Uber has named Melbourne as one of three locations around the world for a new aerial taxi trial. The other locations are Dallas and Los Angeles. All will be using the company’s ‘Uber Air’ pilot to connect major points of each respective city.
Uber plans to commence trial flights from 2020, with a fully-fledged commercial model operational from 2023.
Not surprisingly the press releases are filled with words like “revolutionary”, and “pioneering experiment”. Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia said “Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology.”
I accept that it could still be a “Hero” project for Uber and Melbourne but perhaps, for the sake of technical completeness, we should also add that it represents a miniscule component of the transport task that will only be used by those who can afford the high cost.
In our interview with Prof Graham Currie, one of the key note speakers at our upcoming National Conference, we touched on this subject and he gave the following example to make his point:
There are two thousand one hundred helicopters in the entire country of Australia. If you were to take them into one city and try to deploy them to carry two people an hour that would really be two trains worth. I'm not sure there the solution to the urban transport problem that our mega cities are going to be facing when the size of London and Paris. So you know those solutions sound interesting but they're not really solutions to the critical problems we have. They're sort of fluff really at the edg,e and we need solutions that are going to work.
Voters demand safer roads and less congestion: AAA survey
The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) conducted a survey before the federal election of more than 17,000 Australians, which highlighted the difference in metropolitan and regional Australia’s road and transport priorities.
Traffic congestion rates as the number one priority in metropolitan seats, but the biggest priority in rural and regional areas is road safety.
Over the next four years motorists will pay almost $56 billions of fuel excise alone. That means this year, the average household will pay $1,288 in fuel excise. The AAA feels that many Australians want more of these funds invested into transport and related infrastructure.
That seems about right but every election focuses on big transport projects. There are systemic problems with the way we select and implement how we build transport infrastructure. That’s what we need to push.
Airbus to partner with SAS on hybrid and electric aircraft research
Air travel is a major component of the transport task and its effects on air and noise pollution are often used as a reason to promote very fast rail between our cities.
There are, however, more than 170 companies currently working on electric and hybrid aircraft systems and components around the world, from giants such as Airbus and Boeing to start-ups like Wright Electric, which is partnering with Easyjet on one of the most ambitious projects for a commercial all-electric plane.
A report from London’s Heathrow Airport predicts electric aircraft will be flying from major international airports by 2030.
Recently Airbus and SAS Scandinavian Airlines announced that they will collaborate on research into hybrid and electric aircraft eco-systems and the infrastructure to support them.
UK to trial new ‘noise camera’ system to combat excessively loud vehicles
I recently tested a $350,000 McLaren sports car. I loved driving it. But just the other day I followed one down the road in fairly heavy traffic. The owner clearly wanted to hear the engine noise (and perhaps let everyone else know he was in a fine piece of machinery) so he was holding it in first gear and doing short, sharp burst of power. It reminded me of why I don’t like big motor bikes like a Harley Davison that prides itself on the racket it can produce. A development in the UK caught my attention.
The UK Government has commissioned a prototype ‘noise camera’ system in a crackdown on drivers who disturb communities with vehicles that are breaking legal noise limits.
New camera technology aims to measure the sound levels of passing vehicles to detect those that are breaking the law, and could use automated licence plate recognition technology to help enforce the law by prosecuting the registered owner (or nominated driver) in the same way that speeding is enforced.
The system could also help to catch those who rev car or motorcycle engines beyond legal limits at traffic lights or other locations, making life difficult for those who live nearby. Studies have found that exposure to excessive noise can have significant physical and mental health implications.
The system will be tested at several locations across the UK over the coming months.
It May Soon Be Illegal to Text While Crossing the Street in New York
New York City Lawmakers want to ensure pedestrians keep their heads out of their phones while crossing the street.
State Senator John Liu recently introduced a bill seeking to ban pedestrians from using cell phones and other handheld electronic devices while crossing the road. Pedestrians could face fines between $25 and $250. The statewide ban would include texting, checking emails, and browsing the internet.
It’s the second time such as bill has been proposed; a similar bill was tried in 2018. It has to be approved by Assembly and the Senate transportation committees before it can be introduced for a vote by lawmakers.
Targeting poor behaviour by pedestrians is an increasing trend. Later in this newsletter Graeme Pattison reports on how far the Chinese are going in order to catch and humiliate bad pedestrian etiquette.
German firm tests external airbag for side-impact crashes
The story goes that when some managers were debating how to squeeze another lift into their building, a cleaner asked “why not put it on the outside?”.
Now German automotive supplier ZF has revealed an external airbag system to shield passengers in a side-impact crash.
The difficulty with side impacts is that there is not a lot of room for devices that crumple or compress before something solid hits the vehicle occupant. The company said that an external airbag could reduce passenger injury severity by up to 40 percent.
There is no time line at this stage but ZF will offer the technology to car makers.
Highways England trials giant mobile crash barriers and solar powered CCTV
As part of its long-term commitment to investing in new technology to improve safety and minimize disruption caused by roadworks and incidents, Highways England is trialling two innovative new systems in the West Midlands.
· Two giant 21m long crash barrier trucks that were originally designed for military use to protect against roadside bombs, but are now keeping road workers and motorists safe.
As well as improving safety, roadworks take less time to complete as fewer cones and signs have to be deployed in the construction zone.
· Mobile CCTV systems can be easily deployed to locations to provide surveillance and feedback information about traffic flows to the control room.