From helping the visually impaired navigate public transport, to Australia’s ambitious hydrogen plans, we take a look at some transport stories making headlines around the world!

Are Uber and other ride-sharing apps making it harder for European cities to go green?

For 15 years, the number of car trips in European cities has been on the decline. But now, thanks to the convenience of door-to-door trips organized with a few taps on an app, services like Uber appear to be reversing that trend. And while Uber’s offering has always included the aim of working towards a “shared, electric future” – that doesn’t appear to be happening in reality – at least not yet.

And indeed, a recent report using data compiled by Euromonitor shows a correlation between rising levels of air pollution in major European cities and the rising numbers of ride-share drivers. You might think that a service that allows people to get around easily without purchasing a private vehicle would be a good thing for emissions, but there are concerns that companies like Uber could be replacing public transport rather than private cars.

Moves are being made in the right direction, however. Uber recently announced plans to make all their cars on the London app fully electric by 2025. To help accomplish this, they are adding a 15 pence / $0.19 per mile Clean Air Plan fee to London trips, with the funds set to help the driver upgrade to an electric rather than petrol or diesel vehicle.

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Gravel road ban put in place in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada

On the 20th of November 2019, a 50% axle weight road ban for all gravel roads was put in place in the County of Grande Prairie. And while this is not unusual for Canada, those from other parts of the world might never have even heard of these kinds of bans – or ‘seasonal load restrictions’. Sometimes also called ‘spring weight restrictions’ or ‘frost laws’, they’re necessary when melting snow and thawing frost causes the road base material to become saturated.

Heavy vehicles traveling on the road under these conditions can cause enormous damage to it – damage which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair. When building a gravel road in areas where the soil freezes and thaws, crews bury special probes into the road base at several depths. This allows authorities to monitor temperatures and put bans or restrictions in place when melting frost becomes an issue.

Australia plans to make Hydrogen it’s next big export

It’s been almost 150 years since Jules Verne wrote the famous words:

Water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable.”

It looks like that future might now be just around the corner – and Australia is planning to lead the charge. The first phase of their hydrogen roadmap is already underway. Currently, pilot projects, trials, market development, and workplace training are in progress, with hopes of wrapping up the first phase by 2025.

Hydrogen could become a viable fuel source for cargo ships, freight trains, and large trucks, and is the perfect solution for capturing and exporting renewable energy such as solar and wind.

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In September 2019, the Port of Antwerp in Belgium commissioned the world’s first hydrogen-powered tugboat.

Aira, Microsoft, and Moovit join forces to make public transport more accessible for blind and visually-impaired customers

Aira, founded in San Diego in 2015, provides a mobile app and smart glasses that allow the visually impaired to navigate the world outside their homes. It does this by connecting them with a remote human agent who can assist them by reading signs and other visual elements on their behalf.

The human agents who work for Aira make use of facilities such as Google Maps to help their customers navigate cities, but linking this in with real-time data around public transport has proved a challenge. Now, thanks to their partnership with Moovit and Microsoft, that’s set to change.

Using Moovit’s transport app in conjunction with Microsoft’s Azure Maps, agents will now be able to access transit planning alongside a real-time view of what their client is seeing. This means that aside from helping them navigate, agents will be able to confirm the customer is getting on the right bus or choosing the right subway entrance, for example. The WHO estimates that 1.3 billion people around the globe live with some kind of visual impairment.