In order to develop a sustainable autonomous mobility strategy, it is essential to answer two questions: how does autonomy alter the traditional challenges of sustainable mobility? And how should mobility policies evolve to seize the opportunities provided by this technology?
This Policy Brief provides some answers to these questions based on the findings of a prospective study on potential scenarios for deploying autonomous vehicles.
- Autonomous vehicles are far from being a magic bullet for sustainable mobility.
They fail to resolve a number of existing problems—for example, it is uncertain whether autonomous vehicles will foster carpooling or accelerate decarbonisation of the transport sector in the short term—and generate new challenges: the quantity of data produced by automation could increase energy consumption of vehicles; autonomy could accentuate inequalities of access to mobility, both economically and geographically; it could also reduce the opportunity cost of travel time, and thereby encourage an increase in travel and urban sprawl. Nevertheless, autonomous mobility also presents long-term opportunities under certain conditions (extending the relevant geographical scope of public transport coverage, improving access to mobility for people without driving licences, sharing vehicles, etc.).
- In order to limit these risks and to make the most of the opportunities provided by autonomous mobility, local and national public actors need to guide its development.
The collective mobility model currently based on public transport is the matrix most likely to yield sustainable autonomous mobility. Moreover, the public authorities have tools for action: they need to take advantage of the immaturity of this technology to impose their own agenda and to steer future offerings according to their priorities, using their competence in terms of road system planning and regulation (dedicated lanes, priority, speed, operating licences). Moreover, cities and their coalitions can influence industrial strategies by acting now to develop roadmaps and calls for tenders on mobility issues.