You are here

Innovation Insights: Challenges and opportunities with disruption

Cooper Martin presented preliminary results from the National Leauge of Cities report "Technology and Mobility," which is the first results from their research project "What is the City of the Future." For the pas 100 years, cities have been designed around teh concept of a human driven automobile. This paradigm may be changing in the next 10-20 years with the advent of driverless cars and teh shifting paradigm to shared use, rather than individual ownership.

Automobile usage and storage present one of the most significant infrastructure investments of a city. It is estimated that 20% of land in a city is dedicated to roads and another 20% to parking.  A 10% reduction in automobiles was calculated to provide 500,00 acres of reusable land in the US alone.  A recent study in Lisbon showed that a driverless fleet of cars would result in an 80% reduction in automobiles required.  This would free up significant land in cities as well as reduce automobile emissions.

Preliminary results from the NLC study suggest availability of smart and self-driving cars in 2020, with significant adoption in 2030.

While the benefits of driverless technology on our cities appears immense, the disruption it proposes is just as striking.

A city without human drivers, would be a city of automobiles that obeyed all traffic laws, always found an approved parking space, and never broke down due to lack of maintenance.  What would this mean?
It is estimated that between 5 and 30% of revenue for cities, in particular small towns, comes from fines from traffic violations.  Parking income is also a substantial revenue generator, as demonstrated by Pittsburgh’s increase in parking rates and enforcement time, which recently added $5M to their already $20.2M revenue for the city[1].
In addition to direct revenue from our current automobile infrastructure, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in secondary income from service provider for those who drive.  One notable example are truck stops that support food and supplies for drivers.
Another indirect, and perhaps the most significant for many, is the loss of jobs from driverless cars.  New York City has over 13,000 taxis alone[2],  not to mention the 3.5 M professional truck drivers in the US[3].   Where will they work? – perhaps at Uber, who has made a significant investment in driverless technology hiring the top people from Microsoft mapping division and Carnegie Mellon’s robotics center[4].