Around the world, major cities have been setting targets to combat the negative effects of local transport on public health, local pollution, noise levels, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Cities are looking increasingly at the potential of automated vehicles (AVs) to help solve these problems through improved traffic flow, the near elimination of collisions, increased productivity, and reduced pollution and GHG emissions.
Moving toward Full Automation
The concept of automated or self-driving cars has shifted from the realm of science fiction into reality, as showcased by some of the latest developments in cities around the world:
- The University of Michigan has been operating a pair of Navya driverless shuttles for several months around the north campus area on publicly accessible roads.
- The City of Las Vegas began operating the country’s first automated shuttle service on public roads in November 2017. The eight-seat passenger shuttle uses GPS, cameras, and sensors that can communicate with traffic lights through vehicle-to-infrastructure technology. The program will also analyze pedestrian and rider reactions and attitudes toward AVs.
- Waymo (subsidiary of Alphabet) began operating a fleet of AVs without human backup drivers in Phoenix, Arizona in November 2017. Regarded as the first program of its kind in the world, the vehicles are being used on public roads and at posted speed limits. Over the next several months, the vehicles will begin carrying passengers.
- The City of Helsinki (Finland) is launching a regular service self-driving bus (called a RoboBus) by the end of 2017.
- The UK Autodrive project has announced a goal of having 40 self-driving pods for pedestrianized spaces operational as a limited public service by summer 2018. Several demonstrations have already taken place in Milton Keynes as part of the project.
- In Singapore, a number of automated mobility-on-demand services have been launched, including the deployment of 12 driverless trucks on Jurong Island in September 2017.
Key Challenges Remain
Partial automation is becoming commonplace in all road vehicle classes. Full driving automation is starting to be piloted in numerous cities globally with regular commercial deployments expected in the next 2 to 3 years. Before AVs can become ubiquitous in city streets, new infrastructure investments, communication network upgrades, the need for fleets to operate in varied conditions, and concerns about cybersecurity need to be addressed. Cities also need to develop frameworks to integrate and coordinate AV mobility services with existing transit services to optimize the use of road infrastructure and avoid increased congestion. Although the AV was not at fault for the accident, the recent Las Vegas automated shuttle collision shows why vehicle-to-vehicle communications will also be crucial to the success of AVs.
If AVs are managed properly, highly integrated with public transport, and coordinated as part of a multimodal transportation ecosystem, the shift to self-driving vehicles could lead to reduced traffic congestion in cities, lowered demand for parking spaces, and highly beneficial energy and environmental effects. For more information on the potential effects of AVs in cities, see Navigant Research’s recent white paper on Redefining Mobility Services in Cities.
Tags: Automated Vehicles, Building Innovations, Mobility, Smart Cities, Transportation Efficiencies
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