Autonomous Vehicles and Impact on Cities

Autonomous Vehicles and Impact on Cities


Stelios Rodoulis, Jacobs


Driverless cars are fast becoming the hottest topic in transport industry. This paper explains Autonomous Vehicle technology and explores the impact on planning through the possible societal, economic and safety benefits stemming from this technology


Driverless cars are fast becoming the hottest topic in the transport industry. It may seem futuristic but Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) cars that drive themselves with little or no human input are not far away. Traditional car makers such as Audi, Ford, Mercedes Benz and Nissan are testing and showcasing self-driving vehicles. Many new cars already feature autonomous technology such as auto-braking, automatic parking and lane assistance. Furthermore, technology that recognises hazardous situations and takes control by braking or steering to avoid impact has already been developed, using cameras, radar technology, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. These auto-control systems are designed to step in at the last moment to avert or mitigate the severity of the crash and are becoming increasingly common.
Within the next decade it is predicted that at low speeds such as in traffic jams or while parking vehicles will operate with a large degree of autonomy, while several car manufacturers are also planning for highly automated driving within the structured environment of a motorway. But it's not just traditional carmakers in the race to develop an AV. Technology companies such as Google, while not in the habit of building cars, are also developing mobility solutions.

The introduction of AVs may prompt the biggest catalyst for change in transport and city planning in decades. Stakeholders need to keep abreast of developments and incorporate AVs into planning in order to anticipate potential impacts on cities and transport infrastructure. With AVs poised to be the next disruptive technology to travel and technology rapidly progressing, this paper/presentation examines how our cities might look with AVs on our roads.
AVs have the potential to deliver a range of positive outcomes to our cities and the way we plan our land use, transport systems and infrastructure investments. This paper/presentation explores the potential impact of this technology on cities as a result of the safety, economic and societal benefits that this technology might bring. However, the future of AVs is also essentially dependent on people and our society's acceptance of this new technology. Habits and culture take time to change. Managing this change is critical and issues relating to safety, planning and legislation require careful consideration before the introduction of AVs can become a reality. There are a number of challenges to overcome before fully autonomous vehicles reach their full potential; however, many of these are characteristics also shared by transformational technologies throughout history and will inevitably be resolved.

In fact, if implemented to their full potential AVs could revolutionise the way we live, travel and work, transforming our cities and improving our quality of life. But perhaps the most radical change will be to our cities and transport infrastructure. AVs could change the shape and aesthetics of our urban environments leading to cleaner, safer, more sustainable and prosperous cities. The challenge for the world's city planners and managers is to understand how quickly AVs will disrupt current patterns of passenger mobility. In this paper/presentation we look at the critical implications of AV technology and next steps that city planners need to take to fully realise the opportunities they offer. City leaders that take action will benefit from more sustainable cities, while those that take a passive approach risk setting themselves more congested, less liveable, less competitive and ultimately degraded cities.

The aim of the paper/presentation is to be thought provoking through examining what are likely to be the most significant changes to our cities in decades, with impact on roads, traffic management, parking requirements, transport infrastructure investments and settlement patterns. In short, AVs have the potential to significantly alter the relationship between land use and transport. The objective of this paper/presentation is to offer a glimpse of this driverless brave new world and ‘sew the seed’ of driverless-ation to urban and transport planners’ minds. On this premise, the real challenge is for city and transport leaders and planners to prepare now for the impacts.


Association for European Transport