Plans for autonomous vehicles in American cities difficult to realize?18. September 2019
Plans for autonomous vehicles in American cities difficult to realize?
New York, 17.9.2019
Two years ago, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), representing 81 North American cities, published its first planning guide for self-propelled vehicles. Result: If everyone is moving in this direction, nobody has to own a car privately and nobody has to park a car.
Wasn’t that an overly imaginative view of the future of cities? the experts ask themselves today. Residential streets with a lot of greenery on which a delivery vehicle appears only occasionally. More space for public transport than for private cars – all realistic?
These dreams will still be alive in 2019. But then there will also be skeptics. They point out: If our cities fail to make the transition to (autonomous vehicles) AVs, they will end up with even more problems than now: completely congested streets, even more emissions, even less space for walkers, bicycles and scooters.
Because of such concerns, NACTO has now published a second version of the AV Planning Guide, which is rather hostile to the project. After years of tension with companies like Uber, Lyft and Bird, who had lured away some of their employees and questioned the existing infrastructure and regulations, cities are cautious of those who are demanding new transport plans. The new plan is a detailed 131-page guide that consistently reflects what some of the country’s most influential cities consider to be the best way to prepare for AV.
“There are good partners out there, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing for cities to be cautious,” says Kate Fillin-Yeh, who helped produce the guide and is NACTO’s Strategy Director. A task force of officials from 14 cities, including Boston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Vancouver, also helped create the updated plan.
To this end, this plan is much more specific in terms of the type of policies that cities should make. There is talk of “road pricing,” the controversial policy that forces drivers to avoid certain neighborhoods at certain times of the day. The model is London, where they are forced to pay substantial sums to enter the city centre, where they are trying to reduce local emissions.
The guide goes into great detail on the guidelines for data exchange, as it is precisely this issue that triggered fierce battles in US cities last year. Background: autonomous vehicles trigger a lot of information about the individual’s journey. The cities lack data collected and controlled by private companies. However, they need this information to ensure safety on public roads and to regulate transport services.
The new version outlines many visions for the future. It is packed with pictures of pedestrians and cyclists. Children romp about in playgrounds where once streets led through the city in two lanes. It shows how autonomous trains and buses transport 15 times more people every hour than private cars. The buses have their own tracks and occupy the largest space. However, some of the largest and most influential cities in the country are clearly concerned that the autonomous vehicle experiment could go badly for them.
“We all recall once again that the purpose of all [developing technology] cities and places is that they are good, sustainable and just for people,” says Fillin-Yeh. “And that won’t happen if we repeat the mistakes we made in inventing the car.”