WASHINGTON—U.S. cities are trying to prepare for deployment of autonomous vehicles on their streets, but they face a lot of uncertainties, according to a transportation expert at the University of Virginia.
"The type of investment they need to make may be beyond their means, and even inappropriate for them to make," T. Donna Chen said. "Those decisions may have to be made on the federal or state level."
Nevertheless, "cities can have a lot of influence on how AVs are deployed on their streets," she said in an interview prior to a scheduled April 3 appearance in Washington. She was a panelist on the topic, "Cities in the Driver's Seat for AV Deployment," at the Mobility Talks International, held in conjunction with the 2019 Washington Auto Show.
An assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Systems & Environment at the University of Virginia, Chen is a faculty affiliate of the cyber physical systems research Link Lab and Center for Transportation Studies, according to the university website.
Despite the importance of federal and state policies on AVs, there are many things that can be done on the local level to expedite their acceptance, according to Chen.
Among the most important issues have to do with land use requirements for development and the related requirements for parking space, she said.
"There's a lot of reason to think that with AVs we may see a significant decrease in the demand for parking," Chen said. "Otherwise, in 10 or 15 years, space allotted for parking might turn out to be wasted space."
Many metropolitan areas in the U.S. have planning organizations that are actively studying the implications of integrating AVs into urban areas, according to Chen. While she said there are too many to list in total, she mentioned Seattle, Atlanta and cities in California's Bay Area as being proactive in considering how AVs will affect travel and tax infrastructure in their areas.
Nevertheless, cities are finding it frustrating to wait on federal and state agencies on such things as safety and data requirements, according to Chen.