Planning for a Future with Self-driving Cars: Practices of and Perspectives from U.S. Municipalities

Authors: Asli Gocmen*, University of Wisconsin, Gillian Cooper, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Transportation Geography, Land Use
Keywords: autonomous vehicles, self-driving cars, municipal planning practices, land use impacts, environmental sustainability, sprawl
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Washington 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles (AVs), are considered among the most transformative forces to shape our society in the near future. Despite the fast pace of AV technology development and important implications of AVs for our communities, we have very limited empirical evidence on how communities are planning for a future with AVs. Our research helps fill this gap by investigating the extent to which, and how, municipalities are planning for a future with AVs. It also explores barriers to planning and planner perceptions on the impacts of AVs on land uses and environmental sustainability. Our study is based on a nationwide survey of municipal planners conducted between Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. The survey, representing 536 planners and 433 municipalities across the nation, found that eight percent of the municipalities have started planning for a future with AVs, but that, most often, their planning is limited to including AVs as an abstract concept in plans or forming collaborations for planning. Only a handful of municipalities have taken more concrete planning steps such as identifying actionable steps, timelines, and responsible parties, or organizing design charettes to learn about community preference for alternative futures. Perceived community-based impacts less space for parking but parking of AV fleet becoming a burden of lower income neighborhoods, and more livable urban places but also lower density and greater dispersal of land uses with continued sprawl and associated environmental problems.

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