Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment

Looking at the Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on How We Live

“It’s time to think about the built environment,” said Shannon McDonald, an architect and Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. McDonald was referring to the impact that autonomous vehicles will have on the design of streets, buildings and associated infrastructure. She indicates that this is an important and timely discussion to have, as she compares autonomous mobility to the rapid changes to cities and the explosion in suburbs that resulted from the introduction of the car 100 years ago. She is in an expert in that transition, as she literally wrote the book on one aspect; parking and how it changed cities.

The all-day workshop, Envisioning Automated Vehicles within the Built Environment: 2020, 2035 and 2050, organized, by McDonald and a committee of other experts, looked at seven scenarios for vehicle autonomy. The morning portion featured subject matter experts who provided a baseline understanding of the state of vehicle autonomy. Workshop participants, which included city and regional planners, lawyers, architects and technologists, split into groups to create plans for the different autonomous vehicle scenarios in the year 2020, 2035 and 2050.

Fully autonomous vehicles (level 5 in the SAE standard), won’t happen overnight and will occur at various levels (e.g. it has already begun with adaptive cruise control) and will roll out with specific use-cases (e.g. the autonomous mining vehicles in Australia). There are many opportunities to create better-living spaces, as there is long-term potential to do things like eliminating street parking or reducing lane size. Still, it is a huge challenge for city planners who have to plan based on today’s assumptions; assumptions that could be undermined very rapidly if the social benefits to autonomous mobility live up to their potential.

We will have additional interviews from this workshop in follow-up posts and look forward to following up with McDonald to find out the results of the workshop (the above interview was filmed just as the workshop portion of the program was beginning). Note, this workshop was one of the ancillary meetings associated with the AUVSI’s Automated Vehicles Symposium 2014.

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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6 replies on “Looking at the Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on How We Live”

And the 2018 view of parking professionals can be found at the survey by the International Parking Institute

55% believe that autonomous vehicles will have an impact on parking, transportation and mobility within the next 10 years. Interestingly, 57% believe that parking lots will become the hub for the last part of a person’s journey where they will have a selection of other options for the last leg of their trips.

This mirrors ideas this author has had to put parking at the edge of “superblocks”, where the last-mile within those superblocks is walking, bike, electric scooters, low-speed autonomous shuttles, etc.

[…] I always looked forward to seeing Shannon McDonald and hearing her perspective at the various venues where we would meet. It was an honor to interview her in 2014 when she provided an overview of a first-of-a-kind symposium she organized around the potential impact of autonomous vehicles. Every time I spot a parking garage, I think of Shannon as she wrote the book on what might be considered the most significant building type of the 20th century. Her enthusiasm, intelligence, and warmth shine through in this interview.  […]

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