Thursday, 6 November 2014

Have our long-range transportation plans ‘missed the future’?

This post is a brief synopsis of my post on Linkedin: Has the D.C. long-range transportation plan ‘missed the future’?

With every day that goes by we move closer to the deployment of fully autonomous (driverless, self-driving) vehicles (AVs).  New developments in the AV sector are occurring all the time now, and public awareness of the technology is high. The public, businesses and governments are also becoming increasingly aware that AVs could significantly impact on daily life and operational and business models.

So it may come as a surprise that the various long-range transportation plans (LRTPs) being produced by most jurisdictions around the world are only just recognizing AVs and their potential impacts. Yet these are the very documents designed to look decades into the future and intended to guide us and prepare us for what the future of transportation could be like.

The new LRTP for the District of Columbia (including Washington D.C.), 'moveDC' is a great example in that it recognizes that AVs could have a huge impact, and even recommends that D.C become a national test-bed for the technology.  But it falls short of actually conveying just how transformational AVs could be on all of the other recommendations that it makes for transportation (including transit, pedestrians, bicycling and roads etc.).

So for the next 5 years or so, before the 'moveDC' document is likely to be updated, the public, politicians, planners and engineers will all be looking to this blue-print for guidance. They will be making decisions and committing funds to expensive infrastructure that they might not have done if they had a better understanding of how transformational AVs could be.

It is time for us to start considering the impacts of AVs in our LRTPs as we are already well into the planning timeframe where could not only impact, but even disrupt some of our current plans.