Advances in technology such as the advent of autonomous vehicles (AV’s), the rise of E-commerce, and the proliferation of the sharing economy are having profound effects not only on how we live, move, and spend our time in cities, but also on urban form and development itself. These new technologies are changing the systems of transport, the layout of cities, and the places we spend our time. In turn, these changes will have profound effects on land use, street design, parking, housing, equity, municipal finance, and fundamental issues related to urban density, sprawl, vitality and the economic viability and sustainability of communities of all sizes.
While there has been a focused effort of research on the technological aspects of autonomous vehicles and systems themselves, there has been a shortage of systematic exploration on the wider secondary effects on all other forms of transportation (transit, walking, and biking), as well as city development, form, and design, with implications for equity, the environment, the economy, and governance.
These technological changes are being introduced much faster than how local government code and policy can typically react, especially because the issues at play and their possible impact remain almost entirely outside the knowledge base or skill set of the vast majority of city staff or leadership. Given that shared autonomous vehicles are already in service in some places in both the U.S. and abroad, and despite the recent well publicized death of a pedestrian by an autonomous vehicle, the expectation remains of widespread deployment of this technology within the decade.
The coming disruption essentially has three waves: 1) current state with angst or anticipation about likely changes; 2) 5-20 years of a mixed fleet of autonomous and human-controlled vehicles with an unknown speed or spatial location of transformation; and 3) a future state that currently varies from an urbanist’s dream of 90% fewer parking spaces and less road space needed to provide more trips to vastly expanding metropolitan areas and increased sprawl.
This project is aimed at helping local communities ensure their local values and goals sustain through this coming transportation disruption by matching the speed of local decision making with the speed of technological disruption from the coming wave of autonomous vehicle technology. The goal of the project is to develop a set of model policy and code that cities can largely adapt and adopt quickly that includes flexible ‘triggers’ such that when certain new realities exist (i.e. 25% of trips are by shared autonomous vehicle), local requirements change (i.e. minimum parking requirements are reduced).
This project will include the following stages:
1. Identify key areas for policy/code language opportunities (e.g. parking code, curb access, CO2 goal triggers, street ROW allocation, congestion or street waste management, road tax / fuel tax / municipal financing)
2. Scan the most advanced and flexible codes worldwide
3. Modify into language most able to be readily adopted locally with minimal adaptation necessary, including identifying the areas such code would go (TSP, Com Plan, straight policy, etc.)
4. Send draft language out for review to panel of experts – relying on the NSF’s Urbanism Next national network of local government, private sector, and academic sector experts
5. Use input to modify code/policy language
6. Present findings