Concept 26

As reported by City Lab‘s Laura Bliss, our utopian view of driverless “Uber” and “Lyft” vehicles might be very different as “zero occupancy vehicles” jockey to pick up drivers and do short errands. That’s why the philosophy has been to share driverless cars, different from Elon Musk who wants one of his cars in every citizen’s driveway.

There is a fear that the driverless technology will be so pervasively cheap and convenient that it will attract riders who normally would not be driving and result in an increase of vehicle kilometers travelled. “Even in a shared scenario, there could be a vehicle kilometers travelled  increase due to increased demand,” says Adam Cohen, a research associate at UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center, who presented his research on planning for shared mobility this week at the American Planning Association’s annual conference in New York.”

Cities and policies can be tweaked now to be “proactive in planning for Autonomous vehicles rather than reactive in the future, advice that is becoming dogma among “smart city” practitioners and advocates“.  Cities such as Paris, Oslo and Stockholm are banning cars from urban cores, countering the carpool convenience that autonomous vehicles might represent. Priority travel lanes for high-occupancy autonomous vehicles  like buses and road pricing policies which charge by vehicle kilometer in traffic dense areas will be needed to reduce vehicle kilometers travelled.

As Bruce Schaller, a former senior official with the New York City Department of Transportation and an expert in emerging ride services noted “Public officials don’t know what policies are needed for technology that doesn’t yet exist. The private sector, from Uber to Detroit to Google, are rushing headlong toward an intensive competition to get out ahead”.

And a late breaking news item-Uber and Google’s Waymo have agreed to co-operate in getting their technology out. More here.

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