First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) must be part of future transport policies which prioritise efficiency and fairness, according to senior transport executives in the US and Canada.
The second edition of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)’s Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism sets out what it calls “the concrete steps that will need to be taken to ensure an equitable, people-first city”.
NACTO is a collection of 81 North American cities and transit agencies which exchange ideas and cooperate on national transport issues and its policy recommendations are aimed in part at improving transit using driverless technologies.
But the new document warns that “merely shifting from current to autonomous technologies will not be enough to address the climate and safety challenges that we face or to address long-standing racial and socio-economic inequities”.
It adds: “Instead, the autonomous future must be guided by thoughtful, bold, transformative public policy and street design practice that reduces driving and vehicle miles travelled and offers mobility and opportunity to everyone, not just those in cars.”
The Blueprint insists that there is no point introducing driverless technology unless there is also “a comprehensive overhaul of how our streets are designed, allocated and shared”.
Cities should prioritise kerbside uses and modes that serve the most people in the most sustainable fashion: “Buses, para-transit, and other surface transit, which are the most efficient way to move people, come first.”
There should also be a commitment to high-quality on-street transit, with technologies such as computer-aided dispatch and automatic vehicle location systems used “to improve efficiency and create services that attract riders”.
While AVs could make driving “easier and cheaper” than today, “absent policy mechanisms and incentives to encourage people to use the most efficient modes, traffic and pollution, already at crippling levels in many cities, will continue to increase”.
Congestion pricing is ‘crucial’ to influencing travel behaviour, the document suggests.
“City governments must work rapidly to change how street space is designed and allocated before yesterday’s values become enshrined in tomorrow’s concrete,” said Corinne Kisner, executive director of NACTO. “Taking proactive steps now means a future where people come first in an autonomous age.”