How Local Governments Should Plan for Driverless Cars

How Local Governments Should Plan for Driverless Cars

May 26, 2016  | Lauren Isaac

(Ed. Note: This post is based off of a TEDx talk that Lauren Isaac recently gave in Sacramento, CA. You can watch the full talk here.)

Driverless cars, also referred to as autonomous vehicles (AVs), are capable of sensing their environment and navigating roads without human input. They rely on technologies like GPS, lasers, and radar to read their surroundings and make intelligent decisions about the car’s direction and speed. Google, Uber, every major automaker, and technology organizations like Apply, Tesla, and EasyMile are investing significantly in the advancement of autonomous technology. Many research institutions are partnering with automakers to provide research support and testing sites.

The potential impact of autonomous vehicles on society is vast, with both positive and negative implications.

Generally, public safety is the largest positive impact cited as AVs have the potential to eliminate the majority of the 94 percent of automobile accidents caused by human error. Other positive impacts could include: more efficient land use and improved mobility for the elderly, disabled, and youth. In addition, as cars will likely have shorter headways, roads may have more capacity, and parking circulation may be reduced.

Potential negative impacts include job loss in certain sectors. For example, drivers in the trucking industry, taxi services, and limousine services may not have jobs when their industries transition to driverless vehicles. Still unknown is how AVs will affect the level of congestion within and around our cities. For example, will people continue to own their vehicles and mostly travel alone or will the Uber model of shared vehicles become more prevalent? Will people keep their cars parked in remote parking lots? Will people send their empty driverless cars on many unlinked errands? As more people travel due to increased mobility options for elderly, disabled, and youth populations, does this mean there will be more vehicles on the road? Will people be willing to live farther from their jobs, resulting in longer trips?

Despite these uncertainties, there are things local governments should be doing now to plan for these many changes.

For example, local governments may need to update and reconfigure signage, speed limits, signal timing, roadways and parking spaces. As AVs become more popular, everything from service coverage to vehicle types to labor requirements stands to change. Transit agencies may need to completely re-think their services and fee structure in order to stay competitive in the new transportation environment.

Local governments may also experience significant financial consequences associated with driverless cars. Taxes, parking fees, speeding tickets, parking real estate, and incident management costs are just a few of the government revenues and costs likely to be impacted. Local governments must understand the impact of autonomous cars ahead of time and prepare accordingly.

Depending on the governance model utilized in a particular region, various local entities will have jurisdiction over driverless cars. These local, regional, and state government entities may include transit agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, air quality districts, departments of transportation, highway departments, and departments of public works.

For their part, states will likely continue to be responsible for driverless cars’ licensing and testing requirements. This includes establishing the standard for who can “drive” (or be responsible for) an autonomous vehicle, and how and where it must be tested.

It is important for the U.S. to lead when it comes to AV regulation. Beyond Silicon Valley and Detroit, technology development and testing is also under way in cities around the world (Gothenburg, Sweden; Bavaria, Germany; and Bristol, United Kingdom), often with the same level of government oversight (or less) as in this country. This is because officials there have stated that they are waiting for the U.S. to set the precedent. All the more reason for the  U.S. to take the lead and implement a well-balanced and effective oversight framework for the driverless industry.

Driverless cars are coming, with or without coherent public policy. Governments at all levels have the opportunity to proactively establish regulations, policies, and plans that can continue to support the driverless car revolution while keeping the traveling public safe and providing a positive example for nations around the world.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eno Center for Transportation.

Share

Related Articles

Eno Releases New Mobility on Demand Reports with Data Insights and Recommendations

Eno Releases New Mobility on Demand Reports with Data Insights and Recommendations

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, public transit in the United States was going through a very dynamic period. The FTA's MOD Sandbox...

Mobility on Demand in the Puget Sound Region: Evaluation of the Use and Performance of the MOD Pilot

Mobility on Demand in the Puget Sound Region: Evaluation of the Use and Performance of the MOD Pilot

Mobility on Demand in the Puget Sound Region is part of our research report series examining the FTA Sandbox Program in the Los Angeles and...

Mobility on Demand in the Los Angeles Region: Evaluation of the Use and Performance of the MOD Pilot

Mobility on Demand in the Los Angeles Region: Evaluation of the Use and Performance of the MOD Pilot

Mobility on Demand in the Los Angeles Region is part of our research report series examining the FTA Sandbox Program in the Los Angeles and...

Mobility Lessons Learned: A Summary of the MOD Pilots in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions

Mobility Lessons Learned: A Summary of the MOD Pilots in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions

Mobility Lessons Learned is our summary paper in our research report series examining the Case Study in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound...

Webinar: Lessons Learned from the Mobility on Demand Pilots in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions

Webinar: Lessons Learned from the Mobility on Demand Pilots in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, King County Metro, and Sound Transit have been piloting mobility on demand (MOD)...

Webinar: Improving Access for All: Bringing On-Demand Technology to Paratransit

Webinar: Improving Access for All: Bringing On-Demand Technology to Paratransit

Paratransit has been a staple of public transportation since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990. For people with...

Webinar: Toward Universal Access

Webinar: Toward Universal Access

This webinar is an overview of Toward Universal Access: A Case Study in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions, which is the fourth paper...

Toward Universal Access: A Case Study in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions

Toward Universal Access: A Case Study in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions

Toward Universal Access is part of our research report series examining the FTA Sandbox Program in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions....

Guest Op-Ed: Transit Agencies Continue to Renew Their Missions and Reinvent Service

Guest Op-Ed: Transit Agencies Continue to Renew Their Missions and Reinvent Service

In 2020, all at once, public transportation providers were forced to confront multiple and varied challenges. Transit rose to the occasion...

Webinar: MOD Fare Integration for Transit

Webinar: MOD Fare Integration for Transit

This webinar is an overview of MOD Fare Integration for Transit: A Case Study in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions, which is the...

Guest Op-Ed: The Role of Transportation in Improving America's Health

Guest Op-Ed: The Role of Transportation in Improving America's Health

The Eno Center for Transportation’s publication of my white paper, Increasing Access to Essential Health Functions: The Role of...

Op-Ed: From the Americans with Disabilities Act to Universal Design

Op-Ed: From the Americans with Disabilities Act to Universal Design

July 26, 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the signing of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Since then, huge strides...

Be Part of the Conversation
Sign up to receive news, events, publications, and course notifications.
No thanks