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Jon LeSage

Jon LeSage

Jon LeSage is a California-based journalist covering clean vehicles, alternative energy, and economic and regulatory trends shaping the automotive, transportation, and mobility sectors.

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The World’s Most Gridlocked Cities

If you’re thinking about the most traffic-congested cities in the world, images from Beijing and Mumbai may pop up — streets jammed with buses, trucks, and passenger cars.

While these cities have been symbolic of rapid growth in crowded cities within China and India, they didn’t even make the top 10. In a new study, Los Angeles topped the list as the most traffic-congested city in the world. Four other U.S. cities made the list, as did London and Paris.

The INRIX 2017 Traffic Scorecard is based on analysis of the total cost to average drivers in wasted time and fuel cost and through indirect costs affecting businesses in the metro area via increased costs passed on to consumers through higher prices.

While cities like London and Paris can offer local residents and businesses excellent rail and bus transportation, high-speed rail projects are still stalling in places like Los Angeles. Elon Musk's vision of the Hyperloop system is still years away from taking people from San Francisco to LA in less than an hour. 

As for countries, Thailand leads with the highest average hours spent in peak congestion (56 hours), surpassing Indonesia (51 hours), Columbia (49 hours), and Venezuela (42), with the U.S. and Russia both at 41 hours.

The U.S. has five cities on the list of the World’s Top 10 Most Congested: Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Miami.

The study found that traffic congestion cost U.S. drivers nearly $305 billion last year, coming out to an average of $1,445 per driver. That cost would go up with rising fuel costs, with some oil analysts predicting increases in WTI per barrel prices in the months ahead.

Related: Is This The Future For OPEC?

Americans are unlikely to support development of high-speed rail systems common in Europe and Asia, and riding scooters and bicycles is unlikely to become as commonplace as it is in countries like the Netherlands and Vietnam. The U.S. is expected to see its traffic gridlock crisis resolved through other transportation modes. Companies like Waymo, Apple, Uber, Lyft, Maven, Zipcar, Car2Go, Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, and Tesla are expected to make connected, autonomous, and electrified vehicles collaborate with the best mobility services in U.S. cities.

Uber closed its lawsuit initiated by Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving vehicle unit over potential intellectual property theft that plagued the ride-hailing giant over the past year. Waymo initially demanded $1 billion during settlement talks last year, but it was rejected by Uber board members. Uber also ousted founder CEO Travis Kalanick and brought in former Expedia chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi. Like Kalanick, Khosrowshahi rejected Waymo’s second offer to settle for $500 million. He was able to talk Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin into accepting the closing deal: 0.34% of Uber’s $72 billion valuation, which comes in at about $245 million.

"To be clear, while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo's proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our lidar and software represents just our good work,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

As Uber emerges from its Waymo lawsuit and begins cleaning up other parts of the mess that blew up last year, it could be competing with Lyft as a leader in autonomous on-demand mobility services.

That will probably come through smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles — many being hybrids and plug-ins. Uber and Lyft drivers tend to use small vehicles with strong fuel economy to keep the work more profitable. Both companies are participating in partnership test projects that will scope out the potential of automated ride-hailing services.

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Along with carrying passengers, companies like Amazon are exploring the business potential of providing “last-mile logistics” that will provide short-range local delivery of food, small packages, and larger items like consumer appliances. Integrated, shared fleets could be a viable option in the near-term future, according to a Navigant Research study.

The biggest challenge large companies face is congestion and finding parking spots in mega-cities. Interest is growing in deployment of fleets with automated vehicles, ranging from drones and single-person vehicles to autonomous minibuses. Food delivery and small parcel drop-offs will have the most likely demand, but there are several other delivery services in urban markets that would be ideal for last-mile logistics.

Cities such as London and Paris have worked hard at reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. Like other European metro areas, their roads were built centuries ago and were better suited for horses and carriages than for the large numbers of vehicles clogging their streets. London has enacted fines for violating limits placed on road access in some of its busiest sections. The city found that the congestion-charge scheme helps reduce traffic significantly.

By Jon LeSage for Oilprice.com 

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