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The Lede – Driverless Ridesharing. And Way Mo in Today’s Lede

The Lede, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018
By David Royse

Welcome to tomorrow, today. A look at where we’re all going.


Overshadowed a bit, perhaps, in coverage last week of the Waymo-Uber trial and a lot of coverage of the gun debate in America was a concrete step toward actual people in this country being able to call up a driverless rideshare on their phone.

Waymo, part of Alphabet, acknowledged last week that it received a needed permit from the state of Arizona in late January to start offering ridesharing with autonomous cars, and plans to be offering rides to the public on a non-test basis this year.

Quartz reported that the application indicates Waymo will offer rides in driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans, though an actual start day wasn’t announced. Waymo has been testing the service in the Phoenix area since last April.

From the report in Quartz:

“As we continue to test drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a Waymo spokesman said in an emailed statement. The company said it hasn’t announced rates yet for those rides. Waymo plans to operate commercially in other cities in the future, but declined to provide specifics.

Some of the test-drives in the Phoenix area have been without drivers already.

Sing it: “I’ve been through the desert in a car with no driver….”

Is Uber now in second place?

It’s almost comical how this works.

Waymo: We’re ready for you to hop in our driverless cars.

Uber: Well, uh, we’ll make … we’ll make ours fly. Yeah!

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Tuesday he can see commercialization of the Uber Air flying taxi within five to 10 years. Reuters.


Waymo’s announcement is only the second most disruptive in transportation technology in today’s Lede – Richard Branson takes a step forward in his race with Elon Musk to do the craziest new thing that everybody says can’t be done – announcing his company is closer to being able to shoot people at more than 600 mph through a tube in India.

Yesterday I brought you news here about Hyperloop Technologies saying it has reached an agreement for a feasability study to run a hyperloop system between Cleveland and Chicago. But today, a competitor, Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One, said it has actually gone a step farther – it’s already done a “pre-feasability study,” and has a “framework agreement” with local governments in India’s Maharashtra state to create a fully electric hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune.

“The hyperloop route will link central Pune, Navi Mumbai International Airport, and Mumbai in 25-minutes instead of the roughly 3 hours it currently takes by car and train,” the company announced at the Magnetic Maharashtra Convergence Conference and Investors Summit.



Cool tech anyway – though not sure about the cost. A group in SoCal wants to add a lane dedicated to electric cars, buses and trucks that would use wireless power transmission pads placed in the roadway to recharge their batteries as they travel. The Merc


The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority is getting started on $6.7 billion of light rail projects that will further connect Seattle with its western suburbs. Construction Dive

Meanwhile, some in Seattle want to bring back trolleys. Next City


Hyperloops, charging highways, etc. Cool stuff – but how do we pay for it? Our weekly look at issues around how do you do tax policy to make life better for all of us?

Today, I bring you three takes on a form of taxation, though many would say it’s more of a user fee. Still, it’s a government requirement for paying something if you do something – that’s also called a tax.

It is congestion pricing – which isn’t done in the United States, but has been tried in London and is being considered in massively congested Chinese cities. The reason interest is rising here – New York is looking at the possibility.

Today, John Rennie Short, a professor of public policy at UMBC, asks whether the U.S. of A. is a good place for congestion pricing, and takes us through the idea in The Conversation


“This strategy, which requires motorists to pay fees for driving into city centers during busy periods, is a rarity in urban public policy: a measure that works and is cost-effective.

“Properly used, congestion pricing can ease traffic, speed up travel times, reduce pollution and provide funds for public transport and infrastructure investments. The details matter, including the size and timing of charges and the area that they cover. Congestion charges also raises equity issues, since rich people are best able to move closer to work or change their schedules to avoid the steepest costs.

“But the key point is that this approach has succeeded in cities including London, Singapore and Stockholm.” 

Then, from EconomicsHelp, a look at how effective congestion charges are

And finally, advice to China – what other cities can learn from the flaws in the congestion charge in London.


From STAT:

Some of the world’s leading CRISPR labs have, independently, tweaked CRISPR — adding bursts of light here and rings of DNA there — in ways that could make it even more of a research powerhouse and, possibly, a valuable medical sleuth, able to detect Zika, Ebola, and cancer-causing viruses, or a cell’s history of, say, exposure to toxins.



On doing something about mass shootings: Florida students and staff who survived the Parkland shooting head to Tallahassee to speak with lawmakers



American cities are trying to take on climate change without federal government


From the New York Times:

The brash, ambitious founders of WeWork, a global network of shared office
spaces, want nothing less than to transform the way we work, live and play.


Bitcoin is on the rise again: Bloomberg

More professional investors are getting into the cannabis market. Benzinga

Vodafone is testing tech to track and take over control of commercial drones that could allow authorities to divert them if they might cause an accident or be used illegally, such as for a terrorist attack. Guardian

ODD: Today is the birthday of the Cummins siblings. There were 5 of them, all born on 2-20, in 1952, 1953, 1956, 1961 and 1966. The odds of that happening are about 17 trillion to one. Guiness Book

LIVIN’ THE LARGE LIFE: Some people just take it up a notch in life. Elizabeth Swaney is basically a decent skier – but certainly not elite. Not Olympic freestyle skiing elite, for sure. But she managed to get there. She’s skiing in the Olympics – not particularly well, maybe, but I’d imagine she’s enjoying the ride. Mercury News

Hey Waymo, you can drive my car.

Take us out George, Paul, John and Ringo

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About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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