The cities are not ready for autonomous cars, but we are

It is a fact that way too many people get injured or killed in traffic every year. It is also a fact that many accidents could be avoided with modern technology. Here is what we need to do.

High art and fashion are usually driven by big city communities. Technology is not.

 

• Present day telecommunication was first developed to communicate with ships and other fleets covering great distances.
• Autonomous vehicles have been a reality in farming for several years.
• Industrial robots have penetrated land far deeper in land districts then in urban settings
• Automated microbe sensing is deployed in livestock stables way before in hospitals

 

Examples abounds. Many technologies spread from the countryside to the cities. Autonomous cars are likely to follow the same pattern.
There are many promises associated with autonomous cars, among them the prospects of cleaner, safer, and more flexible traffic. Some of these expectations are straightforward others are more complicated. In major urban areas, some of the biggest advantages of autonomous cars are actively dealing with traffic congestion, and crowded parking spaces. A recent study revealed that one third of inner city driving in Copenhagen is done by people looking for a parking space. And since most cars are standing still the majority of time this is a serious complication of city traffic. Carriageways and motorways are built for high speeds, but typically congested twice a day while the opposite lanes are free.

 

By now, the obvious solution to these problems is automation. Autonomous cars can safely be packed closer together in both directions, increasing road capacity. And in mobility-as-a-service scenarios, less parking time is required because the car can drive itself to the next job. Calculations and predictions are pretty clear: autonomous driving systems is the obvious solution to congested cities.

 

But there is a problem. These solutions require a total – or at least a substantial – substitution of manually driven cars. Mixed traffic, autonomous and manual, is a real deal breaker because in order to reap the big advantages the manual cars have to get out of the cities, and that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

 

In small towns, however, the situation is completely different. We already have positive business cases for autonomous driving. We already have open roads ready for new kinds of vehicles. And frankly, we have a stronger need for transportation.

 

/Henrik Schärfe