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Planning Faculty Releases Report on Autonomous Vehicles

September 6, 2018

Autonomous vehicles (AVs), i.e., self-driving cars, are coming soon to a roadway near you. Is your community ready for them?

AVs are poised to disrupt the built environment and planning practices just as the automobile did more than a century ago. A new report by current faculty and staff of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP) raises a call to action for planners to develop policy solutions and infrastructure investments that ensure an attractive, people-friendly, equitable, and safe AV future.

“Planning for Autonomous Mobility” has been released by the American Planning Association’s Planning Advisory Service. Along with University of San Francisco Professor William Riggs, a global expert in future mobility and smart transportation, the report was authored by three AV experts associated with the college who have been working on the issue for several years.

Timothy Chapin is the dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and a professor in the planning department. He was one of the principal investigators on a project funded by the Florida Department of Transportation in 2014 to study how AVs could enhance mobility for aging populations and the transportation disadvantaged.

Jeremy Crute has been the senior planner in the department for the last four years, managing a wide range of applied and scholarly research projects on community redevelopment, transportation, and land-use issues.

Lindsay Stevens is adjunct faculty with DURP and currently the land program manager for the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Prior to that, she was the DURP planner-in-residence, one of the principal investigators on the 2014 AV project, and director of the department’s Florida Planning and Development Lab (FPDL), the award-winning applied studio that connects master’s students with planning projects for real-world clients.

Under Stevens’ directorship, FPDL won awards from the Florida Planning and Zoning Association and the state chapter of the American Planning Association for the 2015 project Envisioning Florida’s Future: Transportation and Land Use in an AV World. (See full article at this link.)

The authors offer planners a primer on AV technology and explore its many opportunities and challenges. AVs may improve traffic safety, travel efficiency, transportation access, and air quality, but they could also reinforce auto-oriented sprawl, increase vehicle miles traveled and emissions, and undermine active transportation modes.

“Which way the scales will tip depends on the policy and planning decisions planners and local governments make, starting now,” according to the report summary. “A world with AVs will require retrofitting, reimagining, and repurposing transportation infrastructure and the built environment. This report previews these coming changes, and advises planners on how to prepare for and manage these transitions to ensure their communities reap the benefits – and avoid the pitfalls – of AV technology.”

Students of the Florida Planning and Development Lab conducted a workshop on AV use for the Florida
AV Summit hosted by the state Department of Transportation in Jacksonville in December 2015.