How Will Autonomous Vehicle Sharing Technology Affect Cities?
New research from Arcadis, HR&A Advisors and Sam Schwartz Consulting offers advice for city planners who are considering a future that includes autonomous vehicle technology, or AVs. McKinsey (who was not part of this particular study) says that by 2030, autonomous vehicles will account for 15% of auto sales worldwide. The study released recently, “Driverless Future: A Policy Roadmap for City Leaders,” estimates that nearly 8 million people in its three sample cities will choose an AV over a traditional vehicle in the next 15 to 20 years. Those three sample cities were Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York and were selected for the extent of their of density, walkability, and usage of public transportation.
The research compared the cost of car ownership to speculated AV ridesharing and AV ridesourcing, and determined when people in those cities were likely to make the move from commuting in their own car to hailing a self-driving car. However, the study’s authors also point out that in order for AV to work, it has to work for everyone. They suggest things like using open data and universal apps so riders can compare prices, travel times, and environmental impact across modes of transportation, and pay using one app. To that extent, the authors also remind cities to keep in mind that not everyone has equal access to technology. People who do not have cell phones or bank accounts need to be able to access the transportation network, including autonomous rideshare or ridesource vehicles, through Dial-a-Ride and smartcard payment options.
It is also worth taking in mind now, as this kind of technology and service is growing worldwide, how to fund accessible services. For example, the study notes that in New York City, there is a 30-cent fee per taxi ride that supports the city’s expansion of wheelchair-accessible transportation options. Ridesourcing services like Uber and Lyft don’t pay that fee. There are potential drawbacks to having fleets of AVs wandering city streets, and the study is aware of these concerns. Mass adoption of AVs could encourage sprawl and increase the number of miles cars travel, and the system could develop in a way that leaves behind anyone without a cell phone and a checking account. AVs also could decrease public transit revenues, which could affect public transportation.