The advent of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is likely to have profound impacts on the entire transportation system, reaching beyond automobile-based modes. A team of Australian researchers performed an exploratory study to examine the ways in which it may impact cycling. The researchers conducted interviews with a variety of stakeholders, including those representing local governments, technological firms, trade unions, and public transit agencies, to create a list of potential issues that will need to be addressed in order to optimize outcomes for AVs and bicyclists alike.
The interviewees also noted key potential problems, and provided possible methods for agencies and other stakeholders to address them:
- Consider need for clear communications. AVs should include some form of signaling or communication mechanism to allow for interaction with other human road users. Because other road users are not able to see driver intention or make eye contact in order to determine possible actions, there is a need for a reliable method of visual or audial communication. The experts noted that if such a solution required bicyclists to purchase or use some form of additional equipment, there may need to be some form of subsidy or incentive to achieve public acceptance of the technology.
- Keep in mind all road users. Agencies or other stakeholders involved in road and infrastructure design should be sure to consider the needs of cyclists in particular. The report identified that while increased levels of cycling were generally positive, producing desirable public health benefits, there are usually not centralized cycling lobbies to engage in bargaining during public processes. This may lead to their needs and views being sidelined or marginalized.
- Anticipate changing infrastructure needs. Public transit facilities will likely require increased space to load and secure bicycles in order to account for its increased mode share. Additionally, the paper recommended that public transit hubs consider adjusting their operations to account for possible increased congestion resulting from higher levels of shared transportation usage.