Curb considerations for cities exploring autonomous vehicles
We are still in the early age of autonomous vehicles. While recent news stories have claimed that AV domination is “way in the future,” the future still might arrive much sooner than our regulations may be prepared for.
Jacksonville, Fla., is testing a pilot that uses AVs to replace its current monorail system. In December, it received a $25 million grant from the federal transportation department, and poached an executive from Amazon to oversee the project, which is scheduled to go live in late 2020. Cars will use both the former monorail route and city streets.
Before AVs become ubiquitous in the urban landscape, it would be good to get some rules in place. Who should write those rules, though? It’s unclear. A recent M.I.T. study found that most municipalities haven’t begun planning for an AV-filled world, and those that have tend to be larger cities with financial resources, like Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Others appear to be waiting for guidance from the state or federal level. Those entities, however, appear reluctant to tackle an issue that will be limited, at first, to urban areas. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states and the District of Columbia have addressed AVs either through legislation or by executive order, although a quick look reveals many standards are in their infancy. The U.S. Department of Transportation, for its part, has released only “guidelines” regarding autonomous vehicles, as opposed to more stringent regulations.
Side note: Want to operate your own AV? (Washington Post)
Addressing the potential loss of curb revenue
Another issue, naturally, is money. As we love to point out, the ascent of ride-hail services has been a key driver in increasing the value of curb space, and that trend will almost certainly continue once AVs are commonplace. While AVs don’t necessarily have to find parking right in front of their owners’ homes, they will have to compete for curb space while loading or unloading their cargo.
To get some idea of what an AV-friendly city will look like in a decade or two, we can look to the shifts in driving patterns that have occurred thanks to the rise of ride-hail services like Uber and Lyft. One issue: as cities dedicate more curb space to ride-hail pick-ups and drop-offs, they lose revenue they could be obtaining through parking fees. Similarly, airports have seen their parking revenues dip by more than 10% since Uber and Lyft came on the scene.
One proposal for cities to reconcile these losses is by charging users per-minute fees for idling in prime spots. While it could speed turnover in high-density areas, thus improving traffic and quality of life, it’s a concept that would require a significant technological investment—and would likely face considerable backlash from drivers of all stripes.
I frequently use AVs for context when talking about Coord: Autonomous Vehicles have the sensors to understand if they can physically park somewhere; but Coord is the platform that can tell them if they can legally park somewhere. If you're interested in learning more about Coord, book some time to talk with our team!