- Shannon Vavra
- Oct 23
Many cities hope self-driving vehicles can fix transit gaps
One way we may see autonomous vehicles changing our daily commutes is in the gaps at the edges of public transit systems — what urban planners call the "last-mile" problem. More than three-quarters of cities invested in mobilizing autonomous vehicles anticipate using them to solve "last-mile" transit gaps, such as transporting people between rail stations and employment centers or shuttles circulating within larger corporate campuses, according to a Bloomberg Philanthropies survey of cities out today.
Why it matters: Autonomous vehicles may link public transportation and major employment hubs, something cities often struggle with.While addressing these "last mile" gaps will improve commutes, some predict self-driving cars could add to sprawl as well as traffic.
Data: Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios
Cities cited the following hurdles to implementing autonomous vehicle projects:
- Lack of money
- Lack of capacity to manage pilot projects
- Lack of private sector interest
Context: According to the survey, autonomous vehicle programs are popping up in 53 cities worldwide on every continent, with Washington, Austin, Paris, Helsinki, and London already piloting projects.
- Testing areas include technology parks, college campuses, urban renewal districts, and former Olympic sites—places that make it easier to separate self-driving cars from the rest of the city. That means that, while the trials are happening within city limits, they aren't yet tackling the challenge of navigating complex urban environments.