Sixty-three (63) percent of city officials surveyed agreed that autonomous vehicles can improve the quality of life in U.S. cities.
A study from the Journal of the American Planning Association reviews existing plans of the United States' 25 largest cities, and surveys transportation and planning officials from 120 cities representative of all municipalities with population larger than 100,000.
Made Public Date


United States

Are cities prepared for autonomous vehicles? Planning for technological change by U.S. local governments

Summary Information

Local government policies could impact how self-driving vehicle technology is deployed. This study examined how municipalities are planning for autonomous vehicles, identified local characteristics that are associated with preparation, and described what impacts bureaucrats expect from the vehicles.

In this study, plans from municipal governments throughout the United States were reviewed and a large-scale, representative survey was conducted. Three main questions were posed for how autonomous vehicle technology is impacting city officials' thinking:

  1. Are cities preparing for autonomous vehicles?
  2. What concerns do officials have about the technology, and do different types of cities have different concerns?
  3. What municipal characteristics are associated with cities beginning planning?

First, they found that few local governments have commenced planning for autonomous vehicle. Second, cities with larger populations and higher population growth are more likely to be prepared. Third, while local officials are optimistic about the technology and its potential to increase safety while reducing congestion, costs, and pollution, more than a third of respondents worried about autonomous vehicles increasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and sprawl while reducing transit ridership and local revenues. Those concerns are associated with greater willingness to implement autonomous vehicle regulations, but there is variation among responses depending on political ideology, per-capita government expenditures, and population density.

Municipal governments’ future approaches to autonomous vehicle preparation will likely depend on characteristics of city residents and local resources. Planners can maximize policy advancement if they work with officials in other cities to develop best practices and articulate strategies that overlap with existing priorities, such as reducing pollution and single-occupancy commuting.

According to the study, 58.7 percent of cities agreed that AVs would improve the city in general and 62.6 percent agreed that autonomous vehicles would improve quality of life specifically.
  • 38.6 percent of cities agreed that autonomous vehicles would reduce congestion (a significant share expected no change or were not sure).
  • 50. percent of cities agreed that autonomous vehicles would reduce transportation costs.
  • 44.2 percent of cities agreed that autonomous vehicles would reduce energy use.
  • 51.3 percent of cities agreed that autonomous vehicles would reduce pollution.
  • 58 percent of cities agreed that autonomous vehicles would increase safety.
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