Monday, June 20, 2022

On Our "Virtual Route 66" This Week: Looking to the Future

While traveling on our "Virtual Route 66" throughout the week, our team pulled together the folowing on the state of our World courtesy Route50, Bloomberg Green, Fortune & Peter Diamandis which we present for consideration:

In This City, Your Taxi May Not Have a Driver

In This City, Your Taxi May Not Have a Driver

DANIEL C. VOCK  |   California regulators gave Cruise the go-ahead to charge passengers to ride through San Francisco in its autonomous vehicles, but public safety skepticism remains.

States With the Highest and Lowest Rainy Day Funds

JEAN DIMEO  |   Wyoming leads the nation in the operating days in its fund, while Washington has a negative balance.

By Bill Donahue

At first, it seemed as though nothing could go wrong. Dockless shared electric scooters began showing up on the streets of the world’s cities in 2017, and the vanguard — techies, baristas, twentysomething daredevils — hopped on and rode, confident that they were tilting against two looming threats, urban congestion and climate change. The future of scootering seemed so bright that the valuation of the largest manufacturer, Bird, went from $300 million in March, 2018, to $2 billion three months later, an astronomical leap, even by Silicon Valley standards.

But Bird’s earliest scooters were so flimsy that, in one 2018 study, their average life span on the streets of Louisville, Kentucky, was just 28.8 days. (Bird disputes the study’s findings pointing to an investor presentation from 2022 claiming that the “half-life” of its earliest scooters was three to four months.) Reports of scooter battery fires and brake failures across scooter brands began hitting the news. In August 2018, Bird’s CEO, Travis VanderZanden, made a highly unusual move, selling off tens of millions of dollars worth of his company’s stock.

Today, the scooter industry encompasses over 200 brands, but it is still shadowed by a bad reputation. Scooter-related injuries are so frequent among riders that several law firms offer websites targeting prospective e-scooter plaintiffs. Scooter operators are frequently banned from cities — in January, for instance, Miami kicked out five of the seven companies operating in the city; Manhattan has banned shared scooters. Paris deputy mayor David Belliard last year joined numerous other city leaders in scooter-hate when he proposed “getting rid of them completely.”

Despite all the attention they command, e-scooters are used for only about one one-thousandth of all trips made in the world’s cities, according to McKinsey & Co. The global consulting giant has predicted that by 2030, micromobility — think bikes, mopeds, e-bikes and scooters — will triple in popularity to sustain a $500 billion industry. Can the scooter grow up and meet that economic promise?

Superpedestrian scooters weigh in at 60 pounds apiece. Source: Superpedestrian

A Boston brand is earnestly trying to make it happen, by focusing on safety. Superpedestrian has put nine years of research into making what’s been called “the Volvo of scooters.” It recently raised $125 million in funding to enhance its technology. And by year’s end, in several U.S. and European cities, including San Diego, Rome and Madrid, thousands of Superpedestrian scooters will come equipped with a Pedestrian Defense AI system. This software can instantly stop the vehicle’s engine if the rider hops up onto a curb, starts slaloming wildly or travels up a one-way street. Additional gadgetry will alert headquarters if a rider parks more than 10 centimeters outside a designated area and will self-check 140 components to ascertain if, say, the battery is at risk of igniting or if the throttle is stuck. No other scooter integrates such a suite of safety features, according to Augustin Friedel, an independent industry analyst and mobility expert based in Germany.

Can Superpedestrian profit from its safety push? Click here to read the full article.

Covid’s lingering fallout

What else did Covid cause? 

As the pandemic shifts — and as this newsletter begins to focus on other topics — it’s time to start thinking more deeply about all of the non-Covid effects of Covid-19 on health care.

Some are obvious. A lockdown in Shanghai led to a shortage of medical dye used to scan American patients for cancer, emergency heart conditions and strokes. Others are tragic. Backed up emergency departments and hospitals have left young psychiatric patients waiting for an inpatient bed for days or even weeks

The financial, public health and other ripple effects of the pandemic are still being studied, and it may take years to know the real collateral damage of Covid. 

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 booster shot. Photographer: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg

Cancer screenings fell precipitously during the pandemic’s peaks, but it’s still not clear in the data how that affected cancer deaths. Traffic fatalities rose, but not because roads were clogged with people driving instead of taking public transit – there are signs it was because roads were empty, and the few people driving drove faster. Health insurers saw strong profits during the first two years of the pandemic as people delayed medical care, leading to expectations that they would face a tidal wave of claims as the virus waned – but that hasn’t happened. Population growth hit its lowest level in more than 100 years, driven by fewer births and more deaths.  

The ongoing shift of the pandemic’s status – whether you choose to call it the end, a hidden surge, a move to endemicity, or just a change – will bring with it the movement of billions of dollars, altered demographics, and revelations of unknown collateral damage. 

Some of those pandemic side effects may ultimately be good, some will certainly be bad, many will be confusing or more complex than our assumptions about them were a year or two years ago. The only thing that’s certain is that health companies, patients and caregivers are going to find a far different world as a result. —Drew Armstrong

We leave all w/this: