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Connecting the Last Mile of Mobility

March 29, 2020

Arrive/Flowbird Executive Roundtable

John Van Horn

The Arrive/Flowbird sponsored roundtable held at CES in Las Vegas brought some surprises that even the organizers might not have expected. Technology is the leader, but in a number of cases, those using the technology found it to be wanting. 


Arrive CEO, Yona Shtern opened the event with a summary of the “Last Mile’s” rapid evolution and mapped out how the upcoming roundtable would help clarify how technology would bring cities, tech vendors, and the individual driver together.


Vendors are creating tech to handle some issues,
but cities aren’t ready for it.


Smart Cities was the theme and few are Smarter than Las Vegas. Tech experts from Flowbird, Citelum, Cubic, and even an automotive tech journalist held forth on how technology was bringing control to the issues that cities have in dealing with the curb. Sensors, software and even video would assist Smart Cities in getting the curb under control.


However, the one person on the panel who actually had to deal with the curb, Las Vegas Parking Director, Brandy Stanley, commented “It’s more than understanding what your curbs should look like, but how to make them actually be that way.” She went on to explain that to enforce curb rules, she was having to supply on-site enforcement at the cost of $25 thousand per month per block face. “There are possible solutions like LPR,” she continued. 


Vendors are creating tech to handle some issues, but cities aren’t ready for it. Partnership is key. There is a need for collaboration between cities and vendors. It’s difficult to get key technology in the hands of consumers and get them to use it.


The roundtable continued with Arianne Walker, who billed herself as Chief Evangelist for Alexa Automotive from Amazon. The goal is to make the voice activated Alexa transparent to its location, whether it’s in the home, office, or vehicle. An onboard Alexa could know your schedule, trip requirements, and then guide the GPS systems in the vehicle to maximize your timing. 


Walker pointed out the challenges still facing Alexa include, integration with existing and new vehicles, voice recognition and the requirement to have it react to literally hundreds of thousands of commands. Like the curb technology mentioned above, collaboration with other hardware and software systems, such as Google, for instance, will become necessary. Alexa will have to be customized to fit the needs of both technology and automotive partners.


The roundtable continued with discussions on customer choice in the car with representatives from Strategy Analytics, Amazon, Google, and HERE Technologies. The technology in the vehicle would remind the driver of certain information needed in running the car, like where the gas cap is. The group agreed that some of this is silly, since, hopefully, drivers are aware enough of their surroundings to know some basic facts about the two tons of metal they are driving. (Unless of course it was a rental car.)


One of the major concerns of this group was about the data that was being collected from the vehicle by the on-board technology and then transmitted back to the manufacturer. Who owns the data? How was it going to be used? 


One of the most telling comments came during this discussion. It was pointed out that some vendors would require the vehicle’s owner to agree to have the data collected and distributed at will. If they didn’t agree, they would not be allowed to buy the vehicle.


As the discussions proceeded, the Lt. Governor of Michigan, Garlin Gilchrist II, commented that he felt that Last Mile Mobility is a “right” and that governments should mandate ways to deal with the issue. 


The event ended with two professors from the University of Michigan, Ram Vasudevan and Matt Johnson-Robertson, who discussed Autonomous Vehicles and what’s coming down the road. They noted that safety is always an issue. While AV proponents note that death rates for AVs are somewhere less than 1 per 10 million miles driven, there simply isn’t enough data to give a clear picture. The team noted that vehicles drive billions of miles a year and that the death rate is somewhere around 1.5 per 100 million miles driven. AVs need to be at that level before the data can be properly evaluated and that one can say that they are safer than human driven vehicles. 


They noted that one has to keep in mind Pace, Peril, and Potential of the growth of AVs. Many manufacturers are slowing down the pace at which this technology is being brought online, being concerned about the safety and legal issues (Peril). The Potential is great, but they see the growth in slow moving vehicles for delivery (Grubhub and FedEx), and for commercial long-haul traffic. Replacement of individual personal vehicles will be the last in the cycle.


The four-hour long roundtable was held at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas in early January during the Consumer Electronics Show. 


John Van Horn is the editor of Parking Today. He can be reached at jvh@parkingtoday.com



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