Autonomous mobility can take a number of development pathways that differ considerably in terms of impacts on sustainability; the future will hybridise these different visions. Local and national public actors need to take charge in order to steer this deployment. Moreover, using autonomous mobility to support the sustainable mobility project advocated by the local authorities requires a new governance of urban mobility.

KEY MESSAGES

  • SHEDDING LIGHT ON AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

The future of autonomous mobility is very uncertain: several models are possible depending on the technological, economic, social and political constraints that will organise its development. This is the principle underpinning this prospective study, from which we draw three development scenarios, with the primary goal of identifying their consequences and challenges in terms of sustainability.

  • AUTONOMOUS MOBILITY IS AT A CROSSROADS

Autonomous vehicles are far from being a magic bullet for sustainable mobility. They fail to resolve a number of existing problems, such as low vehicle occupancy rates or transport sector carbon emissions, 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, improving access to mobility for people without driving licences, sharing vehicles, etc.).

  • THE PUBLIC AUTHORITIES TO TAKE CHARGE

To move towards sustainable mobility, the local and national public authorities need to take charge in order to steer the development of autonomous mobility. To achieve this, they have some real tools for action: building on the collective mobility model based on public transport to organise their policies; and taking advantage of the immaturity of this technology to impose their own agenda, using their competence in terms of road system planning and regulation (dedicated lanes, priority, speed, operating licences). Experiments currently underway are also real opportunities to prepare the autonomous mobility of the future.

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