How City Infrastructure Will Need to Evolve to Accommodate Autonomous Vehicles
Due to tremendous technological progress, autonomous vehicles (AVs) are no longer the realm of sci-fi novels and movies. Instead, they’ve become a very real and present piece of the equation on both a commercial and consumer level. As we move closer to a future where autonomous vehicles have become ingrained in our daily lives, it’s imperative to consider how driving infrastructure will ultimately impact the widespread adoption of AVs.
From how autonomous vehicles will report to stoplights to how they’ll interact with construction zones, here’s a look at the concerns and challenges cities will face in building the right urban infrastructure for AVs.
The Autonomous Vehicle Marketplace
According to the Autonomous Vehicle Market Outlook, the global market for AVs is forecasted to reach $556.67 billion by 2026. In order for fleets of autonomous buses, ridesharing services and robo-taxis to navigate through urban areas, cities must consider four main criteria – infrastructure, policy and legislation, technology, and consumer acceptance. As far as readiness is concerned, KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index puts the U.S. in third place behind the Netherlands and Singapore.
In order for urban transformation to take place, developers and governing parties must align their interests to ensure updates to both autonomous vehicles and city infrastructure adequately complement one another.
Implementing the Right AV Infrastructure
In addition to revamping regulations and establishing construction standards for roads, AVs require signage, on-road telematics, sidewalks, lanes and crash barriers that use technology to properly communicate with driverless vehicles.
For example, developers and city planners need to account for roadside sensors. These will live on everything from sidewalks to curbs to lanes in the road – allowing AVs to comprehend and react to situations that may be hazardous in nature.
In a similar vein, machine-readable signs will need to be created. The majority of AVs on the market today are utilizing image recognition software to “read” road signs. However, signage isn’t always clear enough for autonomous vehicles to easily recognize and understand. In order to adopt AVs on a mass scale in an urban environment, signs must be built with machine-readable code that can be transmitted to all types of autonomous vehicles on the road.
Automakers are already manufacturing vehicles with sophisticated sensors that can perform assistive tasks like notifying drivers of lane drifting or vehicles that are in their blind spots. To facilitate the adoption of self-driving cars in cities, this concept will need to be taken a step further, using radar-reflective, machine-readable road markings for optimal safety and efficacy.
Reshaping the Future of Transit with AVs
According to McKinsey & Company, with the right infrastructure, the adoption of autonomous vehicles on a widespread basis will result in decreased vehicle emissions, reduced traffic congestion, fewer transportation fatalities and more real estate for residential and commercial properties in place of parking facilities. When these improvements are combined, they have the potential to produce an estimated $850 billion in economic benefits annually.
What’s more, cities will transform into data-centric digital hubs, improving transportation accessibility and making cities a more attractive place to live. Through the implementation of smart technology, communication with autonomous vehicles can be more in-depth and descriptive than those designed for human drivers. For example, in the future, traffic lights may become obsolete – with AVs communicating with one another and receiving instructions designed for machines rather than people.
Establishing Sound Network Connectivity
For AVs to receive and transmit information on a mass scale, city infrastructure will need to account for connectivity – from IoT devices and sensor networks to high-speed 5G and safe public WiFi networks.
Combine this huge uptick in need for wireless connectivity with the fact that drivers will likely be utilizing their own smart devices while inside AVs and it’ll require both wireless companies and cities to have the technology, towers, servers and data centers necessary for uninterrupted connectivity. And like smartphones, cities will need to have the electrical power and charging capabilities to ensure commercial and consumer AVs can properly charge as needed.
With consumer demand and state-level support, the infrastructure for autonomous vehicles in urban areas will soon become a reality. As autonomous vehicles quickly approach public readiness, they’ll soon transform the way we live, commute, work and more.
The time to begin planning for the future of mobility is now. To learn more about how Concannon’s autonomous vehicle consultants can help, contact us today.