Infrastructure | Planning & Design | Transport & Logistics

How will autonomous vehicles affect our cities?

16 May 2018, by Amy Sarcevic

Australia’s infrastructure sector is preparing itself for an onslaught of technological disruption as it strives to fulfill the Smart Cities Plan and improve the livability of major conurbations.

The autonomous and electric vehicles market – set to be worth $87 billion by 2020 – is making a particular impact; and some estimates suggest that by 2040 every tenth vehicle on the road will be autonomous.

With such widespread and rapid change predicted, Infrastructure Victoria is investigating how vehicle automation may impact the way people live their everyday lives – and subsequently how it will affect transport and land use planning throughout the state.

CEO, Michel Masson, is leading the research and spoke to us ahead of his presentation at the AFR National Infrastructure Summit – during which he will share details and current progress of the investigation.

“We need to consider the future infrastructure requirements for autonomous vehicles”, said Michel. “We are currently exploring the likelihood and implications of various future scenarios which could ensue from vehicle automation; and assessing the impact these would have on transport and land use planning”.

At present it is unclear how traffic will be affected with the widespread use of driverless cars.

Some argue for the likelihood of increased car-sharing and ‘mobility-as-a-service’ business models, including autonomous shuttles.

These could significantly reduce traffic and requirements for parking, which would in turn affect the entire urban and regional dynamic; allowing people to live further from business districts and subsequently decentralizing cities.

On the other hand, it is equally plausible that driverless cars will increase traffic, making it possible for older citizens and people living with disability – who may currently be excluded from driving – to own and operate a car.

“Both scenarios would require a rethinking of how physical and social infrastructure assets are mapped out throughout the state”, said Michel.

“We are looking at a number of demographic and behavioral variables to see how Victoria could respond to this new technology”.

Michel admits that one of the main challenges of this research has been identifying the key questions that need to be asked.

“There are such a wide range of variables to consider. But we are now confident that we have identified a range of useful scenarios and potential implications of zero-emissions and autonomous vehicles and are excited to share these at the Summit”.

The Australian Financial Review’s National Infrastructure Summit – to be held 4-5 June in Sydney – will host more than 300 of Australia’s top infrastructure planners, advisers, contractors, experts and industry stakeholders.

Learn more and register here.

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