Category: AV Ownership – Fleets or Individuals

Will AVs be owned individually or via shared ridesourcing

Trucking industry expected to be AV leaders

Over the last few months, we have been talking some about how the trucking industry could be impacted by AVs – see here and here.

The push for automation in the trucking industry continues to build. Trucking companies have been installing equipment to partially automate their rigs over the last few years—similar to many features added to mainstream cars/SUVs. This includes assisted braking and collision-avoidance systems. Automated lane steering is coming too. Beyond the tweaks to rigs on the road today, it is expected that over a billion dollars will be invested in the self-driving truck AV innovations this year.

The cultural resistance of gear-heads to give up their cars is not a phenomenon that is expected to pose challenges in the trucking industry. Consequently, it is likely that the big-rig operators will be in the AV game far earlier than the ‘average Joe’ on the street.

Driving with the wind in your hair will still be possible, but you might not be in control of the wheel (photo credit: JohnLund.com)

The trucking industry also doesn’t see the complete removal of drivers from the cabs of the rigs anytime soon. Unlike AV cars, long-haul trucks spend most of their lives on the vast stretches of highway that can be less complex to navigate that the chaos of city streets. A study by Roland Berger would give credence to the idea that intra-city truck driving may be harder to automate based on current cost models –but long-haul trucking is more susceptible. Some are projecting that a truck driver’s future career might be piloting trucks closer to home—driving upward to 30 different rigs in a day—guiding them from the highways to their final destinations. Many of the AV truck companies “are almost universally pitching themselves as a friendly partner [to the industry] instead of a job killer” because they are trying to “increase productivity, but also make the job more attractive.” This is going to be very important as there are shortages of drivers nationwide, and AVs may help to make the job more attractive and less stressful.

AV trucks platooning to save on fuel costs. (photo credit: ITS International)

Savings for the trucking industry will come from savings on insurance by reducing crashes, being able to keep drivers driving long and keep them more rested, and by platooning to save on fuel costs. Many of these things are already happening, but as the technologies advance, the savings are expected to grow exponentially. AV trucks are on the road around the country, but their impact is still not quite realized.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autonomous Transit is almost here!

While autonomous personal vehicles seem to be in the news nearly every day in one form or another, less has been publicized about the rise of autonomous transit. One new experiment,  Autonomous Rail Transit (ART), will be appearing in Zhuzhou, China in 2018.

ART is a mixture of train, bus, and tram. ART does not require fixed infrastructure, but does follow specially painted lines on pavement, so it’s a hybrid between fixed rail and an open ended autonomous environment that is harder to control but easier to adapt. Having the ability to follow a track of painted lines opens the options to allow ART on any paved street relatively quickly and predictably and no new infrastructure would be necessary. It can be quickly materialized in cities that are willing to re-draw the lines on streets; potentially providing the flexible option that cities need for public transit to compete with personal vehicles. ART is a cheap way to move a lot of people, it’s the size of a small train but costs about as much as a bus, which is why cities favoring public transit are drawn to efficient and cost-effective solutions such as ART. Routes could be easily and inexpensively redrawn to adjust to behavior, or increased ridership, or land use changes, or just to tweak the system appropriately. Public transit is critiqued as being slow to implement, slow to change, and expensive. ART, by comparison, is none of these things.

Will the future of autonomous transit be a combination of fixed lines, semi-fixed routes like ART, and fully flexible neighborhood micro-transit?

Jenna Whitney is a Master’s Candidate in Community and Regional Planning and an Urbanism Next Fellow at the University of Oregon.  She is examining how cities are planning for a multimodal future in the era of autonomous vehicles.

AV taxi service coming in 2017 (or maybe 2018, we’ll see)

While GM and Tesla may continue to feud publically about whether or not Teslas are already level 4 or 5 AVs, Waymo/Google is claiming to be MONTHS!! away from starting a taxi service in the Phoenix area. The reports indicate it “ is likely to launch first in Chandler” where Waymo has been testing their vehicles.  The choice of Chandler and Arizona as the testing ground are no accident. The wide streets, few pedestrians, and fewer regulatory hurdles have made this a prime test spot for what many expect to be the future of transportation.

While Arizona law currently relies upon a human to be able to be in charge of the vehicle, Waymo appears to be working around this requirement to have a driver by having a human ‘on call’ remotely that is able to monitor the vehicles to respond when things get “sticky.” The push right now by Google execs is to get the Waymo taxi rolling in 2017, but given how far ahead Waymo appears to be compared to their rivals, slipping the start date to early 2018 probably won’t take away the ‘first to AV’ title.

 

 

 

 

AVs and Public Transt: They may replace short-trips on buses, increase equity and access, and other issues

AVs have real potential to provide easier and more convenient transportation options for people. They have the potential to provide seniors and the disabled access to the world outside of their homes in ways that are now often too expensive to widely adopt. The cost for paratransit, provided by public transit systems, is quite expensive. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that ADA compliant paratransit costs an average of $29.30 per trip in 2010, this is “an estimated three and a half times more expensive than the average cost of $8.15 to provide a fixed-route trip.” And the GAO additionally reports that the cost of paratransit increased by 10% from 2007 to 2010. Consequently, ADA paratransit has the potential to greatly benefit from AVs—which we presume will have substantially lower operating expenses. In the current model of public transit operating expenses are roughly twice that of the capital expenses. And while operating expenses are likely to drop dramatically if we no longer need drivers for paratransit, there still may be a need for assistance on-board AVs that are ADA compliant and utilized for paratransit—but this is an open question.

Some discussions we’ve had in our workshops over the last 9 months circle back to when elevators switched from being operated by a human in the elevator, to when they were automated. For about 20 years, so I’ve been told, buildings with elevators continued to staff elevators because people were not comfortable riding an elevator without an operator. Today it seems sort of creepy (most of the time) to have an elevator operator—though some places like the Space Needle in Seattle have an operator, this is less about needing someone to operate the actual elevator and more about the experience. Some of the concerns that have arisen in our discussions of AV busses generally is that the bus drivers provide more services to riders than just driving. They assist riders get to where they need to go. They provide a sense of safety to the riders that there is a public employee looking out for them. The general sense that we have gotten from most people we are talking to is that we will likely need to have employees on AV fixed route buses to act as guides, babysitters, and general monitors to provide riders with a sense of comfort on the busses. It is easy to imagine a woman or child (or anyone really) riding a bus getting scared when a creepy person approaches them—the bus driver (now) or transit employee (in the AV) can help provide a buffer between creepy folks and the rest of us.

While AVs have the potential to enhance public transit by providing more efficient fixed route and paratransit services, AVs also have the potential to decimate demand for public transit. Transit systems, bus ridership in particular, are already seeing declines in ridership because of the TNCs (Uber/Lyft)— “Compared to other public transit options, buses are used more for short trips—the kind of trips that ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft tend to make.” The utilization of TNCs for shorter trips need to be part of our planning for transit in the long-run with the increasing presence of AVs or we will have to subsidize all riders on public transit even more. Change is coming…change is already here.

 

Seattle’s New Mobility Playbook

The City of Seattle has just put out its ‘New Mobility Playbook’ that has been a while in the making.  It is a great, concise description of where the city is at, the new transportation technologies that are coming, and how the city is preparing for them.  The report covers the pros and cons of the changes that are coming and does a good job of expanding beyond first order transportation impacts to include things like equity and economics.  (Readers of this blog will note a few missing secondary impacts such as impacts on sprawl, density, and land valuation for instance).

One of the strengths of the playbook is that it is clear about the ‘Principles for New Mobility’ (page 32) – these are the guiding ideals for engaging new technologies and they are based on overall city goals, not anything specifically transportation focused.

The report ends with five key ‘plays’ the city is enacting to preparing for coming changes.  This includes ensuring equity, a focus on active/people-first uses of the right-of-way, reorganizing SDOT, managing data, and being nimble, adapting to and leveraging innovation.

Great food for thought for regions who are similarly planning for coming changes in transportation.  Related efforts can learn from this and hopefully expand upon the secondary impacts.  As we have said repeatedly, it is important to frame these coming changes to transportation as not only being about transportation, but instead about all aspects of how cities work and our general quality of life.

More information about Seattle’s efforts can be found on their ‘New Mobility’ page here.

 

AVs and Real Estate – A Guide to Potential Impacts

We have gotten a number of questions about how AVs could be affecting real estate and thought it would be good to do a post that covers some of this.  Below is a brief list of issues to consider.  Look out for an upcoming post that will add e-commerce and sharing economy impacts as well.

  • Parking – if we move towards an even partial model of shared vehicles (i.e. Lyft, Uber, Via, Chariot) there will be a substantial reduction in the need for parking (see earlier posts here and here). Studies have shown this dropping down to as low as only needing 10-15% of current parking spaces (and here). This change would open up a tremendous amount of land for redevelopment (parking is the single largest land use in most cities), hence dramatically increasing supply and – one would think – decreasing land values.  In addition, as parking needs diminish and parking regulations move to requiring less – or no – parking, constructions costs will also drop dramatically.  Parking can cost about 4k$ per spot for on-grade parking and up to 18-20k$ per spot for structured parking, can be a significant proportion of construction costs, and typically requires additional land acquisition.
  • Sprawl – several studies have shown that AVs could increase suburban sprawl as people can drive further, faster and might be willing to accept a longer commute as they can now use their time in the car for things other than driving. If that is the case, there will be an increased pressure on sprawl and the metropolitan footprint would expand dramatically.  Again, this constitutes an overall increase in available/feasible land supply which – given the rules of economics – lead to a drop in land value.  Arguably, this would not be the same everywhere as land that will have all of a sudden become available for development would see large price increases while places that are already close enough or within to cities would see land prices drop due to increased competition.
  • Housing Prices – Given the points above, housing prices should decrease. As land prices and construction costs drop, housing rents and prices will also drop.  This could be a boon for affordable housing concerns across the country (for example, each parking spot included in rent equates to about 225$), but could also cause substantial disruptions to existing markets and developments/projects.
  • End of TODs? – One unknown effect of AVs will be how it changes transit. On the one hand, this new technology could be a boon for transit as it helps solve transit’s perennial first/last mile hurdle. Lyft can get people to the train, light rail, or bus station, increasing catchment areas and boosting ridership.  On the other, riders may simply decide to stay in that Lyft all the way to their destination – especially as the price of the trip drops dramatically as technology replaces the highest cost of the trip – the drivers.  Preliminary reports from New York and San Francisco point to this trend, with transit ridership diminishing as Transportation Network Company (TNC) use skyrockets. Some studies have shown a decrease of up to 43% of transit ridership – potentially the death knell of transit as we know it.  In addition to this concern, is simply the potential atomizing of transit.  What happens when multiple rider/route services such as Via and Chariot (or Lyft-line and Uber Pool –  the carpool versions of Lyft and Uber) grows and we now have 8-12 passenger vans zipping through cities, delivering people directly to where they want to go and not to a bus stop a few blocks or a few miles away. If this happens, the activity/energy clustering and focusing role of transit would diminish as would the price premiums that are associated with transit proximity and transit oriented development.
  • Location, Location, Location? – A looming question with not only AVs but the entire shift to mobility as a service is that mobility will become easier and more affordable. As that happens, the friction of transportation – which is one of the factors that creates the value of location – will diminish.  This does not necessarily mean that current activity centers and draws will reduce in value, but any value based solely on the broader proximity aspects of location may diminish.  This will increase the role of the quality of places and the buzz of related activities in determining location value.

A significant issue to consider in all of this is not only the end state change of AV impacts, but also the transition period.  In terms of real estate, a glaring concern would be projects caught during this time.  Projects that have built parking in consideration of today’s reality may find themselves with decreased parking revenues (that is already happening with Lyft and Uber) and unable to repay long-term mortgages or bonds.  In addition, these projects will be competing with future projects that did not need to build parking and/or benefited from reduced land costs.  The last projects built with today’s constraints – and not future-proofing the coming disruptions – will be the ones most punished by this rapid change.

All of this points to a dramatically shifting landscape for real estate.  A large question is both what direction these changes will take and – as importantly – how quickly will they come about.  Of concern is not only the shifting market conditions, but also the regulations that currently help shape that market and the speed at which those typically change.  What happens if parking utilization needs drop dramatically over a short period of time.  How quickly will parking requirements shift with that? And what kinds of political battles will meet these changes as developers and property owners with existing properties fight these changes to protect their competitiveness.

GM’s Cruise Anywhere is beta testing AV car share in San Francisco

Cruise—an AV company purchased by GM last year—is offering completely autonomous rides to its San Francisco based employees. Currently, the service is offered only to employees. The company has indicated “that some employees are already using it as their primary source of transportation, replacing either personal vehicle ownership, public transit or traditional ride-hailing services completely.” As it is currently operating the app and cares are is “having them use it for the first time and make AVs their primary form of transportation.” A Reuter’s poll from May points toward this same effect of Uber/Lyft already taking place (pre-AV). These findings are pointing toward real viability of a shared automobile future. The market for this exists, people are already accepting shared cars as a viable form of transportation–replace their own vehicles. Thus it is easy to see how with the advent of AVs this reality would be made more financially viable. Lyft and Uber are paying their drivers about 60% of the total fare you pay as a rider. And while a good portion of approximately 60% goes to the upkeep of the cars (maintenance and fuel), it is easy to see why Lyft/Uber are ready to get out of the driver game–reduce expenses, increase profits.

In the case of the Curise beta testing cars, they all do have safety drivers behind the wheel, in accordance with California law, for now. Yet Cruise has indicated that “those drivers have had to take over manual control of vehicles engaged in Cruise Anywhere service only on a few occasions, with the vast majority of the driving done autonomously.” So right now, the beta of the Cruise Anywhere app and service are really just Uber/Lyft for the employees of the company—but it shows where things are going very quickly. Lyft plans on having V service in place this year—see an early post on Urbanism Next written by SCI Fellow Ramy Barhouche.

This video shows employees using the service:

 

The Backlash against AVs before they take any jobs

Labor unions and political leaders from around the world are already seeing the future of AVs, and they are laying the groundwork to oppose the job losses that are likely.

The Teamsters, a union that represents a lot of truck drivers, is warning that terrorists may use AV trucks as mobile unmanned bombs. “Teamsters are the safest and most experienced drivers in the country…We want to alert the public of the risks that corporations … are willing to take at the expense of working people.” They fear that not only could the AV trucks be intentionally used as bombs, but that careless corporate interests could haul hazardous materials carelessly.

The AFL-CIO transportation lead, Larry Willis, has “said Congress is progressing too quickly without understanding the full effects of autonomous vehicles, which ‘are likely to cause massive job dislocation and impact worker safety.’”

The fears of job losses due to AVs is likely to be substantial—perhaps 4 million or more, largely hitting drivers of buses, taxis, and trucks. Unions have “successfully lobbied for the [US] House to include a 10,000-pound weight limit in the legislation,” which would exempt semis, for the moment, from AV trucks from being legislated in the same way as passenger cars

Meanwhile, India’s minister for Road Transport has stated that “We won’t allow driverless cars in India…I am very clear on this. We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs.

The struggle between jobs and technology is real and will have real impacts. The totality of the impact, in the end, is hard to judge at this point.

Lyft will launch AV rides by the end of this year

Lyft announced, on July 21st, 2017, that their customers will be able to summon AVs, on some Boston roads, by the end of the year. Test drivers will accompany the customers and cars, during the testing period.

Rather than building its own vehicles, like competitor big firms, Lyft designed a ‘common software interface’ that partner automakers can use for their cars. This means that riders in Boston could be using vehicles built by a range of manufacturers (GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, etc).

The sensors will be collecting information and interacting with their surrounding as the vehicles begin picking up passengers. This will progressively contribute to a centralized source of data controlled and analyzed by Lyft. The insight will then be shared with partner automakers. It’s still unclear if the carmakers will also receive any revenue from Lyft, for their service.

Tech and automotive executives are expecting AVs to play a key role in the future of transportation, which could prevent 95% of traffic accidents, due to human error. Yet, the AV industry still faces State regulatory obstacles. The lack of uniform procedures and expectations could hinder the progress of AVs. Key House subcommittee members unanimously approved a bill, in June 2017, that will make it easier for federal regulators to develop the rules for AVs.

If you are interested in learning more about how AVs will have impacts on cities check out Urbanism Next’s recently released report on the impact of AVs and e-commerce on cities. You might also be interested in Nico Larco’s recent post on AVs and Streets.

The post was written by SCI Fellow Ramy Barhouche.

Parking garages are already becoming dinosaurs

I’m seeing a giant meteor coming that will, metaphorically speaking, put a huge hole in municipal budgets. This meteor will be AVs. The meteor that pushed dinosaurs to extinction may have done so with one big hit, the AV evolution might be a bit slower. A recent article in Governing Magazine provides us with evidence that the impact of AVs is being foreshadowed by the likes of Uber and Lyft (often collectively referred to as TNC or transportation network companies).

Airport managers nationwide are expressing concern in how the TNC are disrupting the budget models that airports have long had in place. Carter Morris (VP with the American Association of Airport Executives) has stated that “airports need to adapt and do it quickly.” Many airports have seen dramatic drops in fees collected from taxi companies and car rental companies because so many people are just using the TNCs instead. So now more than 200 airports nationwide are charging pick-up and/or drop off fees for the TNCs, just as they might have with taxis—though the exact revenue models are quite varied. As fee revenues decline, airports may look to airlines to pay more, which could drive them away from the small/medium size airports.

And if you are wondering how much of an impact TNCs are having on the ground transportation game, look no further than “San Francisco International Airport, where TNCs accounted for more than two-thirds of commercial ground transportation in May.” Lyft and Uber are preparing for an AV future, airports should too!

To learn more about the impact of AVs on municipal budgets in the Urbanism Next report coming out in late July. You’ll find a link to the report here on the blog.

Lyft: 1 Billion AV-EV Rides Per Year by 2025

We have often talked about some of the important parameters guiding the future effects of AVs on cities to be the question of AV fleets vs individual ownership as well as AVs cost.  Lyft recently announced that its platform will provide 1 billion autonomous vehicle rides per year by 2025 – and they project these rides to be electric vehicles.  This points heavily towards a model of mobility as a service – at least in parts of the country – and a dramatic drop in the number of parking spots needed in cities.

Supporting the idea that autonomous fleets are in our future, GM (Lyft’s partner in the AV/EV/Ride-sharing arena) said that its Bolt AV will be costing something in the six-figures, most probably precluding it from the private ownership model, but absolutely viable in the ride-sharing model.

All signs pointing to Robin Chase’s FAVES in our future (Fleets of Autonomous Vehicles that are Electrified and Shared).  Good news for those interested in urbanism and sustainability.

Two tech giants ink deals with two car rental giants

In the last few days, it has become apparent that the owners of the largest fleets of private vehicles, car rental companies, are finding ways into the AV conversation as well. Alphabet (parent of Google and Waymo) recently signed a deal with Avis to manage their fleet.  While Apple signed a deal with Hertz to lease vehicles from the car rental giant to test their AV technology.

The types of ways in which these partnerships may develop are starting become clear, as Avis owns the car sharing company Zipcar. Waymo executives have indicated that this was one the selling points for the Avis partnership. Zipcar already has a distributed fleet of vehicles around many urban areas that are available on demand for people needing a short-term car rental. While neither Apple nor Waymo appear to have signed any exclusive deals here, they are pointing toward, at least in the Waymo-Avis deal, a shared ownership model for cars and AVs in the future.

Will AVs bring doom & gloom or a big boom to the economy?

Intel and Strategy Analytics researchers are claiming the impact of AVs will yield a $7 TRILLION boost to the economy. They feel that the effect of AVS “could add as much as $2 trillion to the US economy alone by 2050,” according to a recent article in Wired magazine. Much of the money will, expectantly, go to manufacturers of the vehicles but “mobility-as-a-service will supplant the value of vehicle sales as core sources of shareholder value creation” in the long-run the report says.

How do they suggest you get a share of the benefits?

  1. Work in data (“Storing, organizing, and analyzing that data will be a big job”);
  2. Work in IT (“someone needs to tend to these data architecture beasts—not crunching the numbers themselves, but making sure the systems are humming along as they should”);
  3. AV mechanic (“Robocars won’t need you, but they’ll still need mechanics”)
  4. Something we don’t yet understand (“No one has yet predicted how many jobs the autonomous future will create, and that’s partly because the future is so messy”)

Looking Beyond the Personal AV to See a Larger Potential for Citywide Connectivity

The shape of our current urban spaces and transportation networks are shaping up to strongly influence the approach cities and countries are taking toward AVs. The American influence on AV developing, not surprisingly, is pushing somewhat toward a personalized vision of AVs. A number of European countries and cities are taking a more public transit-oriented approach to AV development.

A recent article in the New York Times dives into these differing approaches.

“The coming age of driverless cars has typically centered on Silicon Valley highfliers like Tesla, Uber and Google, which have showcased their autonomous driving technology in luxury sedans and sport utility vehicles costing $100,000 or more. But across Europe, fledgling driverless projects like those by Deutsche Bahn are instead focused on utilitarian self-driving vehicles for mass transit that barely exceed walking pace.

The article further points out that AVs in combination with existing public transit systems have the potential to greatly “reduces the complexity required to make the machines navigate across an entire city.”

AV technology has the potential to extend beyond vehicles on roadways, as a number of Dutch cities are realizing. A number of leaders in that country see a future with “driverless boats” that can ferry passengers around the city and potentially “autonomous boats will be able to automatically dock with each other, creating on-demand bridges and walkways whenever necessary.”

When Single Occupancy Vehicles Looked Successful

The typical U.S. commute trip fills a multi-seat car with a single human being (25% of capacity) and that car sits idle most of its existence (90% of the time).  This is an inefficient use of our limited roadway capacity, land for storing vehicles, dispersed settlement pattern and provision of services/utilities, use of fossil fuels, etc. But imagine if we look back at the single occupancy vehicle as a golden age of efficiency?

Autonomous Vehicles don’t need drivers, meaning that if we own them personally, many trips by car will be taken with no one inside.  An AV could drop you off at the market and circle the block until you are done.  It could drop you off at work and return home or other remote parking space.  An AV could be summoned to pick up your child at school and take her to soccer practice.  While there is certainly some convenience in any of these scenarios, a good portion of all those trips will have no occupants and thereby taking up limited and valuable space on the street.

This article by Howard Jennings of Mobility Lab discusses three ways to apply the principles of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) to AVs: 1) “policies should always seek to encourage AVs that move more people in fewer vehicles”; 2) “pricing models offered by automotive and tech companies should be structured to make shared AVs, not personal AVs, the model of choice”; and 3) city pricing models should be structured to disincentives the least efficient mode of transportation. including a fee for zero occupancy vehicles.

Sharing (AVs) is caring (for the environment)

Autonomous vehicles have been described as a heaven or hell scenario.  Many of the depictions of the hell scenario center on private ownership of AVs.  A recent report from the University of California Davis and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy provides evidence to back this up.  Looking at three scenarios,  UCD and ITDP shows how congestion and emissions will climb under a Business as Usual or Electrification+Automation (without Sharing) scenario.

itdp

David Robert at Vox provides three lessons from this study:

Lesson one: the carbon work is mostly done by electrification, the urbanist work by ride-sharing

Lesson two: the scenario with the greatest social benefits requires the most policy support

Lesson three: geometry requires sharing

This new research and Roberts’ charge makes it clear:  there is a role for urbanists and policymakers to make the case for sharing.

Ride-Hailing Services are Getting People to Sell Their Cars (some people…)

A recent poll by Reuters/Ipsos (another article here about it) asked people selling their cars (nearly one quarter of Americans during this last year) why they were selling.  Of these people, 9 percent said they were explicitly doing so because they were now using services such as Lyft and Uber as their primary means of transportation.  A similar percentage said they would be selling additional cars and rely on these types of services for transportation within the following 12 months.

While these percentages are small, it could be early evidence of a trend towards less car ownership and truly having mobility as a service take hold.  The ramifications of reduced car ownership and increased use of ride-hailing services are tremendous – large reductions in automobile production, reduction of parking requirements, potential increases in density as the need for parking diminishes, wholesale redevelopment of parking – especially in suburban areas (think of completely redesigning every strip mall in America…).

Recent conversations we have been having with consultants and developers is already pointing in this direction.  Parking use is starting to dip – especially in larger venues as more and more people turn to Lyft and Uber.  Change is coming.

AVs are coming and cities need to start preparing

In the wake of this week’s Portland charrette/workshop on the potential of AVs to transform urban spaces, a new CityLab article is right up our alley here at Urbanism Next.

A take away from the charrette and the article is that cities need to be proactive partners and be sure they are assertive as we transform to AV transportation. “…if cities aren’t learning anything from these partnerships, local officials and citizens are going to push back and say: Why do tech companies get everything and we get nothing?”

Regulatory capture is a real threat as traditional automakers try to block new comers from entering the auto market, but some sort of regulatory action will be necessary—it just needs to be designed in such a way to keep us safe without stifling completion. CityLab notes that “With federal policy, too, the goals of automakers may not always line up with what’s good for cities. Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Volvo, Uber, Lyft, and others continue to lobby congressional policymakers for a “national framework” regulating safety performance standards, so as to avoid 50 versions of AV requirements.”

What is good for auto companies’ bottom lines, may not be good for cities. The authors of the CityLab article note that “While the industry pushes for national AV standards, cities may want to retain local control over things like speed limits, designating special AV zones, and setting trip fees in order to meet the safety needs of their specific neighborhoods.” Balancing the needs of all levels of government will be a key challenge in the next 3-5 years, being proactive and thinking about these challenges is what Urbanism Next is all about. Benjamin Clark and Nico Larco will be releasing a white paper on some of the financial challenges and opportunities for cities in about a month. Be sure to check back here on the blog for more info on that white paper.

 

New Regulatory Guide for AVs Released by the National League of Cities

The National League of Cities has released a first of its kind autonomous vehicle regulatory guide for cities.  AV technology is advancing faster than many cities expect, and faster than many managers will be able to handle their adoption. The report notes that:

“With the many benefits that AV technology promises, including reduction in traffic deaths, increased mobility for the disabled and seniors, reduced congestion, and enhanced connectivity for all demographics, cities have a unique opportunity to be proactive to not only engage in smart planning for AVs, but to also shape the policy around AVs to ensure such benefits are fully realized.”

The report suggests that cities:

  1. Develop their own safety and privacy guidelines related to AVs. Transparency will be the key to a successful innovation, the report suggests.
  2. Data will have real value to city management. “Cities should consider their data needs, and the relationship they seek to build with AV manufacturers as well as transit platforms and other mobility providers.”
  3. While federal AV policies are likely to be focused on safety, local and state governments have great opportunities to shape policy on how AVs shape our communities. “Cities have an opportunity to come together and lobby their state governments to advance their concerns around the safe operation of AVs in their communities, including insurance requirements and local approval of any proposed AV testing in a city.
  4. Look at procurement policies now to avoid future issues with the new technology. “Cities should assess their current procurement policies, and look specifically at whether these policies might inadvertently erect any roadblocks to purchasing the technology and smart infrastructure necessary to support AV deployment.”
  5. Policy coordination and development is going to have to be multi-disciplinary. “With technology like AVs, cities need to get the right people to the table, which includes urban planners, public works, information technology, procurement policy, and law enforcement. Modifications to existing codes may be appropriate, or cities may have to think about the development of a new autonomous vehicles or smart infrastructure code.”
  6. Be open to dialogue with residents and don’t assume they want AVs. “Cities should engage in an open dialogue between all their residents and respond to varying levels of acceptance of this technology.”
  7. New infrastructure will be needed, make sure it is not left off the table as AVs roll in. Cities should “link funding with new technologies to additional funding for capital improvements as well as existing maintenance.”
  8. Data and analysis will become a bigger part of city management—be prepared. “The data processing requirements needed for cities to take advantage of the data being generated within them is often out of reach of many small and mid-sized cities. Partnering with local academic institutions has given many towns and cities affordable access to the data storage and processing ability they need.”

(Note: scholars, like myself, here at the UO are glad to work with cities interested in exploring this issue.)

New Report Aims to Gauge How Adaptable American Cities Will Be To AVs

A recent study by INRIX Research took a close look behind the hype of AVs effect on cities. In their report, they try to determine which type of cities might be better (or worse) hosts for the pending AV invasion.

In their report INRIX looked at the top 50 US cities, compiling data from 1.3 billion car trips to try and determine the types and lengths of trips that would best suit AVs versus the current fleet of vehicles.

Cities ranked higher or lower on INRIX’s scale of adaptability based on typical trip length. With average trip length data INRIX awarded lower scores for cities with longer average intra-city trips and higher scores for cities with shorter intra-city trips. They found that New Orleans, Albuquerque, Tucson, Portland (OR), and Omaha were the most adaptable to AVs. While Detroit, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Forth Worth were the least adaptable.

Link to the full report can be found here: http://www2.inrix.com/2017-autonomous-vehicle-study

Getting out ahead: Regulating AVs

On the heels of USDOT announcing 10 pilot designees for testing AV technology, one state is getting out ahead of AVs.  Legislation proposed in Massachusetts would ” allow self-driving cars on public roads, but impose a mileage-based tax on their use, allow some large municipalities to ban them, and require all such cars to be zero-emissions vehicles.”  (Boston Globe, January 19, 2017)  As pointed out in the article, AVs currently fall into a legal gray area in Massachusetts and many states.

APA reports that Michigan, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah have statutes regulating AVs. (“Michigan joins small number of states with self-driving car laws.” – APA blog)

Article: “Mass law would tax autonomous vehicles by the mile,” by Dan Adams, Boston Globe, January 19,2017.

 

 

AV’s Future is Shared (at least initially) – Views from CES 2017

CityLab has posted a report from this years Consumer Electronics Show and – unsurprisingly – the roll-out of AV’s seems to be focused on shared fleets and they will focus on freight and high occupancy transport.  Cost seems to be the largest factor early on with AV technology being cost-prohibitive for individual ownership (although Tesla might have something to say about that).  Another reason is simply the ability to monitor and modify cars and algorithms – much easier to do roll-out and testing in limited contact points via larger shared fleets.

This is not to say that shared vehicles are the only future for AV’s – but thier initiation happening as shared vehicles is promising and gives a bit of time to figure out how best to promote and cement that future over individual ownership – probably the most critical issue in avoiding a dystopian future.

Chrysler Portal - Self Driving Car - Jae Hong/AP
Chrysler Portal – Self Driving Car – Jae Hong/AP

AV’s and Residential Preferences (the city will expand…)

While there has been a good amount of speculation about how Shared AV’s (SAV) will push or hinder sprawl, little of it is based on research.  This new study (presentation linked) by Wenwen Zhang and Dr. Subhrajit Guhathakurta from Georgia Tech uses a sophisticated analysis of travel datasets from Atlanta coupled with home purchase information from Zillow to predict how fleets of SAV’s might shift where people will choose to live. While the study has some aspects to work out (value of travel time, pricing effects of new mobility on housing), the takeaway is a substantial shift in residential preference.

Author Zhang states that “The transportation system we investigated is Shared Autonomous Vehicle (SAVs) which is a ubiquitous transit system. Our results show that younger households (<40 years old) will move further away from downtown for cheaper housing units and better education resources. Meanwhile, elder households (>40 years old) will move towards the downtown area to avoid long average waiting time.  However, all workers will move further away from their working places. The best interpretation of our model results would be workers will have more freedom in terms of residential location choices, i.e. they can live closer to other education facilities and infrastructures that they need to consume, rather than being constrained by the location of their offices.”

The image below – from the study – sums up how a post AV/ridesource world will have more people choosing to both live and work farther from city centers.  (blue is current household distance from CBD or work, green is AV future distance from CBD or work).  The charts shown are for people under 40 with kids.

It should be noted that this study focuses on SAV’s where wait times are the key factor pushing some people to live closer in and within higher densities (to avoid wait times).  We might rightly assume that privately owned AVs (that eliminate wait times) could push people further out.

This should be a wake-up call to anyone worried about sprawl.

 

Distance of Household to CBD:
(Avg Current = 20.70 miles, Avg w/ SAV Fleets = 22.31 miles)

zhang-hh

Distance of Household to Work:
(Avg Current = 29.48 miles, Avg w/ SAV Fleets = 36.03 miles) zhang-hh

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AVs: Fleets or Private Ownership

This is probably one of the fundamental questions to how the future of AVs will roll out.  This article from Slate looks at three basic scenarios of AV ownership and use: Private ownership (what we have now), fleet ownership for private rides (think Uber/Lyft), and fleet ownership for shared rides (think Uber Pool).

While the article lays out convincing parameters for these scenarios, it doesn’t address the potential for differentiated models based on density.  Cities may lean towards fleet ownership and/or shared rides, but as we move further and further out into the suburbs, fleet management will be more difficult to do efficiently and profitably.  This seems like it would push towards more private ownership in these locations. If so, some of the parking related benefits of AVs – to name only one of many issues – may be uneven across urban areas.