- Congestion pricing, real-time traffic and transit management, and more sophisticated freight efforts could help cities in the near-term as they look to welcome more autonomous vehicles (AVs), according to a new report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).
- The guide calls on cities to make use of existing technologies in areas like computer-aided dispatch and vehicle location systems for public transportation. It also calls on cities to ensure data is appropriately collected and protected through open data specifications.
- NACTO urged cities to be careful when deploying delivery drones and robots, as they risk "flooding streets, sidewalks and airspace." The association suggested human workers be used for the last 50 feet of deliveries to ensure effective goods management.
Autonomous technologies present a "historic opportunity" to correct the "mistakes" that have led to many cities being too auto-centric, according to Janette Sadik-Khan, principal at report collaborator Bloomberg Associates and chair of NACTO. The development of such technologies will require a "new blueprint for cities," she said.
AVs hold great promise for cities, where many believe they can cut congestion and give seamless service in areas like ride-hailing and deliveries. But some experts in the field, including Lyft CEO Logan Green, have said that the march to full autonomy is a "very long game" that will take many years to come to fruition — even as others like Elon Musk suggest full autonomy is just around the corner.
The guide says a wide variety of city departments including IT, fleet services and parking authorities will see their work touched by autonomous technologies like artificial intelligence, which has been heralded as a game-changer for city governments.
But the report indicates that plenty of work lies ahead as cities look to encourage more AV usage. Congestion pricing has been suggested as one way to reduce strain on the streets in the near-term, but cities have so far been slow to adopt the solution. New York is set to lead the way in the coming years as city leaders debate how it can be done in an equitable way.
Deliveries could also present challenges in cities — both on streets and in the air — as more companies experiment with drones and robots to deliver everything from food to medical supplies. As cities and businesses look to find more innovative ways to deliver goods, it will be imperative to ensure that the skies do not become congested, especially as companies like Uber look to introduce flying taxis.