Autonomous vehicles are coming. Cities need to start planning. Now
2018-10-20 | Gazette
Autonomous vehicles, it is believed, could travel closer together, faster and in a more confined space. Lanes could be smaller and fewer. On-street parking could be minimized.
Vehicles could park themselves outside urban areas, creating more room for commercial development, bike lanes and wider sidewalks, and green space for recreation, parks, and to help manage stormwater. Seniors and those with disabilities could more easily access doctors and recreation, and those now lacking reliable transportation could have more employment opportunities.
Add to this that American drivers spend 29.6 billion hours a year commuting -- 24 miles each way, on average -- according to the
These are common theories of scholars and industry experts in transportation planning papers and articles. To be sure, considerable challenges also exist.
No one knows for certain when this day of a driverless vehicle saturated society will arrive or for sure what it will look like. Some suggest it's just a matter of years, others say decades or more.
In 'full swing' by 2030?
"Right now, the biggest question is what do they have the need for in the existing system and will they have the same need in the future," Trombino said. "My belief is no. They should already be starting to think about this. Are there elements to be building in now to change the system?"
The transition to autonomous vehicles already has begun, Trombino added.
This is important because roads are designed to last 30 or 40 years, bridges 75 to 100 years, and urban planning decisions of today -- such as redeveloping blighted areas such as the
Autonomous vehicles may seem more sci-fi than reality at this point, but several research papers support Trombino's timeline and urge decision-makers to take it seriously.
A 2017 paper -- called "Taming the Autonomous Vehicle: A Primer for Cities" for Bloomberg Philanthropies and the
By 2040, experts with the
Others see a longer transition.
Recommendations include begin planning now; consider policy development that could anticipate issues such as procurement and public safety; have a voice in developments at the state and federal level; and begin planning infrastructure needs and building data and computing capacity to position your city to take advantage of an automated mobility future.
Some public-sector planners and traffic engineers describe this as an exciting time, but also a time in which a lot of questions exist -- and not many answers.
Will autonomous vehicles create more or less congestion? Will autonomous vehicles be a shared fleet or will people still largely own their own vehicles? Will public transit remain viable or needed?
How much data storage and broadband capacity will be needed and who will support it? How will autonomous vehicles affect revenue streams, such as parking and speeding tickets?
"Right now, when we are designing a road, we still have to design it to all of the current standards," said
Regardless, Witt said, autonomous vehicles will need to function on roads of today and coexist with the non-autonomous fleet. The transition period to a more autonomous fleet will last a long time, he said.
For now, the focus is on traffic flow, ensuring accessibility for multiple modes of transportation, and making lane markings and signs discernible for both drivers and automated vehicles, which use markings and signs for lane awareness and speed control, he said. "Automated" refers to vehicles with some form of automation as opposed to driverless.
A new initiative called the
The Driving Simulator, the city of
The project is designed to "help
The proposal calls to develop policy guidance for how ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles could fill gaps in the public transportation system and expand access to jobs and health care; a parking and complete streets plan with ride-sharing drop-off areas and reallocation of downtown parking and road space; and implications and integration of exclusive pedestrian and low-speed automated vehicle zones and how that impacts urban land use.
The project proposal requests recommendations for the next five to 10 years and the next 10 to 20 years.
"We are looking at hot spots, looking at areas humans might want automated vehicles -- areas that are dense, downtown or employment bases," said
For example, a third of the traveling public move by bike, walking or public transit there, and the city wants to maintain that culture, she said.
"The picture is fuzzy right now, but we don't want to be caught in 20 years having not considered the impacts and be in a situation where you are backpedaling," she said.
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Recommendations for planners
Autonomous vehicles are on our roads today, so start planning now.
Decide policy development with the right people at the table.
Track and monitor federal and state developments and make your voices heard.
Begin planning infrastructure needs and building data and computing capacity to position your city to take advantage of an automated mobility future.
Levels of Automation
Function-Specific Partial Automation
An automated system that can assist parts of the driving task, such as controlling speed, braking or steering, for part of the time.
Function-Specific Full Automation
This enables a part of the driving to be entirely automated, with the human playing an active monitoring role, such as automatic parking.
Function-Specific Full Awareness Automation
There is awareness of the environment around the vehicle, and can fully automate and monitor some parts of driving. The human driver must be ready to take back control but is not actively monitoring every aspect of the driving.
Environment-Specific Full Automation
The driver no longer is expected to constantly monitor driving or the driving environment, but the automated system can only operate in certain environments and under certain conditions, such as highway-only automation.
The automated system can perform all driving and monitoring functions in all environments.
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