Uber set to fill a massive bus-shaped hole in the town of Innisfil, Ontario

Uber has entered in an agreement with the Canadian town of Innisfil, Ontario to serve as the town’s public transport service.

The town of Innisfil decided that subsidising Ubers, with its services like Uber Pool, was cheaper than paying for its own dedicated bus service, so on May 1 a partnership between Uber and the town will begin and residents will be able to pay between $3 and $5 , depending on the destination, to ride the service.

“[The] Council was really being pressured to bring transit to the town of Innisfil,” said Innisfil’s mayor, Gord Wauchope, to the Toronto Star.

“You can’t have taxpayers pay for a transit system which they cannot use. And this was a transit system that people can get from anywhere in the town of Innisfil, and use it for a reasonable price.”

Innisfil, Ontario. Image courtesy of Michael Gil

Although Innisfil has been criticised by some for not investing in its own public transport, the town argues that it doesn’t make economic sense to do so.

The Council says that for a town like Innisfil that currently has no bus service, bringing one bus into the town would cost $270,000 and two buses would set the town back $610,00, which would be too costly for the limited level of service that they would provide.

In contrast, Innisfil will pay Uber $100,00 during Stage 1 of the programme and then another $125,00 during Stage 2, which should commence around 6 to 9 months later.

Featured image courtesy of Jirapong Manustrong / Shutterstock, Inc.

The town is still in discussions with taxi companies that already operate in Innisfil – Innisfil Taxi, Global Taxi and Barrie Taxi – to arrange a partnership that would also see them offer “accessibility” rides, which Uber may  not offer, during Stage 1 of the ridesharing transit service.

For residents of Innisfil who don’t have access to a smartphone, Uber has provided the Town with a number of iPads that will be available in community hubs like the Town Hall, the library and the Nantyr Shores Seconday School within the town.

Speaking to Factor, Uber Canada’s senior communications associate, Susie Heath, says: “On May 1st, Uber and the Town of Innisfil will launch Canada’s first ridesharing-transit partnership. This partnership will not only help residents get around town but will encourage them to access local transit hubs.

“We were thrilled when the Town of Innisfil approached us last year as they were interested in running a dynamic ridesharing-based transit service to test the feasibility of such a service in the Town.

“Since then, we have worked closely with Town staff to develop a public transit partnership that will provide affordable and cost effective transit to their residents.

Prathan Chorruangsak / Shutterstock.com

“We know that Uber and ridesharing has become a first mile/last mile complement with public transit in cities around the world. The American Public Transportation Association (to which many Canadian transit authorities are members) published a study last year that found that people who routinely use “shared modes” of transportation (e.g., bikesharing, carsharing, and ridesharing) were more likely to use public transit,” says Heath.

“Today, people are combining ridesharing and public transit to substitute for a car and create shared journeys. As a case in point, in London, 30% of Uber rides in the outer boroughs during the morning rush hour end within 200 metres of a Tube or train station.

“Realizing these trends are already happening, more and more transit authorities and cities are entering into formal agreements with ridesharing companies to help connect people to public transit, like in the feeder communities of New York City and Orlando, or improve paratransit services for the elderly and disabled, as with a pilot program in Boston.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Innisfil for Canada’s first partnership of this kind and look forward to continued dialogue with other jurisdictions and transit authorities across Canada to explore similar partnerships. “

Updated with comment from Uber.

DJI’s First Drone Arena in Tokyo to Open This Saturday

Consumer drone giant DJI will open its first Japanese drone arena in the city of Tokyo this Saturday, providing a space for both hardened professionals and curious newcomers to hone their flying skills.

The arena, which covers an area of 535 square metres, will not only include a large flying area complete with obstacles, but also offer a store where visitors can purchase the latest DJI drones and a technical support area where drone owners can get help with quadcopter issues.

The hope is that the arena will allow those who are curious about the technology but currently lack the space to try it out to get involved.

“As interest around our aerial technology continues to grow, the DJI Arena concept is a new way for us to engage not just hobbyists but also those considering this technology for their work or just for the thrill of flying,” said Moon Tae-Hyun, DJI’s director of brand management and operations.

“Having the opportunity to get behind the remote controller and trying out the technology first hand can enrich the customer experience. When people understand how it works or how easy it is to fly, they will discover what this technology can do for them and see a whole new world of possibilities.”

Images courtesy of DJI

In addition to its general sessions, which will allow members of the public to drop by and try their hand at flying drones, the arena will also offer private hire, including corporate events. For some companies, then, drone flying could become the new golf.

There will also be regular events, allowing pros to compete against one another, and drone training, in the form of DJI’s New Pilot Experience Program, for newcomers.

The arena has been launched in partnership with Japan Circuit, a developer of connected technologies, including drones.

“We are extremely excited to partner with DJI to launch the first DJI Arena in Japan,” said Tetsuhiro Sakai, CEO of Japan Circuit.

“Whether you are a skilled drone pilot or someone looking for their first drone, we welcome everyone to come and learn, experience it for themselves, and have fun. The new DJI Arena will not only serve as a gathering place for drone enthusiasts but also help us reach new customers and anyone interested in learning about this incredible technology.”

The arena is the second of its kind to be launched by DJI, with the first located in Yongin, South Korea, and detailed in the video above. .

Having opened in 2016, the area has attracted visitors from around the world, demonstrating serious demand for this type of entertainment space.

If the Tokyo launch goes well, it’s likely DJI will look at rolling out its arena concept to other cities, perhaps even bringing the model to the US and Europe.

For now, however, those who are interested can book time at the Tokyo arena here.

Commercial Human Spaceflight Advances Prompt Calls for Space Safety Institute

Commercial human spaceflight has been a long-held dream, but now it is finally poised to become a reality. Companies including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are inching ever closer to taking private citizens into space, and there are serious plans for spaceports in several parts of the world, including Hawaii, the US, and Scotland, the UK.

But while the industry is advancing, the legal side of this fledgling commercial space industry remains underdeveloped, leading to calls for the development of an organisation to establish a framework for the safe operation of spaceports for human commercial spaceflights.

Writing in the journal New Space, Mclee Kerolle, from the United States International Institute of Space Law in Paris, France, has proposed the establishment of a Space Safety Institute recognised by the US congress and the United Nations.

This institute would “develop, enforce and adopt standards of excellence”, allowing the industry to develop while protecting it from liability and insurance risks.

“Currently, no international regulatory body exists to regulate the operation of spaceports,” he wrote. “This is unfortunate because while the advent of commercial human spaceflight industry is imminent, a majority of the focus from the legal community will be on regulating spaceflights and space access vehicles.

“However, the regulation of spaceports should be viewed in the same light as the rest of the commercial human spaceflight industry.”

The article focuses particularly on the establishment of a spaceport at the Kona International Airport in Keahole, Hawaii. At present, the spaceport’s development is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Authority, however there are aspects to spaceport development that do not apply to conventional aviation operations.

A spacesuit design for commercial flights developed by SpaceX. Featured image: SpaceX’s proposed spaceport for its conceptual interplanetary transport system. All images courtesy of SpaceX

The institute would be designed to first and foremost ensure safety within the industry, so it would be important, according to Kerolle, to ensure it was made up of individuals with expertise in the field, rather than bureaucrats.

“To make sure that this flexibility is inherent in a Space Safety Institute, the organization should be composed of individuals within the industry as opposed to government officials who are not familiar with the commercial human spaceflight industry,” he wrote.

“As a result, this should protect the commercial human spaceflight industry to some liability exposure, as well as promote growth in the industry to ensure the industry’s survival.”