, by local residents and city managers.

These companies have often envisioned their bikes and scooters to be utilized by residents and tourists as micro-commuting platforms throughout their neighborhoods and the city at large, as a means of filling the Last Mile gap left open by existing infrastructure. While some cities see these systems as another arrow in their transit infrastructure quiver, a growing group of local residents are finding these systems to be the bane of their existence. In many instances this discontent has been driven by the general lack of regulations surrounding their use and storage. Riders ride scooters and bikes in the road and on the sidewalk, with no regard for traffic patterns or traffic laws, and in some instance hitting pedestrians or cars, and driving off without providing information or assistance.

Cities are seeing harsh pushback from residents against these new aged scooters and bikes. In some instances finding them set on fire, thrown in bushes and trees, into waterways, into trashcans, and various other forms of vandalism. Their hatred hasn’t stopped there, with at least two Instagram pages, ScootersBehavingBadly and BirdGraveyard, recently being created where users can submit photos and videos showing their creative and destructive ways with these scooters and BirdGraveyard alone having more than 29,000 followers As a result, cities are starting to reconsider how these transit 2.0 systems can fit within their transit infrastructure web as a solution to the Last Mile issue.

We’ve previously discussed the Last Mile issue facing cities in our articles “Ride Sharing and Cities Team Up on Transit, Last Mile Issues”, “Fueled by Auto Industry Support, Bike Sharing Systems are Taking Over Cities”, and “Cities Need Autonomous Vehicles Just as Much as Autonomous Vehicles Need Roads to Drive Down”. In those articles we’ve discussed how even the most robust transit systems in cities around the US and the globe struggle with getting consumers from their origin to destination with ease. As we noted in those articles, the average commuter using bus, rail, or streetcar often have a mile or more of commute at the start and end of their trip left uncovered because traditional transit systems don’t adequately cover the route of the commuter. As a result, commuters often rely on other means of transit to get from point A to point B, including taxis, bikes, walking, ride-sharing, personal cars, and now electric scooter and bikes. While some cities are seeing these electric scooters and bikes as another means of filling the transit gap, there is a need to keep residents and non-scooter riders in mind within the transit framework and find that balance that fits for all stakeholders.