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Cities urged to get in the autonomous driving seat

It states the greatest benefit from autonomous vehicles will emerge from a city’s capacity to provide “first and last mile” trips and new transport services

The report urges cities to put people first, not cars
The report urges cities to put people first, not cars

Siemens has published a report urging cities to plan early for the arrival of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) and to tackle the issues in the wider context of mobility transformation.


Cities in the Driving Seat Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in Urban Development, released at the World Cities Summit in Singapore this week, explores the interdependencies between urban development, public transportation policies, power supply, pollution and the increasing share of CAV in city traffic. It states lack of mid-term planning and delayed investments in infrastructure could create negative social, economic and environmental effects.


“Autonomous vehicles must be part of a wider transformation of urban areas. Cities need to ensure that they work towards putting people first – and not cars, or we risk repeating the mistakes of the past,” said Pete Daw, urban development and environment director, Siemens Global Centre of Competence Cities.


"The future of our cities could look very different with the adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles and they could help shape future trends in climate change, air quality, public health and more.”


The report provides insights into opportunities as well as risks for cities faced with the arrival of CAV. It lists the greatest benefits to cities as the capacity to provide first and last mile trips and help government provide new transport services and expanded mobility access to the young, elderly, impaired and marginalised.


Alongside reduction in pollution and emissions as well as road fatalities and injuries, it also highlights CAV’s potential to enable cities to repurpose land currently used for parking and roadways into green space, housing, schools and protected cycle lanes.


Siemens warns though that without clear and thoughtful policies and regulations, the arrival of CAV could result in negative consequences, such as:

  • continuation of effects of climate change if CAV are not regulated to be low or zero-carbon;
  • no decrease in vehicle ownership if individuals prefer their own CAV instead of adopting a shared transport system;
  • unused CAV may cause congestion and require unnecessary parking space;
  • increase of vehicle miles travelled if individuals alter their commute from walking, cycling or taking public transport to using CAV.

To maximise the benefits of automation and of the introduction of CAV, the report recommends harnessing the advance of four transformations in unison: automation, electrification, digital connectivity and shared mobility. Adopting mobility transformations in isolation could lead to adverse outcomes or detract from potential benefits.


The study defines three possible scenarios to illustrate how outcomes could vary depending on the vision and policies that a city puts in place:

  • The strong city scenario: assumes that shared mobility becomes the norm and private car ownership declines, that parking space is unlocked and retrofitted as schools, hospitals, and new housing units and that most vehicles are electric and powered by clean energy grids.
  • The business-as-usual scenario: provides an outlook of future mobility that is not guided by a coherent vision or effective policies. The assumed revolutions in vehicle automation and electrification do not lift off at scale, and private usage remains the norm, little urban land is unlocked and only a minority of CAV are electric.
  • In the CAV-as-a-luxury-good scenario: CAV remain an exclusive rarity, private car-ownership is the norm, shared vehicles and shared trips remain a niche concept and public transport usage decreases rapidly over time. Vehicles promote individual trips and still utilize internal combustion engines, causing more CO2 emissions than ever before.

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