Oct 23, 2017

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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Keeping expectations for self-driving cars in check

Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky. Photo: Courtesy of Argo AI

The rollout of self-driving cars is happening as it should — gradually and safely — Bryan Salesky, CEO of Argo AI, a leading developer of automated driving technology, tells Axios.

The big picture: Self-driving vehicles could help improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve access to transportation for many, but those benefits will come slowly and as part of a larger transportation system, Salesky said.

Go deeperArrowDec 20, 2019

China overwhelming the West in cities over a million people

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

This decade began just after a historic inflection point, with 51% of the world's population living in urban areas.

By the numbers: That proportion has continued to rise steadily, reaching 55% as of 2018. It's climbed faster in China, up from 48% to 59% — meaning an additional 180 million people are living in Chinese cities.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Dec 30, 2019

Ride-sharing of the future

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Auto companies, counterintuitively, are trying to get people to give up their cars — by making shared transportation more appealing with vehicles that recognize you, anticipate your needs and customize your ride.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing apps are making urban congestion steadily worse. In San Francisco, people spent 62% more time sitting in traffic in 2016 than in 2010. Uber and Lyft admitted they're part of the problem.

Go deeperArrowJan 3, 2020