10 Rules for Cities Thinking About Automated Vehicles

By Special Guest
Frank Hamilton, Correspondent
July 12, 2019

Introducing autonomous vehicles to urban areas such as big cities and small towns is a serious step that requires a lot of prior planning. But this is not the only challenge you will encounter if you decide to integrate AVs. Here are ten things you must keep in mind.

1. Be Afraid
This may sound strange at first, but you will understand the meaning of this rule soon enough. The thing is that new technologies that increase convenience cannot be stopped, whatever their impact on our long-term quality of life is. This means that even though AVs can save millions of lives, we can't know what problems they will bring and we can't predict them either. If you don't believe this, just look at what happened to cars.

2. Be Realistic
Another issue with automated vehicles is that they are a heaven or hell scenario. You should know what to expect and what not to expect with them. They can only save lives and function properly when they are fully integrated, but even if there are only a few privately-owned AVs that do not follow the general rules, then a hell scenario is inevitable.

3. Determine the Amount of Traffic
Contrary to popular belief, adding additional lanes to a road doesn't reduce the amount of traffic. According to many researchers advocating the introduction of AVs, these vehicles will be able to handle more traffic in each street, but there is a number of complications that comes along with this statement. This is why you should first determine the amount of traffic you want to have and then decide whether you still want to integrate automated vehicles.

4. Plan More Suburban Pressure
Suburban development pattern does not pay for itself. The tax revenue from low-density places is not enough to replace roads and pipes once they fail. Likewise, cheap autonomous vehicles will not have as great an impact as universal car ownership did. This is why a better policy is needed.

5. Understand Transit Geometry
Discussions related to AVs seem to follow only some laws of physics and often ignore simple geometry. Even though automated vehicles are smaller, they are still cars and are limited in the number of passengers they can hold. Low-occupancy vehicles are a huge waste of street space and it doesn't matter if they are conventional, electric, or autonomous.

6. Don't Rob Transit
A shift from transit to AV cars will reduce mobility. This is probably the biggest risk and a lot of people seem to be forgetting about it. In congested areas, replacing trains and buses by automated vehicles will cripple mobility. It may be a solution for cities that have no congestion and a very small transit population, but it is not a way out for most urban areas.

7. Own the Streets
Even though it may sound funny now, there is a very real worry that AV providers will ask to buy certain city streets. Maybe they would ask to buy certain segments of city streets, but this is no different from the first option. Cities will happily take the money and sacrifice their streets, the public areas we will ultimately lose.

8. Don't Buy Urban Vision That Forgets Urbanism
The traditional city made of streets, blocks, and squares has survived largely unchanged for millennia. Urbanism was not an invention and evolved over time naturally. The problem with the introduction of AVs is that projects with them often don't take into account urbanism.

9. Unify Around a Set of Policy Demands
In case AVs become a boon and not a bane, cities must be prepared to control that, especially such aspects as owning the data, setting speed limits, protecting transit and traditional urbanism, and prohibiting empty trips. This is why a set of regulations must be established.

10. Invest In the Current Technological Revolution
Maybe the answer to making mobility better is not improving our cars but using what we already have - bikes. Consider investing in the current technological revolution and developing better bike lanes that will reduce pollution, will require little space, and make their users happier and healthier.

To sum up, automated vehicles might be not the best option for your town. Of course, every city is different, so you may still be able to integrate AVs into your area effectively. Just remember to keep in mind these ten rules.

About the author: Frank Hamilton has been working as a translator at translation service TheWordPoint. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German and English.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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