Autonomous Cars Will Turn Back the Clock on Sustainable Cities
During a recent conference about streetcars and public transport, former NYC Traffic Commissioner Samuel Schwartz, a.k.a. Gridlock Sam, author of “Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars”, said that the arrival of autonomous cars will increase the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), reverse the millennial trend eschewing driving, decimate public transport, and increase the occurrence of inactivity related illnesses.
In the past few years, many cities have questioned the pattern of dedicating more space to mobility, recognizing that resident’s quality of life is at stake when congestion and pollution are a daily challenge. Improving public transport, especially with sustainable systems such as trams, subways, and electric buses, helps reduce the need to use private vehicles. Improving sidewalks and cycling infrastructure, encouraging people to walk or cycle to work, are also good practices of sustainable transportation and improve residents’ health and satisfaction.
The advent of autonomous cars, however, could signal a 180-degree change in direction away from those sustainable goals. The companies developing autonomous cars are not interested in getting people to walk more or use public transport, but to offer on-demand private transport for the masses, in many cases moving people back to cars.