Five cities become self-driving test sites

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【Summary】A self-driving cars initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropists in New York and Washington, D.C have chosen five cities around the world as test sites for self-driving cars, which are Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, Paris and Buenos Aires.

Original Claire    Nov 06, 2016 3:40 AM PT
Five cities become self-driving test sites

A self-driving cars initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropists in New York and Washington, D.C has chosen five cities around the world as test sites for self-driving cars. 

The program called Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, has added Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, Paris and Buenos Aires as the ideal cities for implementing driverless technology tests. The five metropolises will have access to data and coaching from urban planners and technologists meant to help them prepare for self-driving cars and use them to address city challenges. The initiative will add five more cities as testing sites by the end of this year.

"The advent of autonomous cars is one of the most exciting developments ever to happen to cities -— and 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," former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the CityLab conference for mayors in Miami.

The motivation behind the initiative is partly due to the fast development of driverless technology; another important factor lies in the current incompatibility of government regulations and city construction to fully embrace the self-driving cars. How cities maintain their roads, train their workers, design their institutions and even plan their use of land might need to change dramatically as vehicle automation becomes more widespread. And it was under such circumstance that Michael Bloomberg wants to develop a set of policy recommendations for cities that are just trying to accept the driverless revolution.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for cities to address some of their most challenging issues, from pedestrian safety to carbon reduction to economic mobility,"said James Anderson, who leads the government innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Both Nashville and Austin are welcoming the change. 

"We find that a lot of the public policy innovation in the tech sphere happens when mayors talk to each other," said Jason Stanford from the Austin Mayor's office. "I know that sounds lo-tech, but that's really how it occurs. One thing we hope is that we figure out what we don't know. Working with other cities and having these conversations might illuminate new possibilities we hadn't considered yet.

Nashville has already began embracing the technology. Ride-hailing Lyft has an office in Nashiville and is partnering with General Motors on implementing self-driving cars into its market. It certainly would not refuse more innovations coming into the city. 

Suppose in the next decade, when more and more self-driving cars are on the road, what changes will be brought to humankind? Less taxi and bus drivers means labor structure change; less time driving time inside the car means more time doing other things in the vehicle, such as working and entertainment; a road filled by automation-piloted cars means less human errors and accidents. Generally speaking, driverless technology can bring us good things, but we need to revise our policies and rules to adjust to such changes.

The driverless car program would like to start by getting mayors, academics and experts to discuss related issues and plan for the future. Most of the questions might revolve around social, environmental and economic conflicts. More details are yet to be released.

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