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Political and planning aspects of automated mobility

How should urban and regional planning deal with automated vehicles? Automated mobility poses major challenges for urban and regional planning. How can it nevertheless become a success story? A research team from the TU Wien, funded by the Daimler and Benz Foundation, analyzes this in a new book.

On the picture you can see the book cover, which shows the title, authors and a picture of a self-driving vehicle

Five to ten years ago, things seemed pretty clear: self-driving cars will soon be a normal part of our lives. The last person who would ever get a driver's license had already been born, it was said. But the revolution failed to materialize, so far at least. At the same time, it became clear that automated driving not only offers new opportunities, but also poses dangers that should be urgently discussed - such as a sharp increase in traffic, accelerated urban sprawl with high land consumption, or a decline in the quality of life in cities. The question, then, is in which forms of use automated vehicles will lead to a livable and sustainable future, and how this development can already be controlled today.  

At the Institute of Spatial Planning at TU Wien, an interdisciplinary team, funded by the Daimler and Benz Foundation, has been working on precisely this issue. For their just-published book, "AVENUE21.Politische und planerische Aspekte der automatisierten Mobilität" the team invited colleagues from around the world to map out the framework for a sustainable future with automated vehicles.

Limits of the technology

In previous work, the team has already shown that, from a technological point of view, automated vehicles will probably only be able to travel on very specific parts of the road network for a long time to come. What seems like a problem at first glance may actually be the key to sustainable use of this technology: The team concludes that most of the negative effects, such as urban sprawl or increasing traffic volumes, can only be avoided if only selected stretches of road are opened up to certain uses of automated vehicles (such as as part of public transport or as sharing vehicles). Without controlling intervention on the part of planning and policy, the aforementioned dangers threaten to outweigh positive effects. "Climate change and other environmental impacts caused by transportation do not allow us to uncritically project wishes and hopes onto a future technology. We must first understand the limitations of this technology before we can shape its role in the mobility system of the future," says Mathias Mitteregger, head of the research project.

Surveying an automated mobility world

The hopes associated with automated mobility often contrast with the political and planning reality. For a sustainable transport system of the future, the introduction of automated mobility must be carefully prepared and also adapted to the respective local context. For the anthology now published, the team has searched internationally for examples and starting points in urban and rural areas of how automated vehicles could become part of this sustainable and holistic transport solution.

For example, it shows how Japan plans to use this technology to serve a dramatically shrinking and aging population in rural areas. Another example describes the steps already being taken in Switzerland to expand the already well-positioned public transport system with individualized automated mobility services. Austrian examples show that automated vehicle fleets could learn a lot from already existing non-profit driving services.

In addition, concrete planning approaches are presented, such as how targeted adaptations in the road space can create a higher quality of stay and quality of life in cities. Using the Vienna region as an example, it will be shown what strategic planning processes could look like in order to develop soft mobility and automated mobility services hand in hand in rural and suburban areas.

At the same time, the technology is embedded in a broader transformation of modern society. What does automated mobility mean for the increasing surveillance of public space? Which road spaces and traffic types are suitable for the use of automated vehicles? And for what, where and in what form do we actually need automated vehicles?

The contributions thus cover current issues on political and planning aspects of automated mobility in a multi-layered way and provide a perspective for planning and politics on how to achieve an environmentally, spatially and socially compatible use of this technology.

The new book "AVENUE21. Politische und planerische Aspekte der automatisierten Mobilität" has been published by Springer Vieweg Verlag and is freely available as an open access publication, opens an external URL in a new window.

The team's first publication, opens an external URL in a new window was also published by Springer Vieweg.