I recently attended a FHWA Highway Automation Workshop on AV policy and planning (which was fantastic, fyi). At the end of the two-day workshop, we were tasked with a small group activity: Brainstorm our ideal driverless future. Sky is the limit… what does that look like? It turns out it was the hardest task of the event…. There were representatives attending from cities, states, universities, federal government agencies, transit agencies, and OEMs, and yet, we all stumbled. It really led me to think “how can we get to our ideal driverless future if we can’t even describe what it looks like?”
Of course, it kind of depends on who you ask (based on my cynical mind…):
- A car manufacturer might suggest that every person owns a driverless vehicle (theirs, of course) and all goods are delivered via personal vehicles.
- A city planner might suggest that we use shared rides for every single trip and people only live in dense areas.
- A transit agency planner might suggest that people only rely upon public transit to get around.
- A university planner might suggest an open data platform where nothing is proprietary; and
- If you’re this Oregon governor candidate from two years ago, you would actually want to see all long distance travel via water slides!
This is all an exaggeration, but my point is that everyone is coming from their biased perspectives. Who is representing the masses? And how can we actually get to a safe, equitable, reliable, accessible, efficient, and effective transportation system if we can’t all agree upon what that is?
I believe that we need to think with less extreme perspectives and actually develop policies and plans that represent better middle ground. Here are some general principles that support that thinking:
- Create performance standards for driverless vehicles to ensure safe roadways;
- Utilize pricing to better manage roadway congestion and maintenance;
- Minimize zero and single-occupancy vehicle usage via strong policy and pricing mechanisms;
- Shift public transit agencies into mobility managers that either provide transit operations or oversee private companies providing mobility services (based on agreed-upon goals and cost-benefit analyses);
- Create maximum (not minimum) parking requirements in locations with reasonable mobility options; and
- Encourage alternative fuel usage via strong policy and pricing mechanisms.
Easy, right? 😊 If you take only one thing away from this blog post, I hope it’s that transportation policymakers and planners will have job security for years to come…