Are you ready? New programme launched to prepare cities for driverless cars

Traffic on road leading to arc de triomphe in paris

To help cities prepare for the arrival of self-driving vehicles, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute have teamed up to launch a new initiative that will bring together city mayors from around the world. 

The Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles aims to help city leaders plan for the advent of self-driving vehicles and consider some of the ways in which autonomous vehicles can help to solve long-term urban challenges.

The advent of autonomous cars is one of the most exciting developments ever to happen to cities
— Michael Bloomberg, philanthropist and former New York City Mayor

Philanthropist and former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg launched the initiative at the CityLab conference – an event bringing together city leaders to find ways to improve cities and design effective urban strategies.

“The advent of autonomous cars is one of the most exciting developments ever to happen to cities,” said Bloomberg.

“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.”

The initiative will involve five cities to start with – Austin, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Paris and Nashville – with five additional cities being announced later in the year.

As part of the initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute will produce a shared set of principles, resources and tools that can be used by cities as they plan how best to adapt to the arrival of driverless vehicles.

Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, said that the partnership would be a “wonderful opportunity” for mayors, technologists and policy experts to harness technology in order to make cities safer, healthier and better connected.

“The real innovation potential here is not just for new kinds of cars, but new kinds of communities,” he said. 

The initiative aims to create a cross-sector public dialogue on autonomous vehicles, bringing on board a host of experts including technologists, urban planners and mobility and inequality experts.

Raj Chetty, Professor of Economics at Stanford University, noted that driverless cars have the potential to reduce segregation by connecting low-income families to areas of opportunity.

“But this technology also has the potential to increase segregation by allowing higher income families to live in more distant suburbs,” he said.

“Ensuring that a shift to driverless cars increases opportunity and improves the lives of urban residents across the world will require carefully designed social and economic policies.”

By bringing together mayors and city leaders to discuss these issues, the initiative would take a “valuable step in this direction”, said Chetty.