A new report examining the impact of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) on cities has highlighted that the biggest benefit could be for first and last mile journeys.
Siemens’ Global Center of Competence Cities released the report–Cities in the Driving Seat—during the World Cities Summit in Singapore. The greatest benefit highlighted by the report was the opportunity for cities to plug gaps in their public transport network; for example, between a train station and commuters’ homes.
“The future of our cities could look very different with the adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles. They could help shape future trends in climate change, air quality, public health and more,” said Pete Daw, Urban Development and Environment Director at the Global Center of Competence Cities.
One example is on-demand shuttle services, which could operate instead of uneconomical bus services. Siemens claims that its own research shows that replacing four underperforming London bus routes with an on-demand e-minibus service would break even within three to four years and be profitable thereafter. As technology improves and becomes cheaper, such vehicles could be replaced with autonomous ones.
Speaking on a launch panel for the report, Martin Haese, Lord Mayor of Adelaide, said: “We are moving into an age of convergence and a changing consumer mindset in terms of how we view the role of the vehicle. The public transport system is becoming not only a means to get from A to B, but also an enabling digital platform in itself.”
Connected and autonomous vehicles can also help reduce accidents (90 percent of road accidents are due to human error) and with electrification will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions but the full benefits of CAV will only be realised if cities and their residents adopt the planning and foster the behavioural change which will drive impact.
The report identifies three scenarios: cities which make strong policy and planning changes to adapt to CAV on a shared mobility basis (the strong city); cities where there is adoption of autonomous vehicles on a private basis rather than shared mobility and there is no holistic vision for connected and autonomous vehicles within the city; and third, a scenario where connected and autonomous vehicles are a luxury used by few, where the petrol engine is still dominant, and shared trips have a niche role in urban transport.
Only the strong city scenario with the emphasis on shared mobility and a decline in private car ownership, with most vehicles electric and powered by clean energy grids, will bring the social and environmental benefits on a scale which can transform city living.
“Autonomous vehicles must be part of a wider transformation of urban areas,” said Daw. “Cities need to ensure that they work towards putting people first, and not cars, or we risk recreating the mistakes of the past.”
Over 130 mayors and city leaders from 128 cities gathered at the World Cities Summit with 16 MoUs signed among cities, academia and business. The next World Cities Summit will be held in 2020, from 5-9 July, in Singapore.