Planning for the Autonomous Future

With some historical perspective, transportation planners and policymakers can avoid the mistakes of the past and develop a transportation system that acknowledges the needs of all road users.

1 minute read

November 12, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


In a commentary published on Route Fifty, Kevin DeGood calls for “a balanced transportation system that also accommodates pedestrians, transit riders and cyclists” as autonomous vehicles become more commonplace on U.S. streets.

While the debate on when autonomous cars will be fully ready for self-driving operations rages on, DeGood argues that now is the time for policymakers to avoid heading “down a path that deepens our dependence on cars at the expense of sustainable, affordable and equitable alternatives such as public transportation, biking and walking.”

The article names several studies of autonomous vehicle technology that fail to include pedestrians, or even pedestrian infrastructure, in their assessments of self-driving vehicle safety. “And that’s the problem. The infrastructure we build today and how we program AVs will shape our lives and communities for generations to come.”

In the early 20th century, when cars were first introduced, policies led to “a transportation system dominated by driving” and laser-focused on moving cars, fast. DeGood warns that “Accommodating pedestrians, transit riders and cyclists cannot be an afterthought. Communities and transportation systems must be built around people, not motor vehicles. A transportation system that only makes room for sophisticated AVs is a system and a future not worth having.”

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