NACTO Releases Policy Recommendations for the Future of Automated Vehicles

June 24, 2016
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), an organization that represents more than 40 major cities in the United States, has released a policy statement on automated vehicles.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has released a policy statement on automated vehicles, including its recommendations for incorporating this new disruptive technology into cities’ transportation networks. 

Automated vehicle technology has advanced rapidly, with numerous technology firms and automakers testing fleets of automated vehicles in cities across the nation. Within a few years, automated vehicles could be operating everywhere on our city streets, with far-reaching consequences and opportunities for safety, mobility, and public space.

NACTO urges stakeholders at all levels—from federal regulators and state transportation departments to automated vehicle manufacturers—to adopt the following recommendations:

  • Plan for fully automated vehicles, not half-measures: Going halfway with partially automated vehicles, instead of fully automated, would require drivers to take over if the vehicle encounters a dangerous situation. In practice, such vehicles have been shown to encourage unsafe driving behavior, with drivers reading more, texting more, and generally being inattentive while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Rethink our streets and expressways: Advances in automated vehicle technology will dramatically increase our current expressways’ capacity, making some currently planned expressway expansions potential ‘white elephants’ that could overwhelm surface streets with traffic. Capacity must be carefully planned and routed.
  • Ensure safe operation on city streets, including limiting automated vehicles to a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour: By working with cities, regulators and automakers can ensure that automated vehicles can operate safely where people are increasingly choosing to live: in dense, complex urban environments.
  • Create data-sharing requirements for automated vehicles: Automated vehicle technology has the potential to create vastly more useful, and cost-efficient, data than is currently collected through laborious means. Requiring the sharing of high-quality, standardized data from automated vehicles would allow for cities to take a more data-driven approach to transportation.
  • Change planning models to incorporate the expected disruptive impact of this technology: Current travel demand modeling assumes the same opportunity cost for time spent driving a car as time spent traveling in an automated vehicle, while recent research shows that the time opportunity cost in an automated vehicle could be lower by as much as 80%. This dramatic shift will necessarily change how and where people will choose to get around in the future.

“Technology’s potential to dramatically increase our mobility without pouring more and more concrete requires leadership and action by cities,” said Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and NACTO president. “NACTO’s new policy on automated vehicles offers a roadmap to a more sustainable city through technology.”

“Instead of adapting our cities to accommodate new transportation technologies, we need to adapt new transportation technologies to our cities in ways that make them safer, more efficient, and better places to live and work,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation principal at Bloomberg Associates and NACTO chair. “Autonomous vehicles offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset our streets and address the fundamental issues of traffic safety, congestion, and mobility as our cities grow ever larger.”

“Automated vehicles have the potential to radically change transportation systems, but cities must be involved in state and federal policy-making to ensure this new technology meets public needs,” said Scott Kubly, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation and NACTO vice president. “Growing cities like Seattle need policies that make automated vehicles part of our strategy for flexible, shared mobility so that we can improve transportation options without increasing the number of vehicles on the street.”

“Cities around the country are spending millions to provide on and off street parking,” said Gabe Klein, NACTO strategic advisory board member and special venture partner with Fontinalis Partners. “Shared, automated vehicle technology can remove that expense and physical burden, and enable cities to redirect their limited resources away from storing cars and toward affordable housing, high quality transit, and active transportation.”