Ten Steps Toward Autonomous Urbanism (7 & 8)

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Steps 7 & 8: Take advantage of technology now & Focus on transitions as transportation and technology advances

In this series of blogs we’ll look at the Ten Steps Toward Autonomous Urbanism as defined by Lisa Nisenson and Brad Davis in their article published by CNU in December 2017 .

Step – 7 Take advantage of technology now

With all eyes on fully autonomous vehicles, we are missing a lot of technology available now to increase safety, mobility, and access to transit. For example, the current burst of innovation is not cars, but bicycles. Free-floating (or dockless) and e-bike bike share add even more convenience to bikeshare and demand for bike infrastructure.

Cities are also piloting new transit services with shared-use mobility companies in the form of microtransit, paratransit, and connections to transit stations. These new programs are in early stages, so the jury is still out on performance and long-term sustainability. However, these small services can provide a missing middle level of transit service.

Step 8 – Focus on transitions as transportation and technology advances

Autonomous cars will not appear on streets overnight. Rather, the technology will come in phases as new technology is tested, improved, and scaled.

The key is to track stages of transportation and smart city technology in categories: existing, trending, emerging, and future. This works for communities of all sizes, though it is important to note that every community will be at different stages. For example, a rural community may be ahead of the technology curve due to pilot programs at a University campus.

For planners, the trick will be defining conditions that initiate a new set of policies and planning. For example, using smart parking, a city can set a threshold (e.g., parking utilization drops below 70%) that triggers lower parking requirements.

For architects, adaptive site and building design will be critical. For example, an architect working on a grocery store will treat parking spaces as a land bank for expansion and a flexible interior as e-commerce forces attention to logistics and deliveries. With so many changes on the horizon, design professionals will no longer plan an individual, static project, but rather site, infrastructure, and district plans that anticipate transitions as technology evolves.

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