By Thomas Mourey, Project Manager & Coordinator Clean Vehicles, POLIS Network
While the industry claims that connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) will be able to operate in cities in a near future, several questions arise, in terms of road safety, efficiency, and the use made of these new vehicles. Are cities already ‘automation-ready’? Will CAVs become ‘city-ready’?
Automation in cities: uncertainties…
Many uncertainties regarding the deployment of CAVs in urban areas make it difficult for cities to plan correctly for their arrival. After the initial technological euphoria that predicted the deployment of CAVs by the end of the decade, most of the stakeholders readjusted their predictions regarding the year of massive introduction of CAVs and even questioned the relevance and/or the technical possibility of introducing automated vehicles in the urban environment.
The initial fear that cities will be overrun by this technology has not materialised, yet, but this is not a justification for local authorities to continue with a “wait and see approach”. The time should be wisely used to better prepare for the deployment of CAVs – which will certainly come. They will have significant impacts on most transport and urban planning-related activities of a city. The Polis policy paper on “Road Vehicle Automation and Cities and Regions” provides a structured overview of the most pressing potential impacts resulting from the deployment of CAVs, in particular on road safety, traffic efficiency, infrastructure, socio-economic aspects, travel behaviour and spatial planning. There is a high degree of uncertainty surrounding the exact impacts as nobody, at this stage, can really predict how the technology will be used and whether the positive aspects will outweigh the negative ones.
… and need for action
To ensure the roll-out of CAVs is in line with sustainable urban mobility goals, local authorities will have to play a key role and should take the lead with proactive planning approaches. This begins with planning for the introduction of CAVs as early as possible, to minimise the potential negative impacts and more importantly make the most of the opportunity to influence the paradigm shift into a more sustainable urban mobility vision. The UITP Policy Brief on ‘Autonomous vehicles: a potential game changer’ clearly sets out that cities need to now foster a culture of sharing to avoid single occupancy or empty CAVs in city centres in the future. An uncontrolled deployment of CAVs in cities could lead to conflicts between CAV users and non-users, due to opposing transport planning needs of live-able versus CAV-friendly cities.
“The first step is always the hardest”
Cities are unsure about what the first step towards automation-readiness could be and are careful about not making any mistakes. The result is that that many local authorities are doing very little or nothing and are therefore losing precious time to prepare.
In this context, as a part of the European project CoEXist, an ‘automation-ready framework’ has been published. The aim of this guidance document is to support local authorities in reducing uncertainties and building up the capability to make structured and informed decisions about the comprehensive deployment of CAVs. This document has been recently complemented by the European SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Practice) practitioner guide. The guidance document’s objective is to help cities to better integrate automated mobility in their sustainable urban mobility planning processes.
A three-step process
Together, these documents propose a three-step path for local authorities to become ‘automation-ready’. They recommend to follow a three-step process:
- Automation Awareness Creation
- Automation Strategy Formulation / Planning for automation-readiness
- Implementation of Automation-Ready Measures
The different stages do not correspond to a time period as different cities may be in a different phase depending on local circumstances and the phases can be overlapping, parallel and interlinked.
After the first two preparatory phases, which can involve the implementation of demonstration activities, the consultation of citizens, the reassessment of strategic mobility plans or the evaluation of transport demand and road capacity needs for CAVs, the process should conclude with the implementation of ‘automation-ready’ permanent measures. Among the measures suggested are the implementation of a new mobility pricing system (esp. for empty vehicles), the modification of (permanent) road infrastructure, the reassessment of land use for mobility, and the restructuring of the city mobility management authorities.
Click here to read POLIS Network’s paper on automation
More information can be found on the CoEXist website:
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