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House transportation bill goes big on climate

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House transportation bill goes big on climate

House transportation leaders introduced legislation to update our national transportation program to address climate, equity, safety and public health. Climate advocates and climate leaders on the Hill should recognize the strides taken with this proposal from Congress and fight to protect those changes in the bill.

This is a joint post by Transportation for America and Third Way, co-written by Rayla Bellis, T4America program manager, and Alexander Laska, Third Way Transportation Policy Advisor for the Climate and Energy Program. It is also posted on Third Way’s site. This is part of our ongoing in-depth look at the House’s INVEST Act five-year transportation proposal, including how it stacks up to our three core principles, a look at other important things to know, and a close look at passenger rail and the bill’s repair provisions.

While it isn’t perfect, the INVEST Act introduced in the House takes some very important steps, including:

  • Measuring and tracking important outcomes like GHG emissions and access to jobs and services.
  • Making significant progress towards electrifying our vehicle and transit fleets; and
  • Supporting investments in low emissions transportation modes, including:
    • Supporting transit with more money and better policy; and
    • Supporting biking and walking with a comprehensive approach to improving safety.

For too long, federal transportation policy has prioritized car travel and the infrastructure to support it while neglecting cleaner and more affordable transportation options like transit, walking, and biking. We are now seeing the consequences of decades of spending in line with those priorities: car-ownership is a prerequisite for participating in the economy in most communities, and many people are driving further every year to reach work and daily necessities. It is unsafe, inconvenient, or flat-out impossible to reach those destinations by any other means in much of the country. As a result, transportation is now the nation’s single largest source of greenhouse gases (GHG), accounting for 29 percent of emissions, 83 percent of which comes from driving. While cars and trucks will and should remain an important part of our transportation system, any effective strategy to reduce emissions from transportation must make it easier for Americans to take fewer and shorter car trips to access work and meet basic needs.

Last week the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released their transportation reauthorization proposal. Third Way and Transportation for America unveiled a scorecard earlier this week to show how the new House reauthorization proposal and previous Senate proposal stack up against the recommendations in our new Transportation and Climate Federal Policy Agenda. The House bill makes significant strides in several areas in line with our federal policy agenda:

Measures and tracks important outcomes

We measure all the wrong things in our transportation system and therefore get the wrong outcomes. Instead of measuring whether people can get where they need to go (e.g., jobs, healthcare, and grocery stores), we measure how fast cars are moving. Rather than being required to reduce transportation emissions, states are distributed more money if their residents drive more and burn more gasoline.

The House bill takes important steps in reversing these perverse incentives. It requires states to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their transportation system (a similar requirement from USDOT was rolled back early in the Trump administration). States that reduce emissions can be rewarded with increased flexibility, while states that fail to reduce emissions will face penalties. This is a major shift, and it will lead to significantly different outcomes if states are truly held accountable to these requirements.

In addition, the bill requires a new performance measure to help states and MPOs evaluate how well their transportation systems provide access to jobs and services. This access measure is monumental. For the first time at the national level, recipients of federal transportation funding will be required to measure whether their transportation system is performing its most essential function: connecting people to the things they need, whether they drive, take transit, walk or bike. This will have profound impacts in communities, including directing more funds to projects that shorten or eliminate the need for driving trips. It also happens that providing a high level of access, especially for nondrivers, correlates with lower GHG emissions.

Makes significant progress towards electrification

Decarbonizing our transportation system will require us to transition quickly to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs)–and that means making sure we have the infrastructure ready to support those vehicles. The INVEST In America Act establishes a new $1.4 billion program to deploy electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure in public places where everyone will have access. The grant program will focus on projects that demonstrate the most effective emissions reductions. We believe the program should additionally focus on ensuring this infrastructure is accessible to low-income communities; this, combined with policies to make ZEVs more affordable, will help ensure all Americans can benefit from the air quality improvements and other benefits of clean vehicles.

The bill also reorients federal funding for transit buses towards electric vehicles by boosting funds for the Low- and No-Emission Vehicle Program five-fold, incentivizing the purchase of electric fleets, and requiring a plan for transitioning to a 100 percent electric bus fleet. This improved program, and other transit reforms, will help transit agencies procure electric and other clean buses, as well as the refueling infrastructure to support them. Transit is already a lower-carbon alternative to driving, and shifting our fleet towards clean buses will make it even more so. Ultimately, all federal funding for bus procurement should go towards low- and no-emission buses, but the significant increase for this program is a good start.

Supports transit with more money and better policy

Too many Americans must drive because they either are not served by transit or only have access to infrequent, unreliable, and inconvenient service. Transit has been underfunded for decades at the federal level despite the significant benefits it provides to communities: reduced emissions, improved economic opportunity, a way out of  congestion, cleaner air, mobility choice, better health outcomes, and improved quality of life. Our failure to invest sufficiently in transit has disproportionately impacted low-income people and people of color, who are more likely to rely on transit to access jobs and services.

The House bill gives transit a big increase in overall funding: 47 percent. Equally importantly, however, it changes some policies that have long obstructed transit as a truly viable option in communities. For years, federal transit funding has incentivized lowering operating costs (usually accomplished by offering less or infrequent service) at the expense of building transit that best serves people’s needs. The new bill includes policies that shift those incentives, focusing instead on frequency of service. This will make transit a real option for more people in more communities. 

Supports biking and walking with a comprehensive approach to improving safety

Dangerous road conditions pose one of the biggest barriers to taking short trips by walking or biking in many communities, leading to unnecessary driving trips that increase traffic and emissions. Between 2008 and 2017, drivers struck and killed 49,340 people walking on streets nationwide, and pedestrian fatalities have risen by 35 percent over the past decade. People of color, older adults and people walking in low-income communities are disproportionately represented in these fatal crashes.

The House proposal takes a comprehensive approach to make walking and biking safer through a combination of increased funding, policy reform, and better provisions to hold states accountable. For example:

  • The bill requires Complete Street design principles and makes $250 million available for active transportation projects including Complete Streets.
  • It proposes changes to how speed limits are set to prioritize safety results over a faster auto trip.
  • It requires states with the highest levels of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities to set aside funds to address those needs.
  • The bill would also prohibit states from the current practice of setting annual targets for roadway fatalities that are negative—in other words, targets that assume the current trend line of increased fatalities is unstoppable, essentially accepting more fatalities every year as an unavoidable cost.

The House bill isn’t perfect, but is a significant improvement over the Senate’s proposal

While the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s proposal takes many steps in the right direction, it still misses the mark in some areas based on our agenda. It still includes significant funding for highways without the proper restrictions in place to avoid unnecessary buildout of new lane-miles we can’t afford to maintain, and congestion relief is still a primary goal embedded throughout the proposed program. This ultimately prioritizes the same types of transportation investments we have seen for decades.

Yet, the House bill takes significant steps that the Senate EPW bill introduced last year did not. In contrast to the broad, holistic approach the House bill takes to addressing emissions, the Senate bill introduced some new (but relatively weak) stand-alone programs to address emissions, congestion, and other important topics. Importantly, the Senate bill did not make any needed changes to the core federal formula programs, continuing to direct the vast majority of funding into programs that incentivize building high-speed roads and making travel by any means other than driving — and emitting — impossible for most Americans.

Bottom line: the House’s proposal could be a game-changer for climate, equity, and safety goals

The House’s proposal introduces more substantial reforms to our national transportation program than we have seen in years, and many of the changes will directly support reduced emissions, environmental justice, and other important goals. This is a big deal, but the magnitude of the changes may not be readily apparent. Many of the most transformative proposals do not sound like climate initiatives because they do not specifically reference emissions or address electrification. Instead they change funding formulas, policies, and performance measures that, over decades, have produced a transportation system that requires more and longer car trips and greater emissions.

Climate advocates and climate leaders on the Hill should recognize the strides taken with this proposal from Congress and fight to protect those changes in the bill. Advocates for preserving the status quo are preparing to fight these important changes. We need climate advocates to do the same to defend them.

Source: http://t4america.org/2020/06/12/house-transportation-bill-goes-big-on-climate/

Automotive

SpaceX fires up sooty Falcon booster ahead of historic astronaut launch

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SpaceX says it has successfully completed the last major test standing between a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft and the company’s next historic astronaut launch.

Right on schedule, once-flown Falcon 9 booster B1061, orbit-proven Crew Dragon capsule C206, and a new expendable Falcon upper stage rolled out to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39A on Friday, April 16th, kicking off the last major steps for SpaceX’s second operational astronaut launch. Captured in great detail by NASA and SpaceX photographers, the rollout was completed without issue and the rocket was brought vertical and connected to the launch pad later the same day.

Less than 24 hours later, the fully integrated Falcon 9 was loaded with supercooled liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) and ultimately fired up its nine first-stage Merlin 1D engines – a procedure virtually identical to a normal launch flow. All systems thus fully checked out and cleared for flight, SpaceX and NASA proceeded into a “dry dress rehearsal” early on Sunday.

Much like the Saturday static fire replicated almost every rocket-related aspect of launch, Sunday’s ‘dry dress’ served a similar role for the mission’s human elements – an international group of astronauts and the SpaceX and NASA teams that prepare them for flight. For Crew-2, Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will be carrying Japanese (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, European (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur.

Those four astronauts will be flying on Falcon 9 booster B1061, already responsible for launching Crew Dragon’s operational debut in November 2020, making Crew-2 the first time in history that astronauts will fly on a flight-proven liquid rocket booster and flight-proven private rocket of any kind.

Falcon 9 B1061 first launched Crew-1 in November 2020. (Richard Angle)

(Quite literally) on top of that, they will also be riding in the Crew Dragon capsule responsible for enabling the United States’ first orbital human spaceflight launch in almost a decade less than a year ago. Dragon C206 successfully launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) in late May 2020 and flawlessly returned them back to earth in early August, acing the first crewed US spaceflight since the Space Shuttle’s premature July 2011 retirement.

Crew Dragon C206 is the first privately-developed spacecraft in history to launch astronauts. (NASA)
Looking like a well-toasted marshmallow after its first orbital-velocity reentry, Dragon C206 has cleaned up nicely for its second astronaut launch. (NASA)
C206 looks like an entirely new Dragon after ~8 months of refurbishment. (SpaceX)

That means that Crew-2 will make Crew Dragon C206 the first crewed space capsule in history to launch astronauts more than once – a truly historic achievement but just the latest in a long line of successful uncrewed Dragon reuses over the last four years. That NASA – a famously risk-averse spaceflight agency – is at all willing to allow its astronauts to fly on a flight-proven Dragon or Falcon 9 booster at all is impressive and was perceived as a highly improbable outcome just a few years ago.

For NASA to allow SpaceX to perform both feats of unprecedented crewed rocket and spacecraft reuse on Dragon’s third human spaceflight ever is nothing short of the most resounding endorsement and validation of the company’s technical expertise that the space agency could ever offer. Thanks in large part to NASA’s flexibility and seemingly boundless confidence in SpaceX, the company has been able to expedite its astronaut launch plans in order to prevent major delays hampering Commercial Crew Program’s other partner – Boeing – from disrupting NASA’s presence on the ISS.

Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch Crew-2 no earlier than (NET) 6:11 am EDT (10:11 UTC) on Thursday, April 22nd.

(SpaceX)
(NASA)
(NASA)

SpaceX fires up sooty Falcon booster ahead of historic astronaut launch

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-crew-2-reused-dragon-falcon-static-fire/

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AI

Volvo to supply cars for Didi’s global autonomous driving fleets

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As the autonomous driving race in China heats up, Didi is rushing to expand its car fleets by picking Swedish automaker Volvo, an old partner of Uber, as its ally.

Didi said on Monday it will be using the XC90 SUVs of Volvo, which has been owned by Chinese auto company Geely since 2010, for its global network of robotaxis in the long term. Didi created a subsidiary dedicated to autonomous driving last year and the unit has since raised about $800 million from investors including SoftBank Vision Fund and IDG Capital. The subsidiary now has over 500 employees.

Didi started out as a ride-share app in 2012 and gobbled up Uber China in 2016. It now offers a range of mobility services including taxi hailing, ride-hailing, carpooling, shared bikes and scooters, as well as financial services for drivers. The company is seeking a valuation north of $100 billion in an initial public offering, Reuters reported last month.

Didi’s autonomous driving arm has been testing robotaxis for the past two years in China and the United States, but Volvo’s XC90 model will be the first to adopt Didi’s freshly minted self-driving hardware system called Gemini, which contains sensors like short, mid and long-range lidars, radars, cameras, a thermal imager; a fallback system; and remote assistance through 5G networks.

Didi said that its Gemini platform, coupled with Volvo’s backup functions including steering, braking and electric power, will eventually allow its robotaxis to remove safety drivers. If any of the primary systems fail during a ride, Volvo’s backup systems can act to bring the vehicle to a safe stop.

Didi is competing against a clutch of well-funded robotaxi startups in China, such as Pony.ai and WeRide, which are busy testing in major Chinese cities and California while splurging on R&D expenses to reach Level 4 driving. AutoX, another Chinese robotaxi company, announced last week that it will be using Honda’s Accord and Inspire sedans for its test drives in China. The edge of Didi, some suggest, is the mountains of driving data accumulated from its ride-hailing business spanning Asia, Latin America, Africa and Russia.

Rising electric automakers like Nio and Xpeng have also joined in the race to automate vehicles, making bold claims that they, too, will be able to remove safety drivers soon. Meanwhile, traditional car manufacturers don’t want to fall behind. BAIC, a state-owned enterprise, for instance, is adding Huawei’s advanced automation system and smart cockpit to its new electric passenger cars.

Updated headline on April 19 for clarity.


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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/19/didi-volvo-autonomous-driving/

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Neuralink posts more jobs based in Austin, Texas

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink posted five jobs based in Austin, Texas on its website. Neuralink wants to hire an Animal Care Specialist, Registered Veterinary Technician, a Veterinarian, an MEP Engineer, and a “general application” post in Texas.

The jobs posts located in Austin supports rumors that Elon Musk plans to build Neuralink facilities in the state, similar to his other companies. Word spread that Neuralink would build facilities in Texas in January when the company made a job post calling for a “Head of Construction.” Neuralink is now also looking for a mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) engineer, which further suggests that the company plans to build facilities in Texas.

Neuralink also posted several jobs based in Austin related to animal care, an essential aspect of its research and development, as showcased by its most recent video featuring Pager the Macaque. The footage showed Pager playing Pong with his mind with the help of a Neuralink implant. Before Pager, Neuralink researchers also worked with pigs including, Joyce, Gertrude, and Dorothy, who attended the company’s live demo event last year.

Neuralink also posted a position called “General Application,” which proposed a unique proposition. Neuralink asks candidates applying under General Application to present their skill set and describe a job that would be the right fit for them at the company. “If we are intrigued we could just create a role that fits your skills!” Neuralink stated.

Since Musk revealed his interest in Texas, there have been clues hinting that most if not all of his companies have moved to the Lone Star state. The location of Neuralink’s potential facilities in Austin has not been revealed yet, but the job posts confirm that the company is coming to Texas.

Check out Neuralink’s video on Pager the Macaque playing Mindpong!

The Teslarati team would appreciate hearing from you. If you have any tips, email us at [email protected] or reach out to me at [email protected].

Neuralink posts more jobs based in Austin, Texas

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/neuralink-jobs-austin-texas/

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Tesla drops Model 3’s price in Australia with help from Giga Shanghai exports

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Tesla’s strategy of exporting Model 3s from Gigafactory Shanghai to Australia seems to be bearing fruit, with the EV maker recently rolling out a series of price adjustments for the entry-level sedan. The price adjustments were notable, with vehicles like the Model 3 Standard Range Plus getting as much as AU$4,000 (US$3,000) off its cost.

With its recent price adjustment, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus now costs AU$62,900 (about US$48,500), $4,000 less than its previous price. The Long Range Dual Motor AWD variant’s cost saw a $AU$4,000 reduction as well, to AU$77,900 (about US$60,100). Lastly, the Model 3 Performance now sells for AU$89,900 (about US$69,000), which is AU$1,000 (about US$700) less than its previous cost.

Tesla’s vehicle prices in regions such as the United States have been volatile in recent months, and in Australia, this trend is somewhat the same. About six months ago, Tesla significantly lowered the prices of the Model 3 Standard Range Plus and Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor AWD by up to AU$6,000 (about US$4,600), and the Model 3 Performance received an AU$5,000 (about US$3,800) price cut.

With its current adjustment, the base Model 3 Standard Range Plus has now become 13.5% more affordable than it was 12 months ago. The vehicles’ current prices also make the new entry-level Teslas more attractive than their second-hand counterparts available in the market. Second-hand Model 3s in Australia command a high price, with some cars being listed around AU$68,000 (about US$52,000).

The price of the Model 3 in Australia has been poised for a reduction for months, mainly after Gigafactory Shanghai started exporting vehicles to foreign markets like Australia. So far, both the Model 3 Standard Range Plus and the Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor AWD are reportedly being shipped from China, while the Model 3 Performance is still being shipped from the United States.

It’s not just Australia that has seen a price drop for the Model 3. Just recently, Tesla also rolled out price cuts for the Model 3 in Japan by up to 24%, also thanks in part to the sedan now being sourced from Gigafactory Shanghai. So far, Tesla Japan’s price reductions seem to be working, as the Model 3 sales have seen a 1,300% rise.

Do you have anything to share with the Teslarati Team? We’d love to hear from you, email us at [email protected] or reach out to me at [email protected].

Tesla drops Model 3’s price in Australia with help from Giga Shanghai exports

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-model-3-updated-price-australia/

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