AU­TO­MATED DRIV­ING, SAFETY CON­CERNS AND CITY PLAN­NING

trans­porta­tion plan­ning di­rec­tor and fel­lows board mem­ber, Par­sons

PMV Middle East - - THE BIG 5 PREVIEW - By Hamid Ira­vani,

Alot of traf­fic ac­ci­dents are due to driv­ers’ er­rors. There­fore, a cer­tain num­ber of ac­ci­dents will de­cline with au­to­mated driv­ing. On the other hand, new safety haz­ards could arise as the re­sult of au­ton­o­mous and con­nected ve­hi­cles, such as pos­si­ble fail­ure of hard­ware and soft­ware. Au­ton­o­mous Ve­hi­cles (AVS) can pro­vide a higher level of mo­bil­ity for the dis­abled, el­derly, and younger pas­sen­gers, im­prov­ing their mo­bil­ity and en­abling their greater in­clu­sion in so­ci­ety, but they also present tech­ni­cal and safety chal­lenges that must be ad­dressed. As con­fi­dence in AVS grows, pas­sen­ger risk tak­ing may also in­crease. Dur­ing the early stages of AV de­ploy­ment, when self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles are mixed with

AVS, some driv­ers may at­tempt to join the pla­toons of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles that may be op­er­at­ing on ded­i­cated lanes close to­gether at high speeds, which could re­sult in in­creased crash sever­ity. Fur­ther­more, au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles and their safety im­pact have not been suf­fi­ciently tested in ex­treme weather con­di­tions as­so­ci­ated with snow or heavy rain.

Trans­porta­tion is the frame­work upon which cities are built. His­tor­i­cally, the ad­vent of au­to­mo­biles which was an ad­vance­ment in tech­nol­ogy made some ma­jor changes to the cities. Some of the in­flu­ences were good, some were bad, and some were ugly. For those cities where poli­cies did not in­ter­vene, the higher speed en­cour­aged res­i­dents to live far from the city cen­ters and drive far­ther to work. This meant longer travel dis­tance, more pol­lu­tion and en­ergy con­sump­tion and brought ur­ban sprawl by the most in­ef­fi­cient use of re­sources. Ur­ban sprawl is the man­i­fes­ta­tion of au­to­mo­biles, wide and long roads, and low-den­sity sub­urbs which were grown hor­i­zon­tally. This has also had high im­pli­ca­tions on cost to build and main­tain roads. The same could hap­pen be­cause of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, but this time, con­ve­nience and higher ef­fi­ciency could en­cour­age res­i­dents to live much far­ther from the city cen­ters and ex­ac­er­bate the sprawl and in­crease ve­hi­cle kilo­me­ters trav­eled (VKT), un­less clear reg­u­la­tions and poli­cies are adopted to man­age their use. In con­trast, multi-modal sys­tems that in­clude pri­vate au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, but with em­pha­sis on au­ton­o­mous tran­sit and non-mo­tor­ized trans­porta­tion, cou­pled with poli­cies to limit the ur­ban growth bound­ary, and en­cour­age land use den­sity and com­pact­ness, could be very ben­e­fi­cial for cities.

The bot­tom line is, cities should be built for peo­ple and not cars, re­gard­less of whether the cars are op­er­ated by peo­ple or au­ton­o­mous. It is known that the short­ened gaps and pla­toons co­or­di­na­tion de­rived from au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles can in­crease road­way ca­pac­ity and there­fore re­duce traf­fic con­ges­tion, but this is half of the story. The other half that is miss­ing is the fact that in­creased ca­pac­ity will en­tice driv­ers who com­mute at the shoul­der of the peak to beat traf­fic they would change their time of day to travel to drive at peak, also those pas­sen­gers pre­vi­ously us­ing other modes such as tran­sit, walk­ing, bi­cy­cling, or even car­pool­ing may de­cide to drive us­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles. In the prime time of free­way build­ing in USA in the 1950s, the le­gendary ar­chi­tect and ur­ban­ist Lewis Mum­ford warned that “try­ing to cure traf­fic con­ges­tion with more ca­pac­ity is like try­ing to cure obe­sity by loos­en­ing your belt.” Traf­fic is known to be like gas: as you open more space for cars, they will fill up the en­tire road.

AVS could have both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive ef­fects on traf­fic and mo­bil­ity. To take max­i­mum ad­van­tage of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions should be in place to dis­cour­age trav­el­ers to use their con­ve­nient au­ton­o­mous pri­vate ve­hi­cles by mea­sures such as con­ges­tion pric­ing, lim­ited and high-priced park­ing, and en­cour­age them to use au­ton­o­mous tran­sit ve­hi­cles.

The “tragedy of com­mons” is an eco­nomic the­ory de­scrib­ing how in­di­vid­u­als tend to act self­ishly by de­plet­ing pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble and un­der­priced or free re­sources, even­tu­ally de­grad­ing the pub­lic realm in terms of en­vi­ron­ment, en­ergy con­sump­tion, health, and well-be­ing. Trav­el­ers will con­tinue to use and con­gest roads with or with­out au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, un­less plan­ning and poli­cies, cou­pled with suit­able de­sign and land use mea­sures, dis­cour­age pri­vate au­to­mo­biles and pro­vide in­cen­tives for pub­lic tran­sit. Those suit­able land use and ur­ban de­sign mea­sures for liv­able and vi­brant cities should be built based on new ur­ban­ism prin­ci­ples in­clud­ing higher level of walk­a­bil­ity and con­nec­tiv­ity; mixed use and di­ver­sity; mixed hous­ing; qual­ity ar­chi­tec­ture and ur­ban de­sign; tra­di­tional neigh­bor­hood struc­ture di­ver­sity; in­creased den­sity; smart multi-modal trans­porta­tion; sus­tain­abil­ity and qual­ity of life.

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