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ON-DEMAND BUS SERVICE LAUNCHED FOR NEW SYDNEY METRO

Australasian Bus and Coach Newsletter 11 June 2019

BUS OPERATOR Busways has launched an on-demand app as a new way to connect passengers with the recently opened Sydney Metro and conventional rail services, it’s reported recently.

Proclaimed as “…public transport that comes to you”, Busways is providing the new on-demand Hino Ponchos to residents in The Ponds and Schofields areas in the growing north-west of Sydney, NSW.

Cooee Busways launched late May, 2019, to coincide with the opening of Sydney Metro Northwest and operates Monday to Friday from 5.00am until 9.00pm, connecting customers with Schofields Station and the new Sydney Metro stations at Tallawong and Rouse Hill, the company states. 

“Integrated public transport options will alleviate commuter’s frustrations with congestion on western Sydney roads when they’re just trying to get to work and back home each day,” managing director Byron Rowe said.

“The Ponds and Schofields are growing areas and the Cooee Busways on-demand service provides a crucial first- and last-mile link to the train and Metro.

“On-demand is the way of the future of public transport and we’re pleased to be able to offer it to residents in need of improved options now.

“Cooee Busways is a safe and reliable pick-up and drop-off on-demand service to and from the local transport hubs,” Rowe explained.

REDEFININING MOBILITY

Passengers will be able to book the service through the Busways Cooee smartphone app, powered by Via, the leading provider and developer of on-demand shared mobility solutions, according to Busways.

They can book a service for travel between a bus stop within the service area and one of three transport hubs: Tallawong and Rouse Hill Metro Stations, and Schofields Train Station.

“Via’s technology is redefining mobility across the globe and we are thrilled to partner with Busways and Transport for NSW to provide residents with a convenient, affordable, and congestion-reducing transportation alternative,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via.

“Via’s powerful passenger-matching and vehicle-routing algorithm is the solution to solving the first- and last-mile challenge, seamlessly integrating into the existing public transit infrastructure to connect residents to transit hubs in their communities.”

HOW IT WORKS

Using the Cooee app, riders will be able to hail a shuttle directly from their smartphone. Via’s advanced algorithms will enable multiple riders to seamlessly share the vehicle, it claims.

The powerful technology will direct passengers to a nearby virtual bus stop within a short walking distance for pick-up and drop-off, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours, or inconvenient fixed routes and schedules, the company explains.

“The Cooee Busways service is just a glimpse into the changing-nature of public transport. By simply taking out your smart phone and using an app, you’ll be able to travel where you need to go when you want to,” Rowe said.

https://www.busnews.com.au/industry-news/1906/on-demand-bus-service-launched-for-new-sydney-metro

Unblocking Paris

International Rail Journal 12 June 2019

With the start of tunnel boring on the eastern extension of RER Line E in Paris, momentum is building for the project which promises to ease congestion on the city’s saturated commuter network. Kevin Smith explores the intricacies of the undertaking and outlines the challenges facing contractors.

THE ground beneath the streets of Paris, like many modern metropolises, is a Swiss cheese of tunnels and underground infrastructure. Work on the latest addition, a 6km underground extension of RER Line E from St Lazare west to La Défense began on February 19 when TBM Virginie entered the ground.

The €3.7bn project is in effect the final stage of Line E, the first phase of which opened in 1999. The line improved connectivity from the east to the centre of Paris and this latest extension is aiming to improve connectivity from the west.


The first test train will be delivered by the end of this year.

As well as the underground section, the scheme involves upgrading 2km of existing underground infrastructure between La Défense and Nanterre-la-Jolie and upgrading the 47km line to Poissy and Mantes-la-Jolie to accommodate Line E trains on the same tracks used by Transilien Line J services to Vernon.

Ile-de-France Mobility and French National Railways (SNCF) are also spending €2bn on new RER New Generation double-deck EMUs (pictured) built by Alstom and Bombardier that will be used on Line E as well as RER Line D from 2021. The first test train will be delivered by the end of this year. The plan is to complete the extension to Nanterre and the complete project, including high capacity signalling in the central section, by 2024.

The impact of the project for Paris commuters is expected to be significant.

The majority travel from the east and the west suburbs of the city during the morning and evening peaks. This places significant pressure on RER Line A, which currently serves 1.2 million passengers per day. With passengers packed into these trains, and the first sections of the Grand Paris Express orbital metro network not due to open until 2030, the extension of Line E is considered a more immediate solution to ease congestion. The trains will operate at speeds of up to 120km/h on the core section, saving commuters travelling from the western suburbs to La Défense around 17 minutes on their current journey.

Mr Xavier Gruz, director of the Eole-Nexteo project at SNCF, says it is estimated that more than 50% of Line A passengers travelling through the central section will switch to Line E once it comes on line. “For instance, people who commute from La Défense to Gare du Nord will no longer go through Châtelet and will use Line E,” Gruz says. “We also see that 10-12% decrease in traffic on lines B and D, which go through Gare du Nord. The objective is to take off some of the load that is supported by the RER lines inside Paris.”

Line E itself is forecast to carry 700,000 passengers per day, up from around 340,000 at present. Operation on the line’s 20km core underground section will be enhanced by the introduction of CBTC, which will enable 22 trains per hour, per direction to use the complete Rosa Parks – Nanterre-la-Folie section during the peak, with 16 of these trains operating on the line east of Rosa Parks, which comprises branches to Tournan and Chelles-Gourney, and six on the western section from Mantes-la-Jolie. There is the possibility to increase capacity to 28 trains with headways of 108 seconds once the Paris – Normandy upgrade is completed around 2030. Currently trains are operating at 180-second intervals.


“It gives us one year to test out the system and make sure that it can be scaled up,” he says.

SNCF Engineering is designing the Nexteo CBTC solution with support from Paris Transport Authority (RATP), which has deployed CBTC on Paris metro lines 1, 3, 5, 9 and 14, and industry partner Siemens, which was awarded a €186m contract in 2016. Trains will operate at GoA2 in the central section, which encompasses the new line as well as the existing underground line from Haussmann-St Lazare to Rosa Parks.

Siemens France is supplying its Vicos operational control system and Airlink radio communication for the project. While preparatory work to install the new signalling system alongside legacy equipment began earlier this year, installation of Nexteo equipment will begin in 2022. Gruz says the new tunnel will open initially with the use of a lineside signalling system, with the aim of commissioning Nexteo by the end of 2023 and fully opening the line the following year. “It gives us one year to test out the system and make sure that it can be scaled up,” he says.

The new project will add three new stations, including two new entirely-underground stations at CNIT-La Défense and Porte Maillot, and a new surface station at Nanterre La Folie, which will connect with the existing underground platforms. Modifications will also be made to existing stations with the line set to interchange with RER lines A and C, metro Line 1, light rail Line T2, and lines 15 and 18 of the Grand Paris Express network.

THE ground beneath the streets of Paris, like many modern metropolises, is a Swiss cheese of tunnels and underground infrastructure. Work on the latest addition, a 6km underground extension of RER Line E from St Lazare west to La Défense began on February 19 when TBM Virginie entered the ground.

The €3.7bn project is in effect the final stage of Line E, the first phase of which opened in 1999. The line improved connectivity from the east to the centre of Paris and this latest extension is aiming to improve connectivity from the west.


The first test train will be delivered by the end of this year.

As well as the underground section, the scheme involves upgrading 2km of existing underground infrastructure between La Défense and Nanterre-la-Jolie and upgrading the 47km line to Poissy and Mantes-la-Jolie to accommodate Line E trains on the same tracks used by Transilien Line J services to Vernon.

Ile-de-France Mobility and French National Railways (SNCF) are also spending €2bn on new RER New Generation double-deck EMUs (pictured) built by Alstom and Bombardier that will be used on Line E as well as RER Line D from 2021. The first test train will be delivered by the end of this year. The plan is to complete the extension to Nanterre and the complete project, including high capacity signalling in the central section, by 2024.

The impact of the project for Paris commuters is expected to be significant.

The majority travel from the east and the west suburbs of the city during the morning and evening peaks. This places significant pressure on RER Line A, which currently serves 1.2 million passengers per day. With passengers packed into these trains, and the first sections of the Grand Paris Express orbital metro network not due to open until 2030, the extension of Line E is considered a more immediate solution to ease congestion. The trains will operate at speeds of up to 120km/h on the core section, saving commuters travelling from the western suburbs to La Défense around 17 minutes on their current journey.

Mr Xavier Gruz, director of the Eole-Nexteo project at SNCF, says it is estimated that more than 50% of Line A passengers travelling through the central section will switch to Line E once it comes on line. “For instance, people who commute from La Défense to Gare du Nord will no longer go through Châtelet and will use Line E,” Gruz says. “We also see that 10-12% decrease in traffic on lines B and D, which go through Gare du Nord. The objective is to take off some of the load that is supported by the RER lines inside Paris.”

Line E itself is forecast to carry 700,000 passengers per day, up from around 340,000 at present. Operation on the line’s 20km core underground section will be enhanced by the introduction of CBTC, which will enable 22 trains per hour, per direction to use the complete Rosa Parks – Nanterre-la-Folie section during the peak, with 16 of these trains operating on the line east of Rosa Parks, which comprises branches to Tournan and Chelles-Gourney, and six on the western section from Mantes-la-Jolie. There is the possibility to increase capacity to 28 trains with headways of 108 seconds once the Paris – Normandy upgrade is completed around 2030. Currently trains are operating at 180-second intervals.


“It gives us one year to test out the system and make sure that it can be scaled up,” he says.

SNCF Engineering is designing the Nexteo CBTC solution with support from Paris Transport Authority (RATP), which has deployed CBTC on Paris metro lines 1, 3, 5, 9 and 14, and industry partner Siemens, which was awarded a €186m contract in 2016. Trains will operate at GoA2 in the central section, which encompasses the new line as well as the existing underground line from Haussmann-St Lazare to Rosa Parks.

Siemens France is supplying its Vicos operational control system and Airlink radio communication for the project. While preparatory work to install the new signalling system alongside legacy equipment began earlier this year, installation of Nexteo equipment will begin in 2022. Gruz says the new tunnel will open initially with the use of a lineside signalling system, with the aim of commissioning Nexteo by the end of 2023 and fully opening the line the following year. “It gives us one year to test out the system and make sure that it can be scaled up,” he says.

The new project will add three new stations, including two new entirely-underground stations at CNIT-La Défense and Porte Maillot, and a new surface station at Nanterre La Folie, which will connect with the existing underground platforms. Modifications will also be made to existing stations with the line set to interchange with RER lines A and C, metro Line 1, light rail Line T2, and lines 15 and 18 of the Grand Paris Express network.

Tunnelling commenced when TBM Virginie entered the ground at La Défense station in February. Excavation is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

Inevitably building a new tunnel in the heart of Paris presents challenges. Gruz says the area around La Défense in particular is difficult because of the density of the buildings and because construction of the station itself is taking place directly below the iconic Centre for New Industries and Technologies (CNIT) building.

The 11-storey structure is supported by temporary jacks while work takes place in a vault which has been excavated with three contact points to the building. Gruz says great care has been taken to ensure that the work does not disturb everyday activities in the building, which is home to shops, a hotel and offices. “We also have to comply with the maximum permissible level of noise and vibration night and day because of the hotel,” Gruz says.

Contractors face similar challenges at Porte Maillot. Here work is complicated by the station’s proximity to the Paris Congress Hall as well as the presence of the neighbouring automated metro Line 1, which is used by 800,000 passengers per day as well as RER Line C, road tunnels and a car park. “We are trying to build the new station in between all of these pieces of infrastructure,” Gruz says.

Logistics

The final major challenge relates to minimising the impact on everyday Parisians. With construction taking place in the heart of the city, Gruz says care is taken when delivering equipment. For example, the concrete segments used by the TBM, which was built by Herrenknecht, Germany, and at 1800 tonnes and with an 11m-diameter, is the biggest currently working in Europe, are delivered by rail up to the last mile where transport switches to road. In addition, barges on the River Seine are transporting spoil from the double-track single bore tunnel out of the city centre. However, with work taking place at 30m below the city’s streets, and with the area under construction only inhabited in the 19th century, Gruz says disruption from archaeological finds is not likely.

Work to upgrade the existing infrastructure is taking place alongside construction of the new tunnel. Specifically, this involves upgrading the existing line to Poissy and Mantes-la-Jolie, including realigning tracks and infrastructure on the section beyond Nanterre La Folie. Contractors will also construct a new 800m elevated section and deliver improvements to increase speed and capacity on existing passing loops, and enhance platform capacity at stations, including the total reconstruction of Mantes-la-Jolie.

A significant element of the work is to upgrade signalling. As well as CBTC through the core section, Gruz says the project is also upgrading signalling on the outlying network. While the ATS+ solution is partially derived from Nexteo’s specification, Gruz says a complete rollout of Nexteo is too expensive on the outlying sections.

The work will involve installing new computerised interlockings, with Alstom responsible for the western section to Mantes-la-Jolie under a €112m contract, and Siemens delivering the eastern portion to Chelles and Tournan under a €163m agreement.


SNCF will be keen to avoid the problems that have delayed the London project and deliver the scheme on time and budget.

“We are currently developing tools to ensure the connection with the ATS+ system for the operators using this system,” Gruz says. “The objective is to gain one path during the peak and also to make the system more robust and reliable. This is a line that does not work very well when there are a lot of delays.”

Gruz compares the Line E project with London’s Crossrail and the signalling upgrades in Copenhagen. “These are the two benchmarks that we have worked from,” he says.

Like Crossrail, the Line E project will offer enhanced cross-city connectivity and go a long way to providing desperately needed extra capacity. Although as the project ramps up in the next few years, SNCF will be keen to avoid the problems that have delayed the London project and deliver the scheme on time and budget. Long-suffering RER Line A commuters cannot wait much longer.

www.railjournal.com/in_depth/unblocking-paris

UK public transport rolls out ‘chat day’

The Guardian 9 June 2019

Buses, coaches, trams and trains will be a bit chattier than usual on Friday as a day-long experiment to encourage travellers to talk to strangers is rolled out on Britain’s transport network.

Commuters on West Coast Virgin trains will find every coach C is designated a “chat carriage”, while bus company Arriva is placing “conversation starter” cards on vehicles servicing their UK network.

Transport for London, Greater Anglia and the Go Ahead Group are also all taking part, with posters at three London tube stations encouraging people to talk to staff. Counsellors trained by the charity Relate will ply London buses as part of an initiative with Greener Journeys, encouraging passengers to open up.

National Express said it would invite people to take part in “some stimulating activities” on Birmingham’s number 11 route, the longest urban bus route in Europe.

The series of initiatives, orchestrated by a BBC team focused on solutions journalism, is designed to combat two of the most toxic issues of the age: polarisation and isolation.

Emily Kasriel, a BBC editor behind the project, said the aim was “to encourage people who are up for it to get out of their comfort zone and emerge from their screens to interact with the adult sitting next to them”.

“Many people are reluctant to talk to strangers, but perhaps someone is battling loneliness and an exchange could provide a meaningful moment that changes their day,” said Kasriel, the head of the BBC’s Crossing Divides season, which seeks to combat antagonism through conversation.

“Everyone has an interesting story to tell. These chance encounters can provoke a new way of looking at the world, and an opportunity to understand someone else’s story.”

Though typical commuter behaviour these days might involve inserting earbuds and avoiding all and any interaction with fellow travellers, research indicates that those who do open up to strangers tend to feel happier as a result.

In a 2014 study led by Nicholas Epley at the University of Chicago, the authors wrote: “Connecting with others increases happiness, but strangers in close proximity routinely ignore each other.”

In a blogpost for the BBC, Epley wrote that one reason why a sudden conversation might improve a day is that “the experience of talking with others and hearing a stranger’s voice makes us realise they have a rich inner life of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences, just like us”.

He added: “These brief connections with strangers are not likely to turn a life of misery into one of bliss. However, they can change unpleasant moments – like the grind of a daily commute – into something more pleasant.”

Not everyone agrees. Last month, Uber started trialling a “quiet driver” mode to prevent drivers from striking up conversations on journeys.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/13/uk-public-transport-rolls-out-chat-day d

India Offers $360 Million Subsidy For 5,000 Electric Buses

Cleantechnica .com 8 June 2019

The Indian government plans to incentivize cities to include electric buses to their public transport fleet through financial subsidies.

The Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) document to invite proposals from states, government departments, transportation departments, and municipal bodies for procurement of electric buses across 40 cities. The subsidy will be provided under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles in India or the FAME-II scheme.

The central government will offer subsidies worth Rs 2,500 crore (US$360 million) for the deployment of 5,000 electric buses. Under the current exercise, a total of 40 cities shall be selected where a subsidy will be distributed for deployment of electric buses based on population.

Cities with a population of more than 4 million must deploy a minimum of 300 electric buses each, those with more than 1 million population must deploy at least 100 electric buses each. 50 electric buses each shall be deployed in cities under other categories. In order to be eligible for the subsidy, cities must guarantee that each bus slot will run for at least five lakhs km during its contract period and also inform about the number of buses they plan to deploy.

Eligibility for this subsidy scheme will be limited to states with a separate electric vehicles policy and other incentives to promote use of electric vehicles. State transportation units will be required to submit competitive bids to access the financial subsidy.

Among other conditions for disbursement of the subsidy is that the manufacturer of the electric buses must be an Indian company with a manufacturing facility in the country. The subsidy shall be disbursed in a phased manner with 20% issued at the time of signing the supply order for the buses, 40% at the time of delivery of the buses, and the balance 40% after six months of successful commercial operation of the buses.

The timeline set for the complete delivery of all buses has been set at just over 18 months from now. 

The FAME-II scheme has been designed by the Indian government to support electrification of public and shared transportation. The total budgetary allocation for this scheme is Rs 10,000 crore (US$1.4 billion). Around 35% of this allocation has been set aside to facilitate deployment of 7,000 electric buses across various cities in the country.

A number of state transportation agencies have already announced plans to induct electric buses to their fleet. These include agencies in the cities of Mumbai and Bengaluru. The state of Kerala recently issued a tender to lease 1,500 electric buses for a period of 10 years.

The Indian government is pushing for a widespread electrification of the transportation system. It has first targeted the public and shared transportation system. We recently reported that the government may ban sale of three-wheelers using internal combustion engines by March 2023 and all two-wheelers using internal combustion engines with less than 150 cc by March 2025, and that cab aggregators like Uber and Ola Cabs may be required to have at least 40% electric vehicles in their fleet by 2026.

https://cleantechnica.com/2019/06/08/india-offers-360-million-subsidy-for-5000-electric-buses/

Trolleytrucks are back

Treehugger.com 14 May 2019

An electrifying story from Germany, where they are wiring the autobahn.

Electric trucks are a wonderful idea, but batteries are heavy, expensive and carbon-intensive. However there is another technology that’s been around for over a century: overhead trolley wires. Trolley buses are still used in many cities, which can work effectively because buses follow fixed routes.

Now a test is being done in Germany with hybrid electric-diesel trolleytrucks. They run on electricity from overhead wires on the autobahn, and then switch to diesel when they get off the highway. According to DW,

The test trucks are fitted with batteries and pantographs — sensor-fitted electric pickups — that reach automatically for the overhead cables (poled positive and negative) slung from several hundred masts along the A5’s inner-most lanes, even under bridges. Overtaking of other vehicles is intended as well as surplus power being fed back into the grid during braking manoeuvers, according to Hesse Mobil.

It’s a shame about the diesel engines, but they could eventually be all-electric with batteries powering the last mile. If the test is a success, it is estimated that 80 percent of Germany’s truck traffic could be electrified. Then trucks would be charging their batteries while they are in the wired sections, needing much smaller battery packs than in the proposed Tesla or Nicola battery powered trucks.

The biggest problem with trolleys has always been the ugly overhead wires, but that’s not as big a deal out on the highway. Another problem has been the inability to pass, but making them hybrid or having batteries solves that problem. The final question is whether the source of electricity is carbon-free, which is an issue in Germany right now.

In the past I have wondered why the goal shouldn’t be to carry more freight by rail and reduce the need for trucks, but according to DW, the German rail network is already overloaded. So this is a great alternative for carbon-free shipping.

Trolleytrucks are still in use in some parts of the world; they are cheap to operate and easy to maintain. If we are going to electrify everything, perhaps it’s time to bring them back.

https://www.treehugger.com/alternative/trolleytrucks-are-back.html

37,000 lives could have been saved in the last 25 years with lower speed limits

Treehugger.com 8 April 2019

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says over five precent of deaths on the roads are due to higher speed limits.

In 1995 the US Congress removed federal regulation of speed limits, and in the years since, they have crept up across the country. In Texas, limits are now as high as 85 MPH; 41 states have 70 as the limit and 6 states have 80 MPH.

Now Charles Farmer, Vice President for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has updated the data on highway deaths and it is pretty shocking.

Farmer found that a 5 mph increase in the maximum speed limit was associated with an 8 percent increase in the fatality rate on interstates and freeways — the roads most directly affected by changes to the maximum speed limit — and a 3 percent increase on other roads. In total, over the 25-year study period, there were 36,760 more deaths — 13,638 on interstates and freeways — and 23,122 on other roads — than would have been expected if maximum speed limits hadn’t changed over that time.

Just in 2017, the last year with data available, 1,934 of the 37,133 deaths would have been avoided had the speed limits were still at 1993 levels which maxed out at 65 MPH. Deaths had been dropping for years because of seat belts and better vehicle design, but are on the rise again. “Increased speed limits, along with other retrograde policies such as the repeal of motorcycle helmet laws, are offsetting the gains made, and hampering efforts to reduce traffic injuries at the national, state, and local levels.”
One reason that is often stated when speed limits are raised is that it saves time. But Farmer concludes:
Higher speed limits can yield societal benefits through reduced travel time, but there is a price to pay in terms of additional lives lost. Those responsible for managing the roadway system must recognize and carefully consider this trade-off before deciding to increase speed limits.

One of the biggest problems is that nobody pays any attention to speed limits anyway, and many people are convinced that speed limits are kept artificially low to keep the cash flowing from speed traps. If Americans were really serious about saving lives and slowing drivers down, they would implement Intelligent Speed Assistance, like they are in Europe. But don’t hold your breath.

https://www.treehugger.com/cars/37000-lives-could-have-been-saved-last-25-years-lower-speed-limits.html

Driverless cars: once they’re on the road, human drivers should be banned

The Conversation 6 June 2019

Self-driving cars could revolutionise people’s lives. By the end of the next decade, or perhaps even sooner, they could radically transform public spaces and liberate us from the many problems of mass car ownership. They’ll also be much better behaved than human drivers.

Robot drivers won’t break the speed limit, jump the lights, or park where they shouldn’t. They won’t drive under the influence of drink or drugs. They’ll never get tired or behave aggressively. They won’t be distracted by changing the music or sending a text, and they’ll never be trying to impress their mates.

Driverless cars could also change the face of public spaces. Private cars are very expensive items that do absolutely nothing 95% of the time. They are economically viable only because paying a taxi driver for all your car journeys would be even more expensive. Once cars don’t need human drivers, this cost balance should tip the other way.

Imagine what your town or city could look like with driverless taxis instead of private cars. Most of the space taken up by car parks could be used for homes, offices, cafes, bars, cinemas, hotels, and swimming pools. An end to parked cars lining every street like urban cholesterol. Quicker bus journeys. Wider pavements.

With more space and safer roads, active transport would be more attractive. More people would travel around on bikes, skateboards, roller blades, and scooters. Driverless taxis could easily be electric, returning to depots to recharge.

The benefits to public health would be enormous. Our towns and cities would be vastly more pleasant places to live and breathe. Transport’s contribution to climate change would be dramatically reduced. But ensuring all these benefits presents an important ethical challenge.

Dealing with emergencies

Ethical concern about autonomous vehicles has so far focused on emergencies. Should a car save its passengers at the cost of killing or injuring other people? Should it swerve to avoid someone in the road if this means hitting someone on the pavement? How many people need to be saved to outweigh a bystander’s life or limb? Are children more important than adults? And so on.


Read more: Should your robot driver kill you to save a child’s life?


The problem resembles philosopher Philippa Foot’s most famous ethical thought experiment: the trolley problem. Imagine you are driving a trolleybus. Its brakes have failed and it’s hurtling towards five people who will certainly be killed if it hits them. You can swerve it onto a side track, killing one person who otherwise would not have been affected. The question is, whether you should.

Would you hit the switch? McGeddon/Wikimedia Commons., CC BY-SA

Philosophers debating this question have produced a dazzling array of variations. What if you are standing by the track next to someone wearing a very large backpack? Should you push that tourist under the trolley, saving five people’s lives? If you could stop the trolley only at the cost of your own life, should you do that? And so on and so on.

Intuitive responses to these variations tend to seem contradictory. But we learn more about our moral thinking by exploring how they might in fact be consistent. And we learn more about moral cognition by scanning people’s brains while they consider these problems.

Self-driving cars have given this debate a new purpose. We have to teach these vehicles how to handle emergencies – the trolley problem just got real. At least, this is what many philosophers think. But in focusing on an existing thought experiment, they have missed the bigger picture.

The real ethical challenge

Engineers working on driverless cars tell us that the safest response in any emergency is to stop. This will be even safer if the nearby cars all have robot drivers. And robot drivers would be better behaved than human ones, reducing the number of emergencies on the roads.

Given all the potential benefits to public health and quality of life, we should be much better off once robots take over the driving, whatever the authorities decide about emergency situations.

This is what gives rise to the real ethical challenge of self-driving cars. Once robot drivers are safe enough to allow onto the roads in large numbers, it seems that we should maximise their benefits by banning their dangerous human counterparts from public roads.

There would be resistance to this, of course. Many people enjoy driving. But many people enjoy smoking, too, and this is banned in public places for the protection of non-smokers. There could be designated safe spaces for drivers to indulge their hobby without risk to other people.

Rights of access pose a more difficult question. There is a strong case that essential transport infrastructure should be publicly owned. And if private cars are not an option, perhaps the cost of using autonomous taxis should be proportionate to ability to pay.

But regardless of how we resolve these practical issues, it seems that the enormous benefits of safe, driverless taxis should lead us to remove any other kind of car from our roads.

https://theconversation.com/driverless-cars-once-theyre-on-the-road-human-drivers-should-be-banned-118293 qformat1 \ls

Electric cars won’t save the planet without a clean energy overhaul – they could increase pollution

The Conservation 3 June 2019

Several countries – including France, Norway and the UK – have plans to phase out cars powered by fossil fuel before 2050, to reduce air pollution and fight climate change. The idea is to replace all conventional vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). But this is unlikely to help the environment, as long as EVs are charged using electricity generated from the same old dirty fossil fuels.

Global electricity consumption from EVs is estimated to grow to 1,800TWh by 2040 – that’s roughly five times the current annual electricity use of UK. Using data from the UK as a benchmark, this would amount to an extra 510 megatonnes of carbon emissions coming from the electricity sector worldwide. But this massive impact could be drastically reduced if electricity is generated entirely from renewable energy sources, instead of fossil fuels.

A growing problem

To put things into perspective, 510 megatonnes is about 1.6% of the global carbon emissions in 2018. And while this may not seem like a big amount, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended that carbon emissions are reduced to net zero by 2050, to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial era. So a 1.6% increase in carbon emissions is significant, and possibly catastrophic.

Perhaps this increase would be negated by the decrease in emissions, which results from phasing out polluting vehicles. But reducing global carbon emissions is not easy – in fact, emissions reached an all time high in 2018, despite the highest ever uptake of renewable energy.

Though their emissions are much lower than that of conventional cars, EVs also do generate carbon dioxide during the energy intensive manufacturing process – as do renewable energy technologies themselves.

Supply and demand

Another major issue with EVs is their impact on the availability, production and supply of rare earth metals and other scarce natural elements. EVs and their batteries contain precious metals such as lithium and cobalt. Scarcity of cobalt is already threatening the production of EVs, and alternative designs that don’t rely on scarce elements are currently being explored by car manufacturers.

This means that it’s critical to expand recycling plants dedicated to processing metals and other scarce elements for reuse. Also, detailed plans on retrofitting of conventional vehicles to turn them into EVs are needed – it’s simply not feasible to dump all conventional vehicles into landfill sites, in a scenario where they are replaced by EVs.

There are further issues with EVs that must be dealt with, if they’re to help reduce global emissions and prevent climate disaster. People are likely to charge their EVs during evening hours, after they come home from work. As more people start to use EVs, the load on the energy grid is likely to peak in the evening. And this could cause problems for electricity distribution and transmission systems, at a community or city level.

These systems may need an upgrade. Or, energy suppliers could introduce a time-of-use tariff, which is higher during peak hours and lower during off-peak times, when there’s less demand for electricity. This would encourage consumers to charge their EVs during off-peak hours.

Smart charging is another possible solution: the idea is to charge more vehicles when local electricity production through renewables such as wind and solar is high, and reduce the charging when local renewables aren’t producing enough electricity. EVs charging time can be matched with peak renewable power production using smart systems and artificial intelligence to balance the local electrical grid.

Overcoming obstacles

The high cost of EVs and the lack of available charging stations are further obstacles that the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies has identified for the mass uptake of EVs. This could create a chicken and egg scenario: the cost of EVs may not go down unless they are mass produced, and they may not be mass produced unless the costs go down. The same goes for the installation of charging stations – authorities will need foresight to recognise that extra charging stations should be built for when EV uptake increases.

Governments can help prevent these issues by subsidising EVs or providing financial incentives for clean transportation – as has already been done in China. Even on a city level, authorities can encourage people to use less polluting vehicles such as EVs through taxes or special clean air zones, as is currently being done in London.

EVs have great potential to reduce pollution and give people a more sustainable way to get around – but electricity production must also be clean. It’s not wise to rely completely on scarce natural elements required for producing EVs and alternatives have to be explored. More recycling plants are needed to make the most out of rare elements and governments need to explore ways to ensure a smooth transition to cleaner transportation.

https://theconversation.com/electric-cars-wont-save-the-planet-without-a-clean-energy-overhaul-they-could-increase-pollution-118012

Peer-to-Peer Carsharing: A Peek Under the Hood

Newgeography.com 29 May 2019

While the media tends to studiously report – and often sensationalize – the latest developments involving Airbnb, e-scooters, and ride-hailing (especially Lyft and Uber), another booming “sharing economy” sector has recently been gaining attention. Peer-to-peer carsharing enables individuals to make their privately-owned vehicles available to others for short periods of time at a fee of the owner’s choosing. Peer-to-peer carsharing differs from neighborhood carsharing platforms, such as car2go and Zipcar, where vehicles are owned by corporate and nonprofit entities, some of which require vehicles to be picked up at and returned to designated pods. Instead, peer-to-peer carsharing allows vehicles to be made available virtually anywhere, including at a host’s residence or a dedicated parking space.

The big players in peer-to-peer carsharing, including Turo and Getaround, offer online platforms in which “hosts” can share their private vehicles at times when they are not needed for personal use, such as on certain days of the week or holidays. Depending on the vehicle, prices typically range from $30 to $80 per day. The user of the car is responsible for refilling the tank, cleaning, and paying for any vehicle damage. Transactions are handled through a centralized app, with the online platform keeping a portion (typically around 25 percent) of the fees paid.

Last week, DePaul University released our new study showing that participation in this sector is a pretty sweet deal for people who share cars that they would own anyway, irrespective of their decision to share. We evaluated anonymized data provided to us by Turo, a profit-oriented online peer-to-peer carsharing platform. Turo encompasses 8,244 trips totalling almost 30,000 days of shared vehicle use in Illinois. The study, while independently conducted, was–full disclosure–commissioned by Turo.

Few trips involve merely quick roundtrips to the grocery store: The average trip (3.2 days) is much longer than the typical car2go or Zipcar trip, which rent on a per minute or per-hour basis. Users drive an average of 104 miles per day, and only about 4% of trips involve average mileages fewer than 25 miles per day, while 11% average over 200 miles per day. The average rate hovers around $54 per day, before considering the “extras” (such as unlimited mileage) for which some consumers pay.

Hosts must consider the wear-and-tear associated with the mileage put on their vehicles as well as the cleaning costs and other expenses. Maintenance costs are typically around 10 – 11 cents per mile driven. Overall, we found, the costs to hosts averaged to about $15 per “sharing day”, but revenues, after deducting fees kept by Turo for use of the platform, averaged $43, resulting in a net margin (“profit”) averaging $28 per sharing day. More than 94% of auto and SUV trips were profitable to the host, as were about four-in-five of minivan trips (Table 1).

Table 1. Financial Results by Vehicle Type















* Results reflect the financial returns for hosts who would own their car irrespective of their decision to “share it.” Net margins are based on revenues paid to the host after deducting fees for using the online platform.

We only looked at the financial benefits and costs, and not non-monetary factors, such as the time a host spends or the opportunity costs of lending out your wheels. Still, a takeaway is that peer-to-peer carsharing is helping cash-strapped households make ends meet. For a family earning $40,000 per year, the expected $2,500 earned sharing a vehicle for 90 days per year boosts net income by 6.3. For this household, sharing covers almost half of a typical car payment.

Peer-to-peer carsharing isn’t confined to tech-savvy upwardly mobile professionals. Almost two-thirds of the trips studied took place in zip codes that have unemployment rates higher than the statewide average. Communities with peer-to-peer carsharing activity have higher average rates of unemployment (7% vs. 5%), renter occupancy (35% vs. 23%), and almost three times the share of minority population (44% vs. 15%) compared to the state average.

Participation is also more “democratic” than most other sharing economy offerings. For instance, the distribution of listings is far more dispersed than Airbnb, where hosts tend to be heavily concentrated in certain neighborhoods and tourist areas (see Figure 1). Good luck finding a bike-share vehicle in most neighborhoods offering Turo listings.

Figure 1. Distributions of Turo and Airbnb Listings Rates (000s per household) by Zip Code, City of Chicago

These maps show that Turo hosts tend to be dispersed more widely across the city’s neighborhoods than Airbnb hosts. Each dot represents an online listing. Data sources: Turo; Airbnb, 2018

Curiously, both the media and urban analysts have largely ignored the mobility benefits afforded by peer-to-peer carsharing—and the boost it provides to households. Much of the attention is going to the ongoing regulatory challenges. That will hopefully change as the sector picks up speed and more people discover that an extra set of wheels is right down the block.

Joseph Schwieterman, Ph.D., is director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University in Chicago. C. Scott Smith, Ph.D., serves as the institute’s assistant director. Their study An Engine for Earning: Estimating the Financial Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Carsharing to Vehicle Hosts, was released last week.

Photo: Private vehicle in Chicago, IL available on Turo.com, an app-based online platform.

http://www.newgeography.com/content/006305-peer-peer-carsharing-a-peek-under-hood �

Paris Airshow: Difficult decisions for Boeing lie ahead

BBC.com 14 June 2019

Boeing is coming to this year’s Paris Airshow, which starts on Monday, facing some difficult decisions in the wake of the two deadly Boeing 737 Max crashes, while its global rival Airbus is widely expected to unveil a long-range version of its best-selling A321 – potentially taking away some of Boeing’s customers.

With almost 2,500 companies exhibiting and 320,000 visitors expected over seven days, the show at Le Bourget on the outskirts of Paris is one of the aerospace and defence industry’s key trade fairs for a sector that generates global revenues of some $685bn annually.

Expect most of the press attention to be focussed on Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg, and how the firm is working with aviation regulators to get its troubled 737 Max aircraft back in the air.

Piling on the pressure facing Boeing executives, just this week a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official indicated that airlines’ fleets of Boeing 737 Max aircraft might be grounded until the end of the year – longer than many had been expecting.

“The highest priority for us is the 737 Max’s safe return to service,” said Mr Muilenburg recently. Indeed, it has been a key seller for the US firm, which has roughly 4,500 unfulfilled orders for the aircraft.

For Airbus – under new CEO Guillaume Faury – it is the first airshow at Le Bourget since it made the decision to end production of its flagship A380. But the much-heralded unveiling of its A321XLR, is likely to garner positive headlines.

This is a single-aisle long-range airliner which Airbus hopes will generate new orders. Several carriers have already reportedly expressed an interest, including IAG – the parent group of British Airways and Iberia.

For Airbus this is possibly a strategy to counter Boeing’s eventual NMA (New Midsize Aircraft) that the US firm has been working on. The twin-aisled NMA, also labelled the 797, has been designed in two variants: a 225-seat plane with a 9,300km (5,700 mile) range and a 275-seater flying 8,300km.

However, unlike Airbus’s A321XLR this would be a totally new aircraft – so it would take a lot longer to see the light of day.

Away from the marketing battle between Airbus and Boeing, there will be more focus on unmanned aircraft, lighter and stronger alloys and composite materials – but the most significant developments may well be developments in hybrid and all-electric aircraft engines.

US firm magniX is showing off two of its electric motors at the show. It is working with North America’s largest seaplane operator to retrofit the entire fleet with electric engines and magniX motors will also power the new all-electric Alice, a small passenger aircraft from Israeli firm Eviation.

MagniX says it wants to transform the “middle mile” segment of the market – that’s cargo and passenger flights up to 1,000 miles (1,600km). “As we debut our propulsion system at the Paris Airshow, we’re one step closer to all-electric air transport starting in 2022,” says magniX chief executive Roei Ganzarski.

The sector has also seen significant business changes recently. Canadian-based manufacturer Bombardier has quit the commercial airliner business.

Airbus has taken over its C-Series regional jets, Bombardier has put its Northern Ireland factories up for sale and is talking about the sale of its remaining regional jets business to Japan’s Mitsubishi.

Meanwhile, two of the US’s major defence giants, United Technologies Corp (UTC) and Raytheon, have proposed a $121bn (£96bn) deal – combining the makers of missiles, electronic warfare systems, and engines for Airbus and the F-35 fighter jet.

When it comes to defence, notable newcomers include Boeing’s KC-46 tanker and a PAC JF-17 fighter jet, a joint development between Pakistan and China. Japan is putting its military capabilities on show with its Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft.

Yet much interest will centre on fighters, as European nations work out their visions for a next-generation combat plane. The big question is whether Europe can unite around a single design or whether countries will end up developing different sixth-generation fighter aircraft.

But as it took about 10 years of negotiating and talking in the 1970s, which led to requirements for fighters being firmed up in the 1980s – finally leading to Eurofighter Typhoon, Sweden’s Gripen and France’s Rafale in the 1990s – this year’s show is unlikely to give us any quick answers.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48630188

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