Autonomous Vehicles Will Worsen Urban Congestion

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Autonomous Vehicles Will Worsen Urban Congestion

The introduction of autonomous vehicles will create major challenges for urban planners, and heighten the need for smart city technology that can manage traffic flows more intelligently, according to an expert in the field.

While much media hype is heralding the potential for autonomous vehicles to revolutionise urban transit usage, municipal planners and systems designers should remain keenly aware of the negative implications that the technology could have for traffic levels in cities, according to Daniel Hobohm, Global Head of Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens AG.

Hobohm said one of the primary impacts of the introduction of autonomous cars will be a sharp increase in vehicle usage and attendant worsening of congestion.

“For cities, autonomous vehicles are going to increase congestion,” he said. “This is simply because we’re going to use these vehicles more frequently and ubiquitously for far more trivial things than we do today.”

Hobohm points out that the introduction of full automation to road vehicles will completely transform the ways in which they’re used, particularly as part of taxi or logistics systems, given that the technology dramatically reduces the cost of operation per car by removing the need for human operation.

“The head of Uber said that the most expensive part of a taxi ride is the driver – the car itself and fuel may cost some money, but the driver costs the most,” he said. “If we can replace them, the cost of a taxi drops significantly, and it begins to really compete with public transit like buses or light rail. This means you have a form of transportation that can be used for all sorts of things that you haven’t used cars for previously – you can work and sleep in an autonomous vehicle, and you can also use it for other more trivial tasks.

“You can send it to grab a pizza, or go fetch you kids from school, or use it to deliver a wedding photo album to your grandmother via an autonomous logistics vehicle that roams the streets. Because of this rise in vehicle usage urban congestion is bound to increase. […]