How Do You Buy a Million Cars When You Can’t Make a Dime?

Burney Simpson

The summer of 2016 is proving a topsy-turvy time for driverless industry as headwinds buffet ridesharing technology firms Uber and Lyft and auto OEMs foresee fully autonomous vehicles in a few years.

Isn’t this supposed to be a quiet time for business? Take a breather, sit by the water, and eat some Michigan cherry burgers.

Not in transportation technology.

For instance, Ford announced it was working to launch fully autonomous automobiles by 2021. BMW, Intel and Mobileye joined to say they will have vehicles in production for the same target date. Ridesharing titan Uber says it will launch this month driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh, though some employees will be in the car to ensure safety.

Forget the 10 years down the road baloney. We’ll be Level 4 Autonomous in three to five years.

Yet for all the excitement there’s been some downer news.

A number of outlets reported that Lyft was seeking a buyer, despite the $500 million that GM pumped into it earlier this year. (Lyft later denied the buyer story, blaming it on archrival Uber). Earlier this year Lyft pledged to its investors to keep its U.S. losses under $50 million a month.

And Bloomberg reported that Uber told its investors it lost $520 million in the first quarter, and more than $750 million in the second. This after losing about $2 billion in 2015. That must have played a part in Uber’s decision to sell its China operations to competitor Didi Chuxing.


It’s valuable to keep in mind the shaky foundations of Uber and Lyft because the two have been touted as an important foundation for the growth of autonomous vehicles.

Supposedly car owners are going to shift to ridesharing to get around, abandon their cars, and start trying out all kinds of shared transportation options. That means mass transit, bike share, car share, semi-customized bus lines, even walking for crying out loud.

No more Single Occupancy Vehicles. American commuters unite. You have nothing to lose but your fat guts and bubbly butts.

The theory is that Uber, Lyft and other transportation providers will buy hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of autonomous vehicles from BMW, GM, Ford, etc.

They’ll phase out their human drivers, the most expensive part of their operations, and offer driverless vehicles that get you to work. For the ride home you’ll be allowed to drink and not drive. Just in time for legal marijuana baby!

Moovel2But if these guys can’t make money now, how do they buy/lease a million high-tech autonomous cars? Does Uber go back to investors like Goldman Sachs and Benchmark Capital for another $16 billion? It sounds like investors have told Lyft to stop the losses, despite whatever it denies.

Look, there’s been some great news for the ride sharers too. Lyft provided nearly 14 million rides in July, while Uber churned out 62 million.

Lyft President John Zimmer told Business Insider his company is on its way to providing $2 billion worth of rides. Uber, valued at $69 billion, will use the $1 billion it received from Didi to get out of China to grow in Southeast Asia or battle Lyft in the U.S.

But consider this – investors can be fickle, as proven by several tech bubbles already this century; Lehman Brothers is just the latest giant to have a huge valuation before it crumbled; and the stock market is hitting record levels.

Transportation technology offers an intriguing mix of glamour and grease that the VC geniuses love. For the rest of us it’s vital to see through the glamourous front so we don’t slip on the grease.

Graphics from Ford, Car2Go.

Daimler Moving on Mobility with MyTaxi, Moovel

Burney Simpson

Daimler used its Moovel subsidiary in July to continue its aggressive approach to new mobility with investments in Europe and hiring in the U.S. The two actions suggest Daimler won’t stop moving on its ridesharing and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offerings.

The auto OEM bought 60 percent of Hailo, a ridesharing firm with a checkered past that has a strong presence in the United Kingdom, TechCrunch reports.

Daimler then merged Hailo with MyTaxi, a ridesharing app owned by its subsidiary Moovel. The merged firm will be known as MyTaxi and headquartered in Hamburg.

Connected-Car2The new MyTaxi claims 100,000 registered drivers serving 70 million customers in 50 cities across nine countries in Europe, making it one of the leading ridesharing firms on the Continent.

MyTaxi will be led by Andrew Pinnington, the current CEO of Hailo. Daimler named Niclaus Mewes, the founder of MyTaxi’s parent, a managing director of Daimler Mobility Services.

Terms of the deal weren’t released though Pinnington told Reuters that under the all-share deal Daimler will own 60 percent of MyTaxi, while Hailo stakeholders will hold 40 percent.

Hailo had been strong in the U.K. and Ireland while MyTaxi has operations in Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Hailo closed down its U.S. operations in 2014 while facing tough competition from Uber and Lyft.

Auto OEMs are moving on ridesharing firms this year with GM investing $500 million in Lyft and Volkswagen putting $300 million into Gett.


Meanwhile in the U.S., Moovel North America spirited Matt Jones away from Jaguar Land Rover and named him its chief product officer. He will work out of Moovel NA’s Portland, Ore., headquarters.

Jones will oversee Moovel NA’s “urban mobility products,” according to a press release. While it wasn’t clear from the release what that meant, it suggested that Jones will work to create an integrated transportation service that consumers can control with their smartphones.

These services may range from public and private transit to car-sharing, ride sharing, bike sharing, and other transportation offerings. Consumers will use their phones to access, research, schedule, pay for, and keep track of the services. These MaaS products may be offered on a subscription or an as-needed basis.

At Jaguar Jones oversaw global efforts to develop and implement in-dash and mobile apps for vehicle routing, information and entertainment systems.

Daimler created Moovel North America in April by combining two of its purchases — GlobeSherpa and RideScout.

C2go2GlobeSherpa is a mobile booking and ticketing service for public transit agencies, while RideScout brought the transportation app. (See “Daimler Gets Moovel-ing on Mobility as a Service”).

Moovel NA began beta-testing in Portland this spring an app that combined transit ticketing with the ability to call a Lyft vehicle or a Car2go, another Daimler subsidiary.

Car2go is a car-sharing service where consumers use an app to reserve and then drive its two-passenger vehicles. Car2go’s 1.3 million registered members can rent the vehicles by the minute, hour, or day. According to its website Car2go operates in 28 cities in nine countries.

Silicon Valley Takes On Smart Mobility

Burney Simpson

Silicon Valley is in the middle of changing the way workers get to work. Then again, maybe not.

The Smart Mobility office of Joint Venture Silicon Valley (JVSV) seeks to implement several new transportation systems that will get people out of their cars, use public transit and bikes, and spew fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

This massive change relies in part on new technology developed by the growing autonomous driving industry.

The problem is that the Smart Mobility group doesn’t have the authority to force commuters to change. Further, the new technology is still being tested or has yet to find a large group of users to make it commercially viable.


Instead, Smart Mobility must rely on employers and staff to make the effort to get off their butts and make a difference. Employers have to see savings, or even revenue generation, while employees must be rewarded in some way.

No doubt the Bay Area has some serious traffic issues.

Congestion around San Francisco is ranked by Inrix as second worst in the nation, behind only Los Angeles and tied with Washington, D.C. San Francisco commuters wasted 75 hours sitting in traffic in 2015.

Steve Raney, executive director of the mobility group, believes that the best way to cut congestion and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) travel from 75 percent of travel in the Bay to 50 percent of travel.


Image by

That would mean cutting 1 million car trips a day from the current 3 million. If that happened it would eliminate 1.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to a white paper from the mobility group.

Raney points to work done with Stanford University as one path to cutting SOV commutes.

Stanford began by charging its SOV commuters $3 a day to park at the school, a benefit it had previously offered for free. It then ‘feebated’ that revenue to its commuters that walked, biked, took a shuttle bus, used the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA), or CalTrans, or the on-demand rideshare.

(A feebate is a system of charges and rebates designed to reward or penalize energy-efficient practices.)

As a result, Stanford reduced its SOV numbers from 75 percent of commutes to 49 percent, according to Raney. The school then saved the $107 million it had planned to spend on new parking facilities, he says.

In essence, Stanford replaced free parking with a shared travel benefit.

“Free parking for employees is a tradition,” says Raney. “(Employers) can phase in a charge of $3 for driving alone, or make it free to bike or walk. Just shift the dollar around for vehicles.”

The feebate concept was the most viable way to implement change when compared to such proposals as increasing the gas tax or imposing road user charges or implementing workplace parking charges, according to Raney’s research.

Feebates is just one aspect of the ‘Reducing Bay Area Commuting by 25%’ white paper from the JVSV mobility group.


Its Fair Value Commuting solution includes another four components, much of it relying on new technology associated with the developing autonomous driving industry:

  • The Enterprise Commute Trip Reduction (ECTR) is software from such firms as Luum and RideAmigos that allow employers to track staff commutes, and offer commute incents/de-cents.
  • Mobility Aggregation (MobAg) apps track and display multiple travel options – public/private transit, rideshare, carshare, bikeshare, van pool, etc. Vendors include Moovit, Transit App, Urban Engines, TripGo, Swiftly, Moovel, and Siemens. (In a perfect world, MobAg apps will also offer payment capabilities and update the ECTR so the employer can track employee activity).
  • Gap Filling is a catchall term for more transportation options and payment ideas, with a focus on first mile/last mile challenges. Gap fillers can range from low-income transit subsidies to Lyft/Uber peer-to-peer rideshare, escooters, public microtransit (VTA Flex3), private microtransit (Bridj, Chariot), private motorcoach (RidePal), telecommuting, and autonomous microtransit (EasyMile).
  • Systemic Obstacles refers to developing uniform payment systems and integrated routes by multiple transit agencies; developing an interoperable mobility software system.

The white paper concedes that much of this infrastructure is not in place. The MobAg apps are still gestating, the ECTR software needs to add features, and the public is catching up with all the gapfillers.

For example, payment apps do not allow for interoperability between the two dozen transit systems in the Bay area alone.

The Daimler purchase of smartphone e-ticketing firm Globe Sherpa might address this when its capabilities are combined with Daimler-owned RideScout. Still, this is a work in progress.


And even the feebate concept gets pushback despite its proven benefits. One Joint Venture collaborator notes that many employers don’t do feebates even when it may be in their best interest.

Raney is moving forward, saying that in September he will get an answer on four grant proposals that would allow him to expand his research and membership.

Meanwhile, he has drafted a proposal for the California legislature that would put a cap on free parking benefits an employer could provide to staff that commute in Single Occupancy Vehicles. The employer starts paying a fee when the percent of its SOV commuters tops a defined threshold.

America’s SOV mode of commuting once sold cars and built the wide-open freeways that took us to suburbia. Today it means congested highways filled with greenhouse gas delivery devices. It could take decades for the nation to break its SOV habit.


Photo by Coolcaeser.

Shared Mobility Cuts Car Ownership, Remakes Transit: Study

Burney Simpson

Car ownership can be reduced if public transit agencies and shared mobility firms expand their partnerships and implement new ways to track their success, according to a new report sponsored by the Transportation Research Board.

The report “Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit” was designed to find if shared mobility forms can help reduce car ownership and increase use of public transit.

The study was conducted by the Shared-Use Mobility Center in Chicago. The research included participation from seven city areas: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.

Self-driving vehicles are often lumped under the shared mobility platform, with ridesharing firms like Uber and Lyft making strategic plans to buy and operate driverless cars to reduce personnel costs.

carsharing2The report found that travelers that most actively used shared modes of transit were those that used transit frequently, owned fewer cars, and had reduced transportation spending.

These “Supersharers” of such services as bike sharing, carsharing, and ridesourcing report the greatest transportation savings and that they own half as many cars as people who use transit alone.

Supersharers owned 0.72 cars per household compared with the 1.05 cars per household owned by travelers that had used at least one of these sharing modes. Those that had used only public transit as a shared mode reported owning 1.5 cars per household.

The survey was conducted last September-October of more than 4,550 adults in the seven city study markets. Participants used one or more of the shared use modes, including transit.


The report recommended that public transit agencies transform themselves into mobility agencies. This includes “spreading awareness and training people how to use the full mobility menu to reduce the need for personal vehicles.”

In addition, public transit agencies have to change their metrics for measuring success:

“Current metrics that are focused solely on operational measures such as route ridership, unlinked trips, passenger revenue miles, or road capacity and congestion are not sufficient for gauging performance in the expanding mobility ecosystem.

“Improved metrics should take into account the entire mobility picture, including increases in linked, multimodal trips and reductions in solo car trips, vehicle miles traveled, and transportation-related climate impacts.”

The report examines the relationship of public transportation to shared modes, including bike sharing, carsharing, microtransit, and ridesourcing services. Paratransit and demand responsive services are also reviewed.

An earlier version of the study was released in March under the auspices of the American Public Transportation Association.

Study methodology included: In-depth interviews with transportation officials; a survey of shared mobility users; analysis of transit and ridesourcing capacity, demand, and comparative travel times; an assessment of practices and regulations relating to paratransit provision; and a compilation of current business models and public-private partnerships that build on new technologies from the emerging shared mobility sector.

The newly-released study is in pre-publication form and was conducted on behalf of the Transportation Research Board’s Transit Cooperative Research Program.

The TRB is co-hosting this week the Automated Vehicles Symposium 2016 in San Francisco with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Photos by Uber, goDCgo.

Ridesharing Galore: Here Come the Auto OEMs

Dominique Bonte

There’s been an avalanche of ridesharing announcements from auto OEMs in the last seven months:

  • BMW & Scoop– BMW iVentures venture capital arm announced an investment of an undisclosed amount in California-based carpooling service Scoop Technologies.
  • Volkswagen & Gett– VW is investing $300 million in Israel-based, low-cost ridesharing player Gett, which is active in more than 60 cities worldwide, including London, Moscow, and New York.
  • Toyota & Uber– Mainly a strategic partnership with a MoU to explore cooperation, but Toyota also announced an undisclosed investment from Toyota Financial Services Corporation and Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership.
  • Apple & Didi Chuxing– Auto OEM in the making? Apple splashing out $1 billion on Uber rival Didi Chuxing (which itself took a stake in Lyft earlier this year).
  • GM & Lyft– GM invested $500 million in Lyft, then said it would launch the autonomous Chevy Bolt taxi based on technology from GM-owned Cruise Automation.
  • nuTonomy & Ford – Driverless car-sharing company nuTonomy raising $16 million through Ford Chairman Bill Ford.

This starts looking like a gold rush, with major auto OEM brands hurrying to partner with the leading car-sharing initiatives, taking the competition to another level by helping them increase their respective ridesharing market shares.

Clearly, the major automotive brands are afraid to miss the boat on ridesharing. Any remaining independent ridesharing outfit must be looking at this trend, greedily waiting for other car brands to move in.

In the margins of this, the ridesharing paradigm keeps evolving at full speed, either adding functionality like Lyft’s Scheduled Rides or increasing safety, with Uber China testing Face++ facial recognition technology to check driver identification.

At the same time, controversy around the on-demand economy is not expected to calm down any time soon. Local initiatives like non-profit RideAustin trying to fill in the ridesharing void left by Uber and Lyft is testimony to the ongoing legal turmoil.


Remarkably, auto OEMs seem to be taking a 180-degree turn: from traditional first-generation car sharing, in which many OEMs have invested by setting up their own operations or JVs in the past years (Daimler car2go, BMW DriveNow, Ford partnering with Zipcar), toward taking stakes in ridesharing ventures.

It seems they finally realize “car sharing 1.0” is not scalable, and instead, must move to “car sharing 2.0,” a.k.a. ridesharing. And they are already looking toward the “car sharing 3.0” era of driverless taxis.

Visit ABI Research for more from Dominique Bonte.

While auto OEMs could still own and control first-generation car sharing, in ridesharing they are relegated to a role of minority investors, which still allows them to have a front row seat to observe the dynamics of the unfolding car-sharing economy.

How serious are auto OEMs about embracing the car-sharing paradigm, killing their own century-old, ownership-based business model? Don’t they still want to sell (more) vehicles?

Lyft_PressKit_04Or, are they starting to understand the ultimate transformative paradigm shift their industry will go through: from business-to-consumer to business-to-business commercial models?

In the future, vehicles will no longer be sold directly to consumers but to fleets of shared, electric, driverless cars. It’s hard to think of a more transformative transition.

It becomes increasingly clear that the high-tech vehicles of the future will only thrive in an automotive industry dominated by on-demand business models.


A never-ending series of consumer surveys keeps pointing out that consumers are not really interested in electric or autonomous vehicles.

What they are interested in is simple: convenient, safe, and affordable transportation. In other words, they want “mobility as a service.” Consumers will embrace electrification and autonomy, not as owners, but as users of seamless ride-hailing services.

It is pointless to position automotive technology with consumers; the focus should be on the service. And it seems this message is finally hitting home in the boardrooms of auto OEMs.

Whether future auto OEMs will run their own car-sharing fleets or sell their vehicles to Uber-like organizations doesn’t really matter.

They will have to exit the consumer car-selling business in both cases, either turning into service organizations or supplying vehicles to third-party mobility providers.

The message for the automotive industry is becoming clear: aim for “smart mobility as a service” and all the (technology) pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. It is possible we have just witnessed the very first evidence of the start of this new era, with Toyota joining forces with Uber.

For more information, visit ABI Research.

East Coast DOT’s Get Ready for Connected & Automated Vehicles

East Coast transportation officials gathered this week near Baltimore to catch up with the latest in autonomous activity at the ‘Connected & Automated Vehicles: What States Need to Know’ conference.

The event was organized and led by the I-95 Corridor Coalition, a partnership of state departments of transportation and related agencies in the 16-state region from Maine to Florida. Roads in these states account for 16 percent of the nation’s road miles and 35 percent of vehicle miles traveled.

The conference was designed to explain the importance of connected and automated technology, update officials on activities in the sector nationwide, and help assist states in developing next steps, said Dr. Trish Hendren, executive director of the Coalition.

About 200 registered for the conference at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum, Md.

Much of the conference was devoted to officials from state DOTs and related agencies updating each other on activities within their borders.

Here are some highlights from the first day of the conference –


A number of state DOT officials stressed how connected technology may help save the agency some bucks. Virginia DOT’s Dean Gustafson noted that Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications could mean the elimination of various signs and traffic signals that cost as much as $1 billion to develop, install, maintain.

Joah Sapphire, who has worked on the New York DOT’s connected efforts for Global Dynamic Group, suggested that a DOT could look at individual line items and find savings. For example, information gathered through connected tech could help New York reduce the $417 million it spends annually on salt and sand to treat roads during bad weather.

New York is already testing driverless trucks to be used in work zones that could make the space safer for crews, said Sapphire.

Gustafson said that states have to work together so communication systems work across borders. He acknowledged that states can be very competitive, especially when they seek research dollars or revenues from technology.

“It will be hard to compete with Michigan and the auto industry there. And Silicon Valley and venture capital (in California),” said Gustafson, state operations engineer. 

(However, Virginia is no slouch, busy testing with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, expanding its testbed last year to include parts of Washington Beltway, the Federal Highway Administration working on parts of Virginia’s Connected Corridors, and more ongoing projects.)

Gregory C. Johnson, state highway administrator for Maryland, said that states should look to ways to monetize the V2I technology and the highway land they own. “I’m looking for a state to come up with that magic bullet (of monetization) so I can copy them,” said Johnson.


Gene Donaldson, TMC operations manager with the Delaware DOT, said he has insisted the state install information-gathering technology whenever it lays down highways. And he teased the crowd by saying a certain firm asked Delaware if it could run its autonomous vehicle across the state to Pennsylvania. (The answer was yes as Delaware law doesn’t forbid it, said Donaldson. He wouldn’t name the firm.)

However, he warned that schools aren’t training enough people today in technology already installed, like traffic signals. How do you take advantage of V2I technology if you don’t have staff ready to work with it, asked Donaldson.


Several officials gave reports of strong research they are doing on connected and autonomous technology.

Dr. Gene McHale of the FHWA talked about research conducted in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The FHWA is testing connected vehicle tech with the 5.9 GHz band at nearby air bases and labs, and on I-66 in Virginia. One finding — 22 percent fuel savings when fully automated ‘glide path’ systems are used so vehicles avoid stopping at intersections.

Mark Kopko, manager of advanced vehicle technology with the Pennsylvania DOT, said the state is operating three testbeds with more than 20 intersections equipped with DSRC technology around Pittsburgh. Keystone State’s jewel is Carnegie Mellon, a robotics and autonomous technology leader.

The Pennsylvania legislature could soon consider SB 1268 that will allow NHTSA Level 4 testing, said Kopko. If approved, Pennsylvania will have greater leeway in driverless testing, and it already has plans regarding truck platooning.


Adam Jonas, a transportation analyst with Morgan Stanley, woke up the crowd after lunch with a presentation on the changes coming to the transportation business.

The ‘shared autonomy’ industry will be led by giants like Apple and Google who develop driverless vehicles that offer personalized transportation services akin to what Uber and Lyft are doing today, Jonas predicted.

People worldwide now ride a total of 10 trillion miles annually, said Jonas, and at $1 a mile, the market for transporting people is $10 trillion.

That’s an intriguing figure but the real money comes when the ‘megafleet’ operators sell to advertisers and others the eyeballs of riders sitting in the driverless cars.

Increased safety and reduction in deaths and injuries that connected technology brings will encourage citizens to shift to driverless vehicles and give up some privacy, Jonas argued.

Also, Jonas predicted a public/private partnership between a city and business in 2018 or 2019 will set aside an area exclusive to operating connected and/or automated vehicles. He declined to name the city.


Several speakers suggested the state officials may want to leave comments for the Federal Communications Commission as it considers whether to open up the 5.9 GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi communications.

In brief, the federal government set this section of the spectrum aside in 1999 for transportation safety messages using Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). Connected vehicle proponents want to keep this space for this use as the technology grows.

Telecommunications firms have asked the FCC to allow them to use at least part of the 5.9 band. These firms say they will use it to offer bandwidth for Wi-Fi as it surges in popularity.

“The wireless community is very vocal,” said Blair Anderson, deputy administrator with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Dr. Gummada Murthy, associate director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, is fighting to keep the band reserved for transportation-related uses.  

“We don’t want to share it unless you can prove that sharing it will not compromise safety,” said Murthy.

He’s holding a webinar on June 30 for state DOT and local officials that will encourage them to send official comments to the FCC on DSRC.


A number of these East Coast speakers attended last week’s ITS America 2016 conference in San Jose. General impression was the technology was impressive, the number of connected and autonomous projects was impressive, the conference was impressive. Etc.


HERE announced it had been selected by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to provide its real-time traffic data for the state’s roadways. North Carolina joins seven other East Coast states in using Here’s Real-time Traffic Services.

North Carolina DOT chose Here through the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s Vehicle Probe Project that is designed so states and others can purchase, validate and share data.


Interesting to see who is spending some money to catch the eye of East Coast transportation officials. Conference sponsors included Ch2m, HNTB, Inrix, Jacobs, National Energy Research Laboratory (NREL), and WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Exhibitors included Cambridge Systematics, CATT Lab from the University of Maryland, Consensus Systems Technologies, HERE, Inrix, Kapsch TrafficCom, Kimley-Horn, NREL, and Southwest Research Institute.

The I-95 Corridor Coalition addresses such major topics as alternative transportation system funding, freight supply chain, MAP-21, FAST Act implementation, tolling issues, and connected and automated vehicles.

New Self-Driving Olli Shuttle ‘Talks’ with Passengers

Burney Simpson

Another firm joined the autonomous vehicle world today as Local Motors rolled out its Olli self-driving shuttle that comes with IBM Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

The electric-powered vehicle carries up to 12 passengers and was designed by Edgar Sarmiento. It is manufactured by Local Motors at its headquarters in Chandler, Ariz., and comes with more than 30 embedded sensors.

The Olli was officially launched in Oxen Hill, Md., in suburban Washington, D.C., at a new Local Motors outlet.

Local Motors is a tech firm that created the Strati, a 3D printed car.

The Olli is designed for multi-passenger transit, and resembles a similar autonomous, electric vehicle from France’s Navya Technology.

Plans call for the Olli to operate on some Washington-area roads, and operate later this year in Miami-Dade County and Las Vegas.

Local Motors says that Olli is the first vehicle to utilize the cloud-based cognitive computing capability of IBM Watson IoT giving it the capability to analyze and learn from transportation data.

The vehicle also uses four Watson developer APIs — Speech to Text, Natural Language Classifier, Entity Extraction and Text to Speech – so passengers can talk to the vehicle as it is moving.

IBM reports that the shuttle can “understand and respond to passengers’ questions as they enter the vehicle, including about destinations (“Can you take me downtown?”) or specific vehicle functions (“how does this feature work?”).”

Olli will also give recommendations on restaurants or places to visit.

“Cognitive computing provides incredible opportunities to create unparalleled, customized experiences for customers, taking advantage of the massive amounts of streaming data from all devices connected to the Internet of Things, including an automobile’s myriad sensors and systems,” Harriet Green, an IBM Watson general manager, said in a press release.

Local Motors lists a number of partners on the Olli, in addition to IBM. They include German engineering firm Roding, driving system provider Paravan, composite manufacturer Forward Engineering, autonomous-vehicle company Meridian Autonomous Systems, and others.

Mobility As A Service in the US – Who’s the Bank?

Burney Simpson

The time seems right for Mobility as a Service (MAAS). Travelers are looking to cut costs, congestion, and the bother of owning a vehicle. And autonomous technology and driverless vehicles could bring costs down so MAAS would be affordable for the masses.

A successful MAAS program will need a mix of transportation providers like public transit, privately-held firms like Uber and Lyft, shuttle and bus services, bike share programs, traditional taxi firms, car-share outfits like car2go, and others depending on the metro area.

But any MAAS project will also need three behind-the-scenes providers to grease the wheels.

Those are an app creator, a data analyzer, and a bank, said Tim Papandreou, director, Office of Innovation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“You need an entity that can create and maintain the app, (and an entity) to gather and analyze the data so transportation options are continually updated and improved, to meet customer needs and offer incentives,” said Papandreou. “Third, (there’s the entity) that will act as a payment facilitator. It will send money to the transportation provider.”

A single payments firm is essential, said transportation consultant Carol Schweiger.

“You pay one entity for all these services or else the concept won’t work. You can’t have users paying multiple providers,” said Schweiger, president of Schweiger Consulting.

Schweiger refers to a MAAS scheme where the traveler pays a monthly subscription fee to a service, covering her daily commute and a certain number of weekend and evening trips. That service is responsible for divvying up the funds to the transport providers.


MAAS is evolving but generally refers to a subscription-based, phone-app accessible mix of transportation options providing door-to-door service.

moovel-transit2Schedules and fees of the transportation providers will have to be online, integrated and continuously updated. That goes for weather and road condition information. The service is operated real-time, so a subscriber can preplan a journey, or find, pay for, and jump on the best option on the fly.

For now, there appear to be firms ready to step into the first two roles that Papandreou describes.

One ride search provider is the moovel app launched by Daimler this spring in Portland, Ore. It offers smartphone searching and the ability to make payments to multiple providers. But moovel is pay-as-you-go, there’s no monthly subscription service, says a spokesperson.

Second, data gathering and analysis is becoming core to intelligent transportation systems (ITS) with multinational giants like Siemens, Microsoft, IBM and others exploring the sector.

What’s missing is three, the bank.

Ford and GM are logical providers of this service though neither has expressed interest publicly in becoming a MAAS bank.


Papandreou says the auto OEMs are still getting their heads around the idea of integrated mobility, so throwing in the concept of banking may be a bridge too far.

But it isn’t far-fetched.

Each has a financial arm with deep pockets.

The Ford Motor Credit Corp. provides loans through its Lincoln Automotive Service Corp. in the U.S., Canada and China. Net income for Ford Motor Credit tallied $1.4 billion in 2015, with managed receivables of $127 billion. Put simply, receivables measure the amount customers owe on loans.

GM subsidiary General Motors Financial reported net income of $646 million and total assets of $66 billion last year.

And there’s the possibility that fewer consumers will be buying cars if MAAS-style systems take hold.

“GM has to find new ways to make money if they don’t sell as many cars,” said Schweiger.

One way to do that could be to finance the system and earn income from payment processing.

“There are billions of transactions every day, this is a tremendous opportunity,” said Papandreou.

For now, the two big American auto OEMs don’t appear to be interested. GM is focused on expanding Lyft, in part with driverless vehicles it develops with Cruise Automation.

Ford’s new FordPass seeks to connect with customers through their smartphones. Millennials can do cool stuff like reserve a parking space and start their car.

But the payment angle is a work in progress. A customer earns rewards by purchasing Ford services, and the rewards can be redeemed at a Boomer brand like McDonald’s. A Ford spokesperson says FordPass is evolving, and changes will be coming.

Mobility As A Service is evolving too, and there will be different approaches in different cities. MAAS banking is a move away from an auto OEM’s core skill set but financing such a system could be quite rewarding.

Story photo – Piggy by Pictures of Money, 2014.

Live Demos Key to ITS America’s San Jose Conference

Burney Simpson

Hands-on, close-up demos of connected and autonomous vehicle technology will be a key part of the upcoming ITS America 2016 San Jose conference June 12-16 in the city’s McEnery Convention Center.

The conference “Integrated Mobility. Transportation Redefined.” will offer the “#THISisITS Exhibits and Demonstrations,” June 13-15.

The demonstrations include:

Lear Corporation: Intelligent Transportation Navigating Traffic

Visitors can ride in a vehicle and experience vehicle to vehicle (V2V), vehicle to infrastructure (V2I), and cellular communications. There will be examples of warnings, situational awareness, and vehicle tracking information. Cellular communication will be used to demonstrate a variety of remote vehicle commands and tracking technologies. Sign up in Lear Corp. booth 423, event is on Viola Street.

Wave Mobile Solutions Cameras, Data, and Safety Using Light Rail

GRIDSMART and Wave Mobile Solutions will conduct an integrated demonstration of the Gridsmart Technologies’ bell shaped 360-degree camera along with a Wave Mobile Solutions FiberWire 8011 DSRC RSU. The camera and the RSU will be installed at the corner of San Carlos and Market in front of the Marriott. The San Jose VTA Lightrail will be used for a demonstration where the RSU will send out DSRC basic safety messages alerting the light rail and DSRC-equipped vehicles of vehicles, pedestrians or bicycles in the cross walk. Sign-Up at Wave Mobile’s booth 938, and the demo will be in the plaza in front of the McEnery Center.

Heavy Truck Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control Demonstration Ride – PATH

Visitors can ride in a heavy truck on the SR-87 freeway in San Jose as part of a string of three trucks with the followers’ speed under cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC). Visitors will experience the use of DSRC vehicle-to-vehicle communication to coordinate the speeds of the trucks. They will also experience the responses of the following trucks when a car cuts in between the trucks.

The demonstration was developed by the University of California PATH Program and Volvo Group under the sponsorship of the FHWA Exploratory Advanced Research Program and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Sign-Up at USDOT booth 407; visitors will be picked up on S. Almaden Street.

Savari Vehicle Predictive Safety

This live in-vehicle demonstration will showcase Savari’s suite of V2V safety applications that include Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Change Assist, and Intersection Movement Assist. Sign-Up in Savari booth 916; the demo will be on Viola Street.

San Jose Valley Transit Authority (VTA) Transit Safety

The VTA will conduct three demonstrations – a Smart Bus Stop, a Transit Vehicle Collision Avoidance System, and an On-Board Passenger Information Monitor.

Smart Bus Stop – VTA, Renesas, and eTrans Systems are collaborating to demonstrate a system that uses DSRC technology to notify bus operators of passengers waiting at bus stops. With this system, when a passenger arrives at a bus stop, the passenger identifies what bus they want, and when the bus approaches, messages are exchanged and the bus knows if it has a valid passenger and must stop.

Collision Avoidance – VTA and Rosco Systems will demonstrate a multi-vision sensor system that provides visual and audible alerts to transit vehicle drivers if a pedestrian or bicyclist are in a danger zone when the bus is moving.

On Board Mobile PIM’s (Passenger Information Monitors) – VTA and Allied Telesis will demonstrate an advanced passenger information monitor that makes graphical geo-coded transit information available to passengers while on board buses and trains. The system will also be interactive with the customer smartphone.

Sign-Up for any of the demos at eTrans Systems’ booth 436; the demos will be conducted in the parking lot.

Renesas Riding Along With Advanced ADAS and Data

Visitors will take a ride in the Renesas Advanced ADAS vehicle to see a series of V2V and V2I applications, including collision warnings, red-light warnings, and road constructions warnings. Advanced camera analytics will generate additional information for passenger safety, and visitors will see the advanced ADAS capabilities built into the Renesas vehicle. Sign Up in eTrans Systems’ booth 436 for the demonstration on nearby Convention Center streets.

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) is an advocate for today’s leading industries marrying tech and transportation to advance safety, efficiency and sustainability and putting “transportation” at the center of the Internet of Things.

Feds Should Preempt States on Driverless Regs: SAFE

Burney Simpson

Autonomous vehicles would be developed faster if federal rules could preempt state laws on the technology, the Washington, D.C-based advocacy group SAFE argued last week.

The not-for-profit Securing America’s Future Energy released its The National Strategy for Energy Security: The Innovation Revolution paper, a 160-page pdf listing a host of new approaches to powering transportation, at a series of presentations at the Newseum.

The report calls for the federal pre-emption of state autonomous vehicle regulations, the start of live testing of the vehicles in select communities, and an office at the Department of Transportation to lead development of the technology.

“We need uniformity and consistency of regulations across all 50 states so autonomous vehicles can be developed,” said Amitai Bin-Nun, director of Safe’s Autonomous Vehicle Initiative.

ElectricCharge1Safe was joined at its event by John Krafcik, chief of Google parent Alphabet’s self-driving cars group, along with executives from Nvidia, producer of graphic processing units; Peloton, groundbreaker in truck platooning research; and Moovel, Daimler’s urban mobility operator.

Safe advocates for America’s energy security, arguing the country’s transportation sector is too dependent on foreign oil. Instead, the “widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles would put an end to oil’s stranglehold on the U.S. transportation system,” according to its website.

Safe’s Energy Security Leadership Council is led by Frederick Smith, president and CEO of FedEx Corp., and General James Conway, a retired Marine Corps Commandant.

Safe has set a goal of reducing oil demand by 50 percent by 2040, and autonomous vehicles are central to that objective, Conway said.

“I would argue that we probably don’t get there unless the autonomous vehicle movement succeeds and becomes our mainstay,” said Conway, according to Safe’s The Verge news source.

Safe’s national strategy paper comes amidst a contentious debate over driverless regulations in California, a leading autonomous vehicle center.

Last December the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles floated the idea of requiring drivers physically sitting behind steering wheels in driverless cars. Google responded the proposal failed to understand the point of the vehicles, and didn’t recognize the capabilities of the technology.

Soon thereafter, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pledged to release this summer guidelines for the states on autonomous vehicles.

Since then, the California State Legislature has considered several proposals that sought to limit the authority of the state DMV.


Most states haven’t taken a hard look of driverless technology. As of April, eight states and the District of Columbia are either allowing testing of the technology on their roads, or are conducting research on the topic, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“We don’t know where states will wind up. They might include (requirements) for a driver and a steering wheel,” said Bin-Nun. “Designing a vehicle for different states is very difficult for the auto OEMs.”

Safe believes driverless oversight should be organized in three channels, said Bin-Nun.

First, regulations on vehicle hardware should continue to be set at the federal level, while states should continue to control local licensing, insurance, traffic laws, and driver-for-hire rules, he said.

Third, a federal office should regulate autonomous vehicle safety rules, said Bin-Nun.

Safe last year created its autonomous vehicle task force and ramped up its promotion of electric-engine equipped autonomous vehicles (See “Autonomous Cars = Lower Oil Imports”). Bin-Nun became director of the department in February.

A shift to electric-powered vehicles would reduce the use of gas-powered internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

In contrast, electric vehicles get charged by power supplied by the electric power industry. Domestic energy sources coal, natural gas, nuclear plants, hydro plants, and wind and solar provide the fuel for electric utilities, according a study from The Washington Post.

Photos: Electric car reloading/recharging, 2011, by Ludovic Hirlimann; Foto e vide di tutti I modelli, 2015, by Automobile Italia.