Self-driving vehicles are the talk of the town, and an increasing number of politicians envisage placing them at the heart of the transport system in American cities. If future users manage to overcome their misgivings about this technology, self-driving cars could change the appearance of the country’s urban areas and improve the daily lives of their inhabitants.
More and more American cities are increasing their initiatives to develop autonomous modes of transport. If the politicians have their way, self-driving cars, buses and vans could become an integral feature of urban areas in the United States. This would not only be a positive change for inhabitants, but would also have a significant effect on the architecture and structure of large cities.
Better access, less traffic and an equal footing for all inhabitants
For city-dwellers, self-driving transport – both private and public – could mean a significant reduction in traffic jams, easier access to the most isolated neighbourhoods, and lower pollution, analysed website Greenbiz. It would also reduce any inequality based on a person’s place of residence or financial resources.
“Automated vehicles have the potential to make our cities safer, more efficient and more economically productive”, says Linda Bailey, executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, which represents 55 American cities. It is easy to see why officials are so keen on implementing driverless vehicles.
Columbus and Detroit are blazing the trail
American cities Detroit and Columbus have already designed a number of pioneering projects. In 2016, Columbus was awarded 40 million dollars by the U.S. Department of Transportation to finance several initiatives. These included adding electric cars to its fleet of municipal vehicles and setting up transport services that use self-driving cars.
Louis Stewart, chief innovation officer for Sacramento, California, thinks that “driverless vehicles could become the backbone for new economic and development opportunities” for the city centre and the state capital’s 500,000 inhabitants. In San Jose, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, the authorities are looking to partner up with car manufacturers and high-tech giants. Their aim? To set up a transport policy that prominently features electric, autonomous and shared vehicles over the next few decades.
A solution that city-dwellers must learn to accept
The problems inhabitants have getting around large cities are real, and must be resolved by the authorities. Autonomous vehicles, in all of their forms, offer a particularly interesting solution that needs to be investigated. One day, they might even be used to plan the layout and architecture of cities around the inhabitants. But, before seeing their policies become a reality, local officials must help some of their citizens to overcome their reluctance.
A recent study carried out by the Pew Research Center showed that 53% of Americans are “very” or “quite” worried about autonomous driving technology. More than half of those asked also said that, if they had a choice, they would not use this type of vehicle.
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