The Curbing Cars Podcast Is Back!

We’re delighted to tell you that the Curbing Cars podcast is back. We’d love it if you’d check it out.

Each week, I’ll look at one of the stories that we’ve covered in the Curbing Cars newsletter. We’ll also have special guests, like the experts and journalists who’ve provided exclusive coverage for us.

The Curbing Cars podcast is produced by Anchor, and it’s available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Breaker and many other platforms.

By listening to the Curbing Cars podcast, you help support our journalism. Please make us one of your favorites. We promise to be informative and hopefully entertaining, too .


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The Curbing Cars Newsletter Is Back, And There’s A Special Deal If You Sign Up Now

For the past six years, Curbing Cars has been looking at all forms of transportation, from cars and trucks to bicycling, walking, public transit, scooters, skateboards and more.

Now, we’re broadening our mission to see how transportation is affecting the environment. They’re intricately linked, and what happens with one affects the other.

That’s something we know you care about. So, we hope that you’ll want to become one of the inaugural subscribers to the Curbing Cars Newsletter.

There is a special deal available now on Substack if you sign up now. You’ll get the newsletter every Sunday and access to all of our archives.

Plus, you’ll be supporting our journalism. We wouldn’t be here without you.

Please subscribe to the Curbing Cars Newsletter. And thank you.

P.S.: we’ll still publish a free issue once in a while so that you can keep up with what we’re doing. But this is such a great value, don’t miss out.

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Sign Up For The Curbing Cars Newsletter And Support Our Journalism

If you’re interested in the future of transportation and its intersection with the environment, please sign up for the Curbing Cars Newsletter.

Each Sunday, we publish a full-length newsletter with original journalism. Recently, that’s included features from Marc Stewart of ABC News, urbanist Richard Florida and aviation journalist Ethan Klapper.

As a gesture to you, our weekly newsletter is free as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Paid subscribers receive special bonuses, including the Curbing Cars Mid-Week Report, published every Wednesday, and access to our full newsletter archive.

Please support our journalism and purchase a subscription. Or, sign up to try us out for free while the country tackles the biggest challenge to transportation that we’ve ever experienced.

We look forward to keeping you informed.

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The Curbing Cars Newsletter Returns On Sunday, Feb. 7

We’re coming back! If you haven’t signed up, be sure to do so here.

The Curbing Cars Newsletter looks at the future of transportation, and the intersection of transportation and climate change world wide.

We promise lively content, interesting links and useful information.

See you on Sunday, Feb. 7.

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The Curbing Cars Newsletter Will Return In 2020

There’s so much going on in the world of mobility that we’ve decided to revive the Curbing Cars Newsletter.

The first issue will be available in January, and we’ll include details on how to subscribe.

Please sign up to receive the newsletter, and learn about and the kinds of topics that we’ll be covering.

See you in the new year!

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All Hail Wakanda, Land Of The Future Of Transportation

Say Wakanda to a moviegoer, and they immediately know what you mean: the fictitious land in Black Panther, the recently released Marvel blockbuster that is taking the world by storm.

But Wakanda also is a place where moviegoers cn see the future of high-speed travel.

In the movie, Wakanda’s technological advancement far outpaces the rest of the world due to the availability of vibranium.

Vibranium, a metal unlike any other, powers all of Wakanda, heals the injured and everything in between. Its utility is unlike any other metal, making it a highly coveted and sought-after resource.

And, vibranium is a key to the transportation advances featured throughout Black Panther.

To transport the vibranium throughout Wakanda, scientists developed a magnet powered train system to safely move the metal. In real life, trains like this are already racing across countries around the world, although not yet in the United States

The trains are known as Maglev—short for magnetic levitation. There are three in operation, in Japan, China and South Korea.

Maglev trains are powered by a magnetic field created by electrified coils. This system causes the train to hover at about four inches above the rails, eliminating any friction. This is how a test train in Japan broke a world record, traveling at 374 mph. Continue reading

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Carmakers: Tell Us As Much As You Can About The Future Of Transportation

Waymo is testing self-driving vehicles. Photo: Waymo

When automakers look at the future, the only thing they can say for certain is that there’s no certainty.

But if Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. is to be believed, his company isn’t even going to be that specific.

On Halloween, Ford talked to reporters after a speech to the Economic Club of Detroit. And, according to Bloomberg, here’s what he said.

“In the past, maybe we said too much,” Bill Ford said Tuesday. “This is a very competitive world we’re in. You want to give Wall Street enough information, but you also don’t want to telegraph exactly where you’re going. And I think that’s a balance that we are going to continue to work on.”

However, something else happened out west that was a little more transparent. Waymo, the self-driving car division of Alphabet (parent company of Google), invited a select group of automotive and technology journalists to Castile, a former U.S. Air Force base in California that the company has been using since 2012.

There, the journalists were allowed to ride in a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica. Verge said the event marked a shift for the previously tight-lipped company, which hasn’t given out much information about how it has been conducting its autonomous testing. As Verge reported.

Waymo is intent on showing that its test cars are able to handle the complicated, complex, and increasingly dangerous task of navigating a two-ton machine on public roads. Not only that, but they can do it more efficiently than humans. Waymo appears to be moving toward making the flesh-and-blood driver obsolete.

To be sure, both companies have good reasons for the positions they’ve taken. Ford has been punished by Wall Street and investors ever since it began talking about becoming a mobility company, rather than one that primarily sells cars and trucks.

After its new CEO Jim Hackett spoke with analysts in October, a number complained that he did not give them enough details. Two analysts cut their ratings on Ford stock. Only five analysts recommend buying the shares, while 19 tracked by Bloomberg rated them a hold and two advised selling.

That’s the kind of thing that makes corporate boards panic, unless those boards are firmly behind the direction that the company is taking. So, it’s easy to understand why Bill Ford would rather close the blinds.

But just as Bill Ford is turning that plastic rod, Waymo seems to be saying, “Okay, we’re ready for you to see it.” That’s to its advantage, because somebody, among the sea of companies developing self-driving technology, is going to hit on the formula that will make self-driving vehicles embraceable by fleets and by the public. (I’m betting the first comes, well, first.)

A great big sea change is headed for the car companies, in terms of the vehicles they produce and the people who buy them — or don’t own them, but simply drive them when they need them.

As much as the automakers might be tempted to pull their collective comforters over their heads and pretend none of this is happening, they can’t.

There’s a great example in what happened in the market for hybrid-electric vehicles. When the Toyota Prius went on sale in Japan and subsequently the United States, it was dismissed as a toy, the same way that Tesla’s vehicles initially were dismissed as playthings for the rich.

But, Prius sales grew incrementally, then gained popular acceptance, and now global sales of Toyota hybrids are closing in on 10 million vehicles worldwide. The Prius is so ubiquitous that hardly anyone gives it a second glance any more. All those fears that its batteries might die and strand motorists were essentially for naught.

By the time Detroit automakers realized that hybrids could actually appeal to customers, it was too late. To consumers, there was one hybrid, and it was the Prius.

That’s what could happen with self-driving vehicles, too. It’s still early, and all manner of regulations, local and federal, are going to be needed before they become as unremarkable as the Prius is now.

However, to be part of the conversation, about self-driving cars, electric vehicles or anything else, a car company has to actually speak up. Journalists have space in newspapers, time on broadcasts, and pages on the Web to fill.

If there’s a company talking about the future, and one that isn’t, you can guess which one will get the most prominent mention.

“The key is providing clarity when we’re ready so that investors can make an informed decision,” Bill Ford told reporters.

But, his “ready” might be much different than investors’ “ready” or consumers’ “ready.” The best strategy is to just keep talking, and keep guiding customers to the future. Otherwise, they might get there without you.

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How Tesla’s Struggles To Build The Model 3 Threaten The Future Of Electric Cars

Until this year, Tesla’s electric vehicles have largely been seen as toys for the wealthy and early adoptees. The Model 3 was supposed to change all that.

Model 3 is the first mass market Tesla, selling for about $35,000. Tesla already has about 435,000 orders, and if you raise your hand today, you can expect to wait until the middle of next year to receive it.

Or maybe longer. That’s Tesla’s big problem. It can’t get the Model 3 out the door of its factory in Fremont, Calif.  And that threatens not only Tesla’s reputation, but the future of electric vehicles in general.

Because of its unique market niche, Tesla has always gotten away with things for which other car companies would not get a pass. For one thing, Wall Street has been charmed by its eclectic founder, Elon Musk.

His company appearances and quarterly earnings cars are followed with the cult-like response that greeted Apple and Microsoft through the years. Its market capitalization swelled beyond anything that was supported by its sales performance, vaulting its value past General Motors.

To be sure, Tesla Model S, its $70,000 sedan, has received strong reviews and has a small, but rabid customer base. Model S heralded good things for Model 3.

That makes its current dilemma even more stark. Model 3. Tesla has been honest about its production problems. It told analysts to expect “production hell’ during the first six months of production.

But, Tesla is falling short of even the very modest production targets it set for the car. In August, Musk said Tesla would build 1,300 cars in September, ramping up to 20,000 a month by December. Continue reading

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Filed under cars, Technology, urban planning

Car-centric Texas And Florida Face Clean Up After Harvey And Irma

How Hurricane Irma looked on Sunday afternoon.

This will be a hurricane season that residents of Texas and Florida will long remember. Just as Houston began the long process of cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey, Miami and cities on Florida’s west coast were hit full force this weekend by Hurricane Irma.

And no one can yet relax. Hurricane Jose is still on the way.

In each case, citizens had plenty of advance notice if they wanted to leave. They were told that massive flooding was possible, and that strong winds could do serious damage.

And, in each case, the storms revealed a variety of transportation vulnerabilities, from the air to the roads to the rails (or lack of them). Authorities could tell people to go, but they couldn’t make it quick or easy for them to evacuate.

All weekend, there were complaints on social media that gas was scarce for evacuees in Florida, in part because of shortages caused by Harvey.

There have been numerous stories about the number of cars that will have to be declared totaled in Houston due to water damage, with 100,000 insurance claims already filed, and estimates of as many as 1 million lost.

In each case, the storms slammed into parts of the country where public transportation takes a back seat to freeways and cars. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, infrastructure, public transportation, Rail

The Curbing Cars Newsletter Is Taking Labor Day Off

Donate — or go eat!

We just want to remind you that the Curbing Cars Newsletter is taking Labor Day off. We’ll be back next week.

In the meantime, we have a request. Hurricane Harvey has left a mess in its wake. There are fundraisers and collections going on all over the country. This will be a problem for a long, long time.

There are estimates that between 500,000 and 1 million cars will have to be scrapped. Already, 100,000 people have filed claims with their auto insurers.

So, if you see something that appeals to you, please attend, or make a donation to help those in need in Houston.

Our friend Chef Alon Shaya is hosting a fundraiser in New Orleans on Monday. The menu includes red beans and rice, which everyone in New Orleans eats on Mondays. There will be music, and beer, and other drinks, and a lot of good cheer.

Every penny of your donation (minus the ticket fee) is going to help Harvey victims. Even if you can’t attend, think about making a donation to his foundation.

And thank you.

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