Drinking a craft beer on the terrace in Phoenix, I found an idea for this new blog article. I was surprised by the high number of driverless taxi in the town center. I cogitated about their potential negative impact on active travel patterns because I wrote an article here 3 years ago.
As researcher in physical activity sciences, I have my own ‘pro’ active transport bias. However, I found a very good paper examining this question with a systemic and evidence-based approach (1).
Authors examined the mechanisms by which active transport can be affected by autonomous vehicles (AV) in driverless cities (46 papers included). They also explained that AV are always presented as a cost-effective solution because their use may be associated with a drastic reduction car crashes and (maybe) congestion costs. However, the full (true) costs are rarely computed (environmental, health, cost).
What are the key points from their work ?
- Private versus shared autonomous cars could have different determinants and consequences on active travel in urban context.
- AV change the value of travel time. Indeed, you can sleep, work, be engaged in social activities during your trip. Thus, the active transport travel time could be perceived as wast time among walkers or bicycle users.
- Conflicts or crashes between cyclists and normal cars or AV could increase because the behaviors of pedestrians or AV can be misinterpreted by human drivers. There also are some possible issues about human AV interactions.
- AV could be associated with urban sprawl rebound effect. I other words, I can live further away from my office because I can work or sleep during the AV commuting trip.
Shared autonomous vehicles (e.g., taxi, small bus)
- An analysis of shared Uber services in four US cities showed that traveled miles could double, and users switched from public or active transport modes.
- The type of shared AV could have very different effects on AT patterns: door to door demand responsive, fixed line service, first or last mile
A very informative framework is provided in the article. Very helpful for stakeholders. Authors concluded that “urban planning must not be subordinated to accommodate AV”.
PS: here, maybe the worst example of autonomous car potential use
1. Shatu F, Kamruzzaman Md. Planning for active transport in driverless cities: A conceptual framework and research agenda. J Transp Health. 1 juin 2022;25:101364.