Can Planners Get Ahead of the Autonomous Vehicle Wave?

Autonomous vehicles sessions continued to draw crowds on Monday at the 2018 National Planning Conference where more than 20 sessions on the topic are on offer.

"Getting Ahead of Driverless Cars," led by speakers Don Elliott, FAICP, Nico Larco, and Kelley Coyner, attracted a packed house.

Elliott, a director with Clarion Associates, helps cities get ready for autonomous vehicles (AVs): "This technology is coming on faster than we thought. It seemed like the Jetsons but now it's coming."

But even with the exponential growth and strides being experienced in the AV world, we have some growing pains to get through.

An area that will see big changes — and challenges — is infrastructure. Because AVs can more accurately and efficiently navigate and park than human drivers, the speakers anticipate a reduction in needed road and parking space. Elliott recommends revising parking design standards with a wider range of adaptive uses and, eventually, AV-specific parking facilities.

Attendees were eager to join the discussion. Photo by Molly Walsh.

The fiscal impacts will be huge, too. Larco, associate professor of architecture at the University of Oregon and co-founder and co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, believes we will see a 15-50% decrease in the following revenue areas:

  • Gasoline taxes
  • Vehicle registration fees
  • Traffic and parking citations
  • Vehicle impounding fees
  • Parking revenue

At the same time, AVs will likely provide new revenue opportunities:

Coyner, a senior fellow at the Center for Regional Analysis and Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, explained how AVs are a huge opportunity to increase accessible mobility — but only if the technology is adopted in tandem with improved universal design. She specifically pointed to ride-share autonomous fleets: "Think about how difficult it is to find your [Uber] in a busy location like an airport or entertainment district. Think of how hard this would be if you were visually impaired."

The speakers agreed: AVs aren't coming, they're here, and we need to start planning for them now.

Top image: Speakers Don Elliott, FAICP; Nico Larco; and Kelley Coyner get ready to address a packed house. Photo by Molly Walsh.

About the Author
Molly Walsh is APA's program and events marketing manager.

April 23, 2018

By Molly Walsh