“They don’t want to have to make false choices,” said Gabe Klein, Special Venture Partner at Fontinalis Partners. Speaking at the 2016 Automated Vehicles Symposium, Klein was referring to the idea that, with the correct implementation, automation and connectivity will help cities create better places, while improving mobility for its citizens. To get to this nirvana, it will require close partnerships with industry and, in many instances, will call for a regulatory touch that is adaptable and matches the tempo of the ever-changing technology.
Klein brings an informed perspective to the topic, having worked on both sides of the fence, including private companies, such as Zipcar, and city governments in Chicago and Washington DC. In his book, Start-Up City, he recounts how well-intentioned regulations effectively created a government-sanctioned monopoly – “the hot dog mafia” as he calls it – that hobbled his pioneering food-truck business.
Ironically, it was his government involvement as a business owner that led to his 2008 appointment as Director of the Washington DC Department of Transportation, as according to this book, “Mayor Fenty wanted someone innovative, progressive and entrepreneurial to run the agency.” He succeeded with several initiatives, such as the build out of the Chicago Riverwalk, which went from concept to design to public outreach, engineering and construction in twenty-eight months. This is an amazingly fast timeline for a project that could have taken decades.
And that leads to his work with NACTO and their recently published policy statment as to how cities should adapt to take advantage of the changes that are occurring in the mobility industry. NATCO guidelines parallel the disruptive nature of what the combination of automation, connected, shared and electrified mobility will bring. Some of the things NATCO advocates include Level 4 automation (no steering wheels/no human intervention), maximum 25 MPH in the city core and changing the planning process so that it accounts for the significantly lower travel costs afforded by connected, shared and automated mobility.
To this last point, NACTO suggests:
“Planning should begin with a vision for the future city and put resources into solving for the best methods for providing mobility in low, medium, and high density corridors and environments, from a public investment and a total investment perspective.”
Klein characterizes NATCO’s recommendations, as pro-people, pro-business and pro-environment. He suggests that aligning incentives between the public and private entities can create a triple bottom line that is a win-win for all. This reinforces NACTO’s view that, with the right implementation, cities can leverage today’s technological changes to everyone’s advantage:
“Technology has the power to help communities achieve their visions both for transportation and for land use, taking public space back from congestion, traffic and parking. Parking requirements and general curb space usage are particular areas where a decrease in vehicle storage needs could bring about a new era for city streets.