Car manufacturers and tech companies are racing to get fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) on U.S. roads. Among the cities vying to be testing grounds for AV pilot programs are Pittsburgh, Tempe, Sacramento, and Portland, Oregon.
While most reports on AV claim that congestion and traffic will greatly lessen with the implementation of AVs, a few concerns have been raised that driverless technology will generate more congestion and sprawl that cities should consider.
A new study by INRIX, a data analytics company focused on traffic and automotive industry data, looks at which of the 50 largest U.S. cities would benefit the most from shared AVs.
“We hear a lot about which cities are best prepared for autonomous vehicles,” says Avery Ash, AV market strategist at INRIX. “But prepared is loosely defined as who’s most receptive to the idea or which mayors are trying to attract autonomous-vehicle manufacturers. We wanted to look instead at which city’s travel patterns are best suited for highly autonomous vehicles being deployed in a fleet format much the way we use ride sharing.”
In terms of overall preparation, there are certain cities that would adapt well and are receptive to the AV movement. The top-ranked cities are perhaps not what one would expect. New Orleans takes the number-one spot, followed by Albuquerque and Tucson. Portland, Oregon, and Omaha round out the top five.
To create the ranking, INRIX looked at one year of travel data—nearly 1.3 billion trips in the 50 cities. Trips were scored according to their length and proximity to downtown. Short trips that stayed close to the city center scored higher.
Short, central trips will better facilitate shared rides in a full car than longer trips into the far reaches of a city or the suburbs. INRIX found that cities at the bottom of the ranking, including Fort Worth and Baltimore, had a higher proportion of long trips that might not be as good for sharing, at least with existing infrastructure.
Communication between vehicles will become faster and even more comfortable with the eventual elimination of stop signs and stoplights. Larger trips can be enabled by this technology, but services like Uber Pool and Lyft Line, the actual number of trips is going to diminish. When people share cars, either on long trips or shorts, it already lessens the number of trips taken.
Initially, many cities have the potential to deploy AVs in certain areas where they would work best. If long trips to suburban areas do not make sense for AVs, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot be used in a downtown area. Approval for AV in different areas of cities is going to be critical to the AV movement.
Cities need to figure out which problems AVs need to solve. It could be first-mile/last-mile connectivity to transit hubs, or perhaps a mobility solution for young people and old people who cannot drive themselves. It is important to look at the ways that AVs can work for the cities population, whether addressing challenges or specific congestion or public transportation issues.
There are a lot of benefits to be had with AV, but developing a structured plan for cities is very important. You are unlikely to achieve any benefits without a clear motivation behind the structural changes that need to take place to fit AVs into the transportation landscape.
Another aspect of the discussion is the impact of AVs on parking. The United States has 150 billion square feet (14 billion sq m) of parking space—about four spaces for every car on the road. Repurposing private parking and street parking could have a major impact on how cities work.
The markets where implementing AV matters the most are where people use public transportation the least. But AV provides the potential for people to go great distances in relative comfort.
Looking for up-to-date, comprehensive commercial real estate data? Reonomy offers CRE professionals real-time access to the data points they need to grow their business — from debt and sales history to zoning and building owner information. Try Reonomy National for free today.