Cities should plan now for the arrival of autonomous vehicles

Cities should start making changes today to their infrastructure to prepare for the arrival of autonomous vehicles, according to a new report from Siemens. The industrial group also wants to see urban environments put people ahead of cars.

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to cause major and disruptive changes to cities worldwide. But to what extent depends in part on how major cities and urban environments prepare for new technologies, writes Siemens in its report “Cities in the Driving Seat”, which was presented last week at the World Cities Summit 2018 in Singapore.

The industrial group encourages cities to harness the advance of what it calls four mobility “transformations”: automation, electrification, digital connectivity and shared mobility.

First and foremost, the report urges cities to refocus their mobility concepts on citizens, cyclists and public transport. Cars should be used by several passengers where possible, a measure that would connect individual and public transport. Autonomous vehicles connected to the public transport system could provide “first and last mile” trips, i.e. from your home to the bus stop, and from the bus stop to your destination. Vehicles themselves should be powered by renewable energy.

According to the report, if such measures are successfully put into place, car traffic could be slashed in half by 2050.

Without such a targeted use of private vehicles and linkages to the public transport system, connected and autonomous vehicles could even worsen traffic congestion and lead to greater urban sprawl, warn the Siemens experts. What’s more, the vehicles would remain an luxury good for only an exclusive few in a world in which private ownership is the norm, shared vehicles and shared trips remain a niche concept, public transport decreases rapidly over time, and more carbon dioxide is emitted than ever before.

Image credit: Ford

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