We are on the verge of three game changers in the future of urban transportation: vehicle electrification, automation, and shared ride usage in major cities around the world.
Imagine you are running late to work and are dreading having to catch a jam-packed subway that has limited breathing space. Now envision your commute - It begins with opening an app on your smartphone and demanding a driverless shuttle to pick you up. How do these shuttles operate in a driverless capacity? Algorithms and data have opened the opportunity to enhance your route to work, along with the handful of other passengers inside. At this stage, the revolution of urban transportation sounds pretty appealing.
Traffic is heavy but your ride impressively glides through the city, driving through intersections that have been programmed to reliably collect data from the current road conditions. By the time you arrive at your workplace, other automatic vehicles are lined up behind dropping off and picking up passengers. Those who aren't interested in riding the shuttles, go to the nearest electric bike station and hop on to take them to their destination.
Your entire commute is shortened, reducing your travel time by up to 30 minutes. Costs are half of what they originally used to be, meanwhile consuming a lower carbon footprint.
A commuter’s dream world has been described so why aren't we living in it yet?
The Changing Transportation
Driverless shuttles have begun trial runs in Australia, specifically at Adelaide Airport for moving passengers between the main terminal and the long-term parking lot. It will be backed by its $1 million dollar fund granted by the South Australian Government.
Meanwhile, US cities like Seattle are in progress of creating a driverless, automatic vision as explained previously. The vision could be a reality in as little as 13 years, according to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy.
The verge of vehicle automation, electrification, and shared usage will change the transportation world and revolutionize our economy, depends on our commitment to the policies and openness to support such technologies. If we shy away from commitment, the same report mentioned earlier explains it could significantly worsen congestion in major cities and increase pollution.
Could the convenience of Uber and Lyft seduce riders instead of using public transport, which encourages ex-urban growth due to mostly traveling alone? Could these ideas make the congestion even worse in ever-growing cities?
Looking into the future
A study was done about mobility in American cities in 2016 by the American Public Transport Association. They analyzed the usage of personal cars, public transportation and shared usage transport modes such as Uber and Lyft, in seven major cities around the country. The cities included Austin, Boston, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
The study found the newer shared modes actually do complement public transit, which is linked to lower rates of car ownership.
The study also found out of the interviewed 4,500 people, about 40% of them drive frequently alone. The U.S. Census Bureau statistics showed more than three of every four people drive to work in an empty car and spend more than 90 minutes a day commuting to work.
In an ideal world, the combination of automated technology, business models and controlled regulation and policies have the potential to make a transformational change, but it is required of the state and local governments to come together and collaborate with the changing technology.
The need for proactivity
As the large cities in the US continue to grow, many departments of transportation admit large cities will need to explore new approaches to keep up. The cities also have to keep up with the disabled and increasing mobility, those who cannot afford access to the apps in a smartphone used for catching automated vehicles. Safety concerns are also an issue to assess. These topics are the beginning of the contentious theme that will only continue to be demanded as populations increase.
It is a great time for transportation planners, engineers, policymakers and even electronic/technology manufacturers to act now and work together to make sure we are all on the same page when it comes to making a citizen's daily routine in urban areas enjoyable, instead of a congested nightmare.
By 2050, two out of every three people on the planet will live in cities according to World Urbanization Trends by the United Nations.
There are evidently no easy solutions in solving the changing city populations and transportation. The bigger issue seems to revolve around the major reconstruction required of our current transportation models that would need to be done, in order to utilize the automated vehicles.
We have begun creating pathways to solutions by urging conversations about the topics in urban communities, to create the mindset in city dwellers that change is definitely ahead in years to come.
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