By on December 2, 2015


Probably not. 

According to a study by the National League of Cities, only 6 percent of future city plans consider the potential impact autonomous vehicles will have in the next few years, including driverless car lanes and scaling back parking as ride-share services become more popular.

The study collected transportation plans of the 50 biggest U.S. cities, as well as the most-populous cities in every state. In all, 69 city plans were amassed and studied for future traffic and road plans.

Despite automakers rushing to put autonomous cars on the road by 2020, the study suggests that many cities won’t be able to adequately accommodate those cars, nor will they adapt fast enough to changing transportation modes that may challenge conventional public transportation and infrastructure wisdom.

The study also found that 50 percent of city plans call for more roadways and construction, despite fewer Vehicle Miles Traveled and changing work schedules among Millennials, which will become the largest workforce demographic when Baby Boomers retire.

“Many transportation plans which project outcomes decades into the future focus almost exclusively on the problem of automobile congestion and prescribe increased infrastructure in the form of new roads as the primary cure. However, experts and trends point to a future that will be increasingly multi-modal,” the study’s authors wrote.

By 2020, according to the study, local governments will be forced to consider VMT-based fees for tax collection. Already, Oregon is using a pilot program to calculate road use based on VMT, the study points out. Other municipalities and states may follow suit with their own versions to help offset the costs of expensive roadways and fewer drivers using them.

The gas-tax-system-for-road-improvement-dollars death spiral will continue faster as more electric cars hit the road too, according to the study.

Only 10 years later, the study suggests, fully autonomous cars will be commonplace and fewer single-occupant cars will use the roads as public and private mass transit become more popular.

(Rush hour apparently won’t exist in 2030 as millennials now work 20 hours a day to live in many cities including Austin and Denver, I guess.)

In all, the study concludes that the next 15 years of transportation will change quicker than the last 30 years because of rapid advancements in technology and the popularity of denser urban centers, where cars and parking lots just get in the way of single-speed fixies.

The whole report from the NLC can be found here.

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15 Comments on “Driverless Cars Are Coming, But Will Cities Be Ready?...”

  • avatar

    Equipping full-size cars like the Tesla Model S with robo-drive is bogus. Why? The answer is threefold. 1. Size matters. The smaller the car, the less surface area for it to run into other road users and vice versa. 2. A big car does not exactly inspire confidence; a driver has to have a feel for the outer dimensions. To exaggerate a bit, I see Toyota’s i-Road far better suited to some sort of autonomous drive. Funny that the i-Road completely went under the TTAC radar. 3. Space is something inner cities don’t exactly have plenty of.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Self driving cars are like Climate Change. If we just keep talking about it enough, it has to happen.

  • avatar

    Not understanding the great need or benefit of driverless cars.

    • 0 avatar

      In the short term:

      1) Safety. Keeping all but the tiniest fraction of the 35,000 or so people killed on American roads every year alive.

      2) Mobility for old people, kids, and people with disabilities.

      In the long term: increased roadway capacity and speed, as cars can drive closer together and we can dispense with some traffic signal cycles.

      • 0 avatar

        3) Crime reduction/tracking. The government will have eminent domain over your vehicle and if you commit a crime of any sort, or have unpaid fines, etc. your car will be disabled.

        If your insurance lapses, your car will be disabled.
        If your registration runs out, your car will be disabled.

    • 0 avatar

      >>> Not understanding the great need or benefit of driverless cars. <<<

      The same could be said for automatic transmissions or any other car "improvement" that makes driving easier. This is just another step towards minimizing effort.

      Rich people can afford wonderful cars that are a true joy to drive. However, people that get rich enough tend to hire a dedicated driver. This will basically just bring that benefit down to merely moderately-rich people.

      I suspect that when some people have self driving cars the traffic congestion will increase massively due to more miles traveled by these autopilots and generally "more cautious" algorithms. People already suffering from hour-long commutes will gladly buy a self-driving car.

      I suspect that Silicon Valley will be at the forefront of this transition… many people are able to afford a $100k or $200k car, commutes are already hideous, and people enjoy trying out the new tech.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    The top photo is Kingsford Smith Drive in Brisbane,Qld. Australia around 1952. It hasn’t changed mkuch and the government is going to widen the road because it’s also the main road from the city to the airport.
    As for climate change, Maurice Strong has just died, the father of the global warming myth ,he who was responsible for the world becoming an unfairer place for those who live in the middle and lower rungs ,in any country . Long may he rot in hell and hopefully this whole global warning thing will fade away now that this pernicoius man in dead.

  • avatar

    In the short term, cities won’t have to do much. Autonomous cars may well lead to increased congestion. Cities have tools to deal with that without making major infrastructure changes: congestion pricing, tolls, and licensing fees. If autonomous cars increase congestion to unworkable levels, it will get more expensive to use them.

  • avatar

    As we speak, there is quite a bit of opposition to the adding of BICYCLE lanes to already congested main traffic arteries in Atlanta. Unfortunately, as a fan of science fiction, and an observer of how politicians work, I fear that SOMEDAY (hopefully in the far future) independent driving will be either eliminated, or heavily taxed. This will happen due to the fact that the masses would prefer to text/read/eat/apply makeup/etc., everything other than actually DRIVE, aided and abetted by the ongoing rush to increase electronic nannies to do what drivers should be doing!! So in the interest of “safety” driving will be relegated to computers!! End of mild rant! :-)

    • 0 avatar

      A similar rant could be given on the switch from horses to horseless carriages. Manual driving will never be outlawed completely, just made illegal on certain routes, just like how walking, bicycling, or riding beasts of burden is illegal on interstate highways.

  • avatar

    We already have experience of what happens when electronics override humans. There are at least 4 Airbus crashes that were totally avoidable. In one instance pilot was trying to go up quickly to avoid collision with tree forest. The computer decided that plane was too low for this maneuver, leveled itself and crashed into forest. [miraculously only 3 people died]. And then there were few incidents when with plane computer screw up at high altitude. And then guess what? – pilots were not even trained to handle these situations because they were told that plane has computer that will not let it stall.

    Let me tell you. The pothole situation alone is enough not to have autonomous cars. You will not have enough money to replace tires and rims on your 19 inchers

    • 0 avatar

      The “Airbus lands in a forest” event always comes up in this context and is usually misrepresented. The occasion was a demonstration and the pilot was keen to impress with a low, slow flyby. He had to override a number of systems to get the plane low enough and then slow enough for his drama and when he went to apply full power, he had let the engines slow to the point that they did not have time to spool up and deliver before the trees arrived.
      If he had relied entirely on the computers he would have sailed over the crowd at 500 ft and a safe speed. This is an example to demonstrate the exact opposite of your argument.

    • 0 avatar

      The airbus leveled itself because it couldn’t climb without stalling, so the pilots were correctly trained that it couldn’t stall. This is like claiming that the stability control in your car “overrode” you when you tried to go around a corner at 80 MPH on glare ice and it didn’t let you turn. Nope, it stopped you from spinning off the road, but it’s physics that didn’t let you turn.

      Show me the other 3 airbus crashes where the computer stopped the pilot from doing something that was physically possible but the computer prevented it. I’ll show you the THOUSANDS of NTSB accident reports that list “human error” as the cause of the accident where a computer could have prevented the accident or limited damage.

      We all know humans make mistakes all the time. Just because someone can demonstrate that a computer wasn’t perfect at some time once in history doesn’t mean that they are worse than humans on average.

  • avatar

    The less the idiots “plan”, the better. The only outcome of “city planning”, will be that the technology that actually does get developed, wants to move in a different direction that what the planners planned for. And then, to save face, the dimbulb progressive planners (are there any who are not?) will, as usual, resort to throwing the legal code at the actual future and those capable of creating it.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do believe this comment is assabout;
    “Despite automakers rushing to put autonomous cars on the road by 2020, the study suggests that many cities won’t be able to adequately accommodate those cars, nor will they adapt fast enough to changing transportation modes that may challenge conventional public transportation and infrastructure wisdom.”

    The comment should read;
    “Auto makers don’t have the technology to construct autonomous cars to suit existing infrastructure”.

    Like everything in todays world we must utilise existing infrastructure when engineering and designing for the future.

    A lack of existing infrastructure is also the reason behind the poor takeup of EVs, natural gas powered vehicles, etc.

    Why should billions be spent (subsidized via tax) to pay for these industries.

    Like the existing infrastructure it will take many decades to change to suit these newer technologies.

    If these newer technologies are not flexible enough to adapt the existing infrastructure, then they are no good at all.

    This stuff should really be articles of interest in a Popular Science magazine.

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