Government planning required

According to the National League of Cities, only about 6% of the biggest cities in the US are planning or thinking about autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars in their long-range transportation plans. What’s even more surprising is that only 3% of these cities’ transit plans are even taking into account the impact of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft even though they already operate in 60 of the 68 largest markets in the U.S. That’s according to a content analysis of transportation planning documents from the country’s 50 most populous cities. In a context where much of the transportation spending is for infrastructure that is expected to be usable for multiple decades and knowing the ETA of fully autonomous vehicles, shouldn’t governments be taking this technology into consideration?

Unlike most cities, LA is taking the arrival of driverless vehicles seriously. The City is forming the city’s Coalition of Transportation Technology, which is the first city project in the world to seriously tackle the logistics of introducing autonomous vehicles on a massive scale to public streets.  The new Coalition aims to adapt the Los Angeles infrastructure around connected and autonomous vehicles, developing plans and processes for common concerns on how vehicles move throughout the city, adjusting for the expected increased safety to motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians offered by driver-less vehicles, as well as tackling issues like parking and adaptation and integration with piloted vehicles.

With significant federal infrastructure investments expected, the President of GM Canada stated that government and industry need to work together to build smart roads for smart cars to ensure the auto industry’s future in Canada.  The Institute fears that reliance on governments and their infrastructure programs may slow the introduction of automated vehicles on our roads.  This is exactly why newcomers to the industry such as Google and Tesla, to name only two, are ensuring that their technology can operate as independently as possible from state/province/federally owned communication infrastructure.

Another reason for government planning is jobs. The use of driverless / robotic vehicles will translate into job displacement.  Governments need to assess the impacts and determine how to make the transition as painless as possible. In the UK, Royal Mail’s Chief faced a “health and safety” challenge from the Communication Workers Union after she mooted the idea of introducing a driverless van service in the future. Unions need to be part of the transition conversation

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