Preparing Cities for Self-Driving Cars and Making Them a Reality
Mon, April 19, 2021

Preparing Cities for Self-Driving Cars and Making Them a Reality

In recent years, autonomous vehicle (AV) pilots and small-scale roll outs have been brought to the mainstream by high profile organizations such as Uber and Google’s Waymo / Photo by: Suwin via Shutterstock

 

In recent years, autonomous vehicle (AV) pilots and small-scale roll outs have been brought to the mainstream by high profile organizations such as Uber and Google’s Waymo, according to Sandhya Sule of Verdict, a technology news website. The autonomous vehicle/driverless car market was valued at $5.68 billion in 2018 and is forecasted to reach a CAGR of 31.50% during the forecast period 2019-2024. 

The widespread use of autonomous vehicles operating as taxi fleets without human safety drivers in cities all over the world could happen by 2030 if forecasts hold true, said Tim Dawkins and Michelle Avary of World Economic Forum, a non-profit organization based in Switzerland. As of now, the current operation of self-driving cars is limited, as they are unable to fully function without human supervision. 

How Does AV Technology Work? 

Self-driving cars use various technologies like RADAR, LIDAR, GPS, and computer vision to sense their environment. Advanced control systems integrated into the vehicle can interpret the sensory inputs to avoid collisions or detect signboards. Autonomous automotive systems are becoming more complex at an unprecedented rate. 

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are the first step in ensuring a fully automated future. Features such as emergency banking and adaptive cruise control are now helping drivers and working to minimize the risk of error. But these systems are not perfect. This is why advanced driver assistance systems cars have to undergo different testing processes to demonstrate their safety capabilities. 

Notably, computational systems need to catch up without “compromising the challenge of “power consumption, thermal properties, size and cost, safety and security.” Moreover, there are still numerous debates about “consumer and regulatory acceptance to address.” Some of these challenges include the cost of self-driving cars, safety and security concerns, enhanced in-car passenger experiences, and the deployment of level 3 driving automation. 

Self-driving cars use various technologies like RADAR, LIDAR, GPS, and computer vision to sense their environment / Photo by: TippaPatt via Shutterstock

 

Cities Are Called Upon to Address Concerns

For example, London, Shanghai, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco have test fleets of autonomous light passenger cars in operation. As this technology becomes more advanced, it is essential for municipal government officials “what they can and should do to prepare their citizens for the future.” It is logical to start formulating and adopting AV-mode specific policy framework. But it is also important to ask various stakeholders on their thoughts and stances on autonomous vehicles. 

For example, London, Shanghai, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco have test fleets of autonomous light passenger cars in operation / Photo by: zhao jiankang via Shutterstock

 

Reaching Out to Citizens and Government Officials

Recent polls found that Americans are highly skeptical of autonomous vehicles. The American Automobile Association's (AAA) survey from March 2019 showed that 71% of respondents felt afraid of riding in a self-driving vehicle, as quoted by Ellen Edmonds of AAA a federation of motor clubs throughout North America. 

In other countries like India, China, and South Korea, citizens are more open to self-driving vehicles. While citizens have different opinions on this technology, many of them expect their governments “to take the lead and address their concerns around safety and transportation.” City officials should reach out to residents to obtain their perspective on autonomous cars. A range of representative bodies and stakeholders like neighborhood councils, cyclist groups, advocacy groups for pedestrian safety, and advocates for disabled persons should also be consulted. 

By engaging with these communities, cities can determine which areas will be the most affected by autonomous vehicles. This way, officials can formulate strategies to prevent, anticipate, or address future concerns. Alternatively, talking to city officials in public works, enforcement, public health, and tax collection departments should be done before drafting specific autonomous vehicle regulations and policies. 

A well-established dialogue between these departments will help provide valuable insight into how the said departments will perceive the impacts of autonomous vehicle technologies. A cross-department dialogue should also be used as an opportunity to educate officials about self-driving cars and establish a common narrative among stakeholders. 

Communicating With Businesses 

The autonomous vehicle industry is nascent. There are still questions as to how to demonstrate the safety capabilities of the technology. Therefore, it is recommended for governments to forge a positive, open relationship with AV and mobility providers, building trust to ensure the safe deployment and management of self-driving cars. There are challenges in engaging with businesses, but it’s not impossible. 

Education sessions with companies must be held to establish a common ground on mobility principles and strategies and citizens’ perspectives, as well as examples of leveraging data to inform policy and enforcement. These sessions should be followed up with listening sessions and interviews with each firm to learn about their plans, goals, values, and challenges. 

Preparing for Change

Policies need to evolve along with AV technologies and business models. Therefore, policies that are “agile by design” and “are supported by mechanisms to facilitate necessary change” are essential in preparing cities for autonomous vehicles. Data can also be used to help regulators make intelligent and informed decisions and changes to policy initiatives.

Autonomous vehicles will become more mainstream. The impacts of self-driving cars must be relayed to stakeholders such as advocacy groups, officials, and citizens. Citizens must be oriented by AV providers and officials on the inner workings of the technology, preferably in an easy to understand manner. The deployment of self-driving cars should not be done in haste. Let stakeholders establish a middle ground on key issues, which is key in making autonomous vehicles become a reality.