Micheal Bloomberg is no lightweight when it comes to the worlds of politics and finance. The three term mayor of New York City is also the creator of Bloomberg News, the premier financial information news network in the world. His latest endeavor is showing cities how to prepare themselves for self driving cars. “The advent of autonomous cars is one of the most exciting developments ever to happen to cities,” he says. “And if mayors collaborate with one another, and with partners in the private sector, they can improve people’s lives in ways we can only imagine today.”
Using a data driven approach, Bloomberg is developing policy recommendations that will highlight social, environmental, and economic adjustments that cities will need to make in order to accommodate autonomous vehicles. Austin, Los Angeles, Nashville, Buenos Aires, and Paris will be pilot cities in Bloomberg’s plan and join in the earliest conversations. Five more cities will be added to the list before the year is out.
The automakers are all moving ahead at full speed toward the era of self driving cars but most cities have spent little or no time thinking about what the new technology will mean to them. Bloomberg’s initiative may help cities and urban planners better understand how to maintain roads, train workers, design institutions, and plan land usage to accommodate a rapid expansion in autonomous vehicle usage.
Carlo Ratti, Director of MIT Senseable City Lab said, “Vast areas of urban land currently occupied by parking lots and roads could be reinvented for a whole new spectrum of social functions.” Audi Urban Futures Initiative’s Lisa Futing adds, “The biggest change to the urban fabric will be to parking infrastructure. Parking will be moved indoors and outside of city centers, freeing up outdoor lots and spaces for development and public space.”
Anthony Townsend, author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, thinks attention should be devoted to all autonomous vehicles, not just cars. “It’s actually trash trucks, trailers, delivery vans, taxis, and other vehicles that take up much of the space in cities. They will be completely transformed by automated technologies.” Townsend argues that those changes plus autonomous mass transit will make cities more efficient and livable.
The Guardian has written recently about how transportation could become an efficient utility thanks to a seamless interface between autonomous vehicles and public transportation. Reporter Colin Nagy claims, “We’ll see safer places where no one dies from unnecessary accidents, and we’ll see the things we love about cities get better because public spaces will be opened up.”
While in office, Micheal Bloomberg created innovative plans to fight climate change and promote sustainable development. During his tenure, New York City’s carbon footprint was cut by 19%. As chair of the C40 Climate Leadership Group from 2010 – 2013, he drew international attention to leading role cities will play in the fight against climate change. He recognizes that cities have a mandate to provide safe and sustainable environments for their citizens while also adapting to changing technologies and sees self driving cars as being an important part of meeting that mandate.