Smart city plans ignore driverless technology, finds NLC report
November 24, 2015
Only six per cent of smart city plans in the USA are taking into account the potential effects of driverless technology, according to a report from the National League of Cities (NLC). And only three per cent take into account private transportation network companies such as Uber or Lyft, despite them operating in 60 of the 68 markets covered by the report.
The report explores trends in mobility and technology in cities and identifies what cities can do to move seamlessly and efficiently into the future of mobility. “City of the Future: Technology & Mobility” looks at how transportation will change with coming technological disruptions, draws on knowledge from leading experts in the field, and delves into city and regional transportation planning documents from the 50 most populous US cities – as well as the largest cities in every state.
"Transportation is critical for our cities," said National League of Cities CEO and executive director Clarence Anthony. “This report is part of a multi-year research project that focuses on five different factors affecting cities – technology, economics, climate resilience, culture and demographics. By exploring mobility and the impact technology is having on how we all get around, NLC is highlighting specific issues that will help cities anticipate changes in the urban landscape and prepare accordingly."
The report finds widening gaps between innovation in the private sector, the expressed preferences of citizens and the visions of city planners regarding transportation investment. The mobility environment in cities is rapidly shifting-primarily due to technology, and this will impact cities' future land-use decision-making, as well as infrastructure planning.
Specifically, a majority of cities do not have concentrated efforts to prepare for new transportation innovations. Though half of the cities surveyed have explicit plans for new highway and infrastructure construction and maintenance, the majority of cities are not taking into account the effect of driverless technology or private transportation network companies.
"Our collective thoughts on the future of transportation have moved from Deloreans to driverless cars in what seems like the blink of an eye," said Brooks Rainwater, a director at NLC. "With the mobility environment rapidly changing, cities are central and leading the effort towards better, more seamless and equitable transportation systems."
The report found that a fifth of the cities had plans to reduce road capacity or long-term maintenance costs. Half the plans contain explicit recommendations for new highway construction. And 12 per cent are clear that no new highways are under construction.
It forecasts that by 2020 there will be extensive demographic and workforce changes that will impact transportation networks, such as changing commuting choices, office location and workspace changes, decreased vehicle kilometres travelled, and an increase in contract jobs. More states will establish infrastructure banks, paid road models will be on the rise in cities and there will be an increase in public-private partnerships for mobility projects.
Also by 2020, it says there will be more modal and transit options available to cities, with optimised bus lines and integration of apps and fare payment systems. Transportation network companies will be the main modes of personal and freight transportation in cities of all sizes, and there will be an increase of driverless cars and electric cars on the roads.
For 2030 and beyond, it predicts that urban areas will continue to grow, commuting patterns will change and rush hour will be dispersed over longer periods of time. A national infrastructure bank and other public-private financing options will change the way transportation projects are evaluated.
Public transportation, it says, will begin to go driverless and cities will see a reduction in single occupancy vehicles. Bike communising will become more attractive, though electric assist technology, and high-speed rail systems will be constructed in the east and west coast travel corridors. And additional modes of transportation, such as inner-city rail and air travel, will expand and there may also be first-class amenities on some public transportation services as well.
The NLC is an American advocacy organisation representing 19,000 cities, towns and villages and encompassing 49 state municipal leagues.