Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are set to revolutionise urban mobility – but some cities will benefit more than others.
That’s according to a new report, Can Self-Driving Cars Stop the Urban Mobility Meltdown?, which examines the benefits and drawbacks of taking different policy actions.
The report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland acknowledges the huge impact that coronavirus is currently having on urban mobility, with private forms of transportation such as cars and bikes likely to be favoured over shared mobility for the next 12 to 18 months. But in the longer term, many cities will embrace shared AVs because these vehicles can alleviate perennial problems such as congestion, air pollution and road fatalities.
Using a tool that can simulate 1.7 billion trips, researchers modelled how AVs could improve or worsen the urban environment and quality of life in five urban archetypes developed on the basis of data from more than 40 cities worldwide. The team also simulated the citywide impact of specific mobility scenarios, such as the promotion of micromobility and a strong uptake of robo-shuttles.
The analysis showed that while some cities will gain significant advantages by introducing AVs, others will fare better by promoting other mobility options, such as e-bikes and e-scooters. In fact, in some settings AVs could exacerbate the problems that municipal planners are hoping to solve. Before taking action, cities must assess whether AVs will be a transportation panacea or a burden, the report says.
Planners can apply the simulation tool to any city to help visualise future developments in their transportation systems.
“Cities need to create a vision of where they want to be in the future and start acting now,” said Nikolaus Lang, a BCG managing director and senior partner, and leader of the firm’s Global Advantage practice worldwide. “If they do nothing, and if the growth in private car use increases in line with past trends, the urban environment is set to worsen significantly.”
“In cities where AVs are the best option, municipal authorities will need to collaborate with operators, manufacturers and technology companies if they are to succeed,” added Andreas Hermann, director of the institute of customer insight at the University of St. Gallen.
Osborne Clarke’s report Future Proof Real Estate: Is the property sector ready for the 2020s? explores how autonomous vehicles and other smart technologies will change the face of the built environment.