Michael Bloomberg Heading Project to Prepare Cities for Autonomous Vehicles

Former three-term mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is working with pilot cities to prepare for the advent of autonomous vehicles.

Bloomberg is tapping into data to develop policy recommendations addressing social, environmental, and economic changes cities will need to make in order to accommodate autonomous vehicles. Austin, Los Angeles, Nashville, Buenos Aires, and Paris will be pilot cities in Bloomberg’s initiative, and will contribute feedback to the plan. Five more cities will be added to the list before the end of this year.

“The advent of autonomous cars is one of the most exciting developments ever to happen to cities,” Bloomberg said. “And if mayors collaborate with one another, and with partners in the private sector, they can improve people’s lives in ways we can only imagine today.”

Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City through the end of 2013, and has gone back to being CEO of the Bloomberg L.P. news media company. He was known for bringing programs to the city that reduced the city’s carbon footprint nearly 20 percent. Along with bringing the Taxi of Tomorrow initiative to the city with Nissan NV200 minivans, Bloomberg set up a Nissan Leaf electric car taxi pilot project as part of a campaign to make the city’s taxi fleet one-third electric by 2020.

As chair of the C40 Climate Leadership Group from 2010 to 2013, he drew attention to the leading role cities will play in the fight against climate change. Bloomberg sees self-driving cars as being part of a city’s responsibility to provide safe and sustainable environments for its citizens.

In the study, Bloomberg and participating cities will be looking at how urban planning will be part of autonomous vehicles being deployed. That’s expected to include issues such as maintaining roads, training workers, partnering with design institutions, and planning for land usage to accommodate rapid growth in autonomous vehicle technologies.

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Experts predict that cities will have more land freed up to use as parks and other positive functions, instead of being used for parking lots, as autonomous vehicles become the norm.

“The biggest change to the urban fabric will be to parking infrastructure,” said Audi Urban Futures Initiative’s Lisa Futing. “Parking will be moved indoors and outside of city centers, freeing up outdoor lots and spaces for development and public space.”

Anthony Townsend, author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, said that cities will be looking at different types of autonomous vehicles well beyond passenger cars.

“It’s actually trash trucks, trailers, delivery vans, taxis, and other vehicles that take up much of the space in cities,” he said. “They will be completely transformed by automated technologies.”

Townsend believes that making those changes, plus adopting autonomous mass transit, will make cities more efficient and livable.

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