Not a day goes by without another big announcement on self-driving vehicles. Companies are forging some unexpected alliances to experiment with these new technologies in pilot areas. Governments are refining their industrial strategies, while the European Commission is set to increase the amount of research devoted to the future of mobility. The United States Department of Transport is launching consultations to feed a federal strategy, while several states are developing new legislation to encourage the large-scale roll-out of self-driving vehicles, from which they expect substantial economic benefits. In China, the future of mobility is sparking some cutting-edge innovations. In short, both the public and private sectors are mobilizing resources, not wanting to miss the boat given the opportunities that this evolution will bring. However, all too often, they fail to get citizens on-board as they embark on their journey.
As the world prepares for the autonomous mobility revolution, there remains an astonishing paradox: on the one hand, the signals sent out by the industrial and political stakeholders are stronger than ever. But on the other, there is no clear vision of how and when autonomous mobility will actually become part of our lives. It is a vast subject that raises questions of an ethical nature, of social acceptance and of the societal impact, and one that includes some blind spots, the size of which is only equaled by the extent of the announced changes, which will affect all of humanity!
The uncertainties surrounding these new promises are expressed on both the global and local levels. And it is precisely because things are happening at these two different scales that now is the time for an international citizens’ debate, a vital prerequisite to this kind of change to our lives: each and every one of us can provide valuable expertise concerning the choices to be made.
After the pilot stage involving five French communities, we now need to listen to citizens from cities and rural territories across Europe and North America, and from Asia and South America.
Here at Missions Publiques, we are working closely with our ECAST partner, the CSPO (Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes) from Arizona State University, and inviting citizens, industrialists, and public decision makers to form a coalition to ensure that public and private research, innovation, and service strategies take citizens’ expertise into account.
Public and private partners, along with institutions, governments and research bodies from different countries will pool resources to enable a debate on an unprecedented scale. From January to July 2019, several thousand citizens representing the broad diversity of the European and North American population will come together to share their views. They will express their wishes, their fears, and their red lines in regard to autonomous mobility. And together, they will draw the outlines for future mobility at the local level and on a wider scale.
In 20 years’ time, we will look back on 2019 and remember that an extraordinary dialogue took place, prompting changes to strategies and policies, for the benefit of all.