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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.
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