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Focus on safety and security when building your city’s autonomous vehicle strategy

Thom Rickert, Trident Public Risk Solutions, outlines an approach to developing an autonomous vehicles strategy.

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Autonomous vehicles offer tremendous potential for improving traffic safety, saving lives and enhancing quality of life. There are also huge challenges and many unanswered questions about how we will safely integrate autonomous vehicles into our lives and communities.

 

Specifically, how will we:

  • Build trust with citizens that these vehicles are safe?
  • Manage and protect vehicles’ data appropriately?
  • Design effective laws and requirements around licensing and registration?
  • Implement the technology infrastructure necessary for safe and efficient operation?

Many communities have started to build a model that begins to answer these questions. It’s a model that others can adopt and shape to their city’s or town’s vision.

 

Engage your community

 

Building trust and buy-in among a community’s many stakeholders is essential to a successful autonomous vehicle initiative.

 

Think of it this way: The concept of the smartphone has been with us for 10 years. The “smart city” concept, however, is less well-known and even less understood outside of technology and municipal planning circles.

 

Building trust and buy-in among a community’s many stakeholders is essential to a successful autonomous vehicle initiative.

 

All stakeholders benefit from having both a clear definition of “smart city” and visibility into a strategic plan that identifies key characteristics, including new and existing infrastructure, financing and public transit.

 

Planners should outline for stakeholders all modes of transportation included in the strategy – from autonomous vehicles and micro-mobility sharing (including bikes and e-scooters) to rideshare concepts such as Lyft and Uber.

 

Safety concerns

 

The safety considerations around an autonomous vehicles initiative get more complex all the time.

 

A primary challenge for aspiring smart cities is that autonomous vehicles are in their infancy, and there are not enough cars on the road that can communicate wirelessly with other vehicles.

 

Even more uncommon is the vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology in which an autonomous car or truck can interact with traffic lights and road signs.

 

Despite limited deployment of the technology, smart cities can still begin to develop strategies that focus on today’s known safety concerns as well as the safety benefits a community can realise.

 

Despite limited deployment of the technology, smart cities can still begin to develop strategies that focus on today’s known safety concerns as well as the safety benefits a community can realise.

 

On one hand, the city must address the safety risks of an autonomous vehicle – or a city bus – being connected to its infrastructure. On the other, as wearable technologies and smartphones become nearly ubiquitous, there’s a tremendous opportunity to make the city safer by preventing not only vehicle-to-vehicle accidents but also vehicle-to-pedestrian and vehicle-to-bike accidents.

 

Protecting private data

 

It’s estimated that each autonomous vehicle on the road today generates more than 4,000 gigabytes of data every hour. Now imagine it at scale. It’s staggering. Without all that data, the vision of the safe operation of truly autonomous vehicles can’t come to life.

 

But today the public is more aware than ever before about data security and the risks involved in sharing personal information.

 

That’s why aspiring smart cities must define for their citizens how their transportation and mobility data is being captured – and by whom – and how it’s anonymised, used and shared.

 

Defining regulations

 

One of the overarching issues facing smart cities as it relates to autonomous vehicles is regulation and controls.

 

A successful implementation depends on partnership between local, state and federal government entities, as well as safety organisations.

 

A successful implementation depends on partnership between local, state and federal government entities, as well as safety organisations.

 

For example, at the state level alone, several key topics must be addressed, such as licensing drivers of autonomous vehicles, registering the vehicles and establishing mandatory levels of insurance that need to be carried. And at the local level, key decisions must be made about where autonomous vehicles can operate.

 

Where next?

 

It wasn’t long ago that autonomous vehicles existed only in science fiction. Today, the technology is evolving rapidly, bringing us closer to wider deployment of systems that can control multiple driving functions simultaneously, like steering or acceleration or braking.

 

As autonomous vehicles become more sophisticated, municipal infrastructures will continue to play catch-up with the automakers’ innovations and with how these breakthroughs could affect public safety.

 

However, by engaging early with stakeholders and developing a strategy rooted in safety and security, smart cities can shape a future where autonomous vehicles begin to deliver on their promise for cities and their residents.

 

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