‘Smart vehicles’, ‘driverless cars’, ‘connected and autonomous vehicles’ (or CAV): regardless of how we label it, one fact is clear.
The impact of digital disruption and the inevitable proliferation of new technologies will shape the future of our cities.
Every industry, from retail to leisure and health to banking, is being transformed. Mobility is no exception.
The emerging revolution in driverless vehicles opens a new frontier of disruption in transportation and urban living. For our cities, exclusively electric CAVs present a huge opportunity to radically transform how we live and travel.
Urban mobility challenges
Cities across the world are grappling with overcrowded transport, poor air quality and the need to drive improved prosperity, competitiveness and citizen experience.
In London alone, 54 per cent of households currently have at least one private motor vehicle. with Greater London’s population expected to grow by 0.7 per cent every year to 2046, the strain on city infrastructure is only set to increase.
As ride-sharing services continue to proliferate and customer engagement sees year-on-year growth, there is significant potential for automated technology to play a greater role in helping to move people around our cities, taking more vehicles off the road and freeing up space for alternative uses.
“The fact that every city has its own dynamic means that driverless vehicles will need to be integrated with and work alongside the existing network”
The challenges around urban mobility will become increasingly prevalent. Yet while the proliferation of driverless technology is inevitable, what isn’t yet clear is what shape it will take in cities.
The shape of our cities
All cities have their own distinct histories, cultures, topographies and infrastructures. Because of this, a one-size-fits-all approach to driverless technology is unlikely to deliver its full potential – and will not ensure a city’s individual character is protected.
The fact that every city has its own dynamic means that, to be successful, driverless vehicles will need to be integrated with and work alongside the existing network.
In London, where the focus is on improving public transport and encouraging options such as walking and cycling, this means early government engagement with the private sector will be essential if the benefits of CAV are to be realised and work in parallel with London’s wider objectives.
But in a city such as Edinburgh, where the focus is on cleaner, safer and more inclusive transport systems, it will be essential to work with government to adopt regulations that engage with providers if these same objectives are to be achieved.
Embracing a driverless future
We have the opportunity now to be on the front foot. How each individual city embraces CAV will be a key fork in the road that will either enhance or frustrate how well it performs economically.
From integrating CAV into the planning process through to incentivisation, regulation and licensing, we must respond proactively to driverless technology in a way that works for each individual city and – most importantly – its citizens.
Peter Hogg is UK cities director at Arcadis