Are Driverless Cars Good for Cities?

With experts predicting widespread autonomous vehicle (AV) adoption in the not-too-distant-future, many policymakers, designers, and ordinary citizens are left scratching their heads, uncertain of what to expect and how to prepare.

1 minute read

February 22, 2017, 1:00 PM PST

By ArupAmericas


New York City

ant D / Shutterstock

We asked John Eddy, who leads Arup’s research into the impact of AVs on the built environment, and Ryan Falconer, head of the firm’s Canadian transportation consulting business, to stage a mock debate about the risks and rewards of a driverless future.

Let’s start with active transportation. John, will AVs make our cities better for pedestrians and cyclists? How will they encourage people to get out of cars and use active transportation, universally acknowledged to be better from the standpoint of public health and greenhouse gas emissions?

John: There’s no question we’ll be able to create a much safer environment for active travel. Shared autonomous vehicles will need less parking and road space than today’s cars, so we’ll be able to devote more space to pedestrians and cyclists. And although the price of car rides should drop with driverless cars, I don’t think that’s going to stop people from using active transportation. There are multiple reasons why somebody walks or rides a bike, and a lot of it comes down to personal preference.

Ryan: I think the convenience of autonomous vehicles will disincentivize people from using active transit. I’ll link that very strongly to one of the points we’ll get to momentarily: sprawl, which will discourage people from taking active transport because of the travel distances involved.

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