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Are We Ready for Autonomous Vehicles?

From the Executive Director by • 05/17

Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology has the potential to create seismic shifts in not only how we transport people and goods, but the basic underpinnings of our society, culture, and economic structure. The combination of autonomous vehicles and connected technologies promises to make streets safer, reduce energy consumption, decrease congestion, and create dramatic changes in where people live, work, and play.

Despite these platitudes, our history is rife with examples of revolutionary technologies that have been introduced to cities ill-prepared and ill-equipped to take advantage—often to the detriment of marginalized and underrepresented communities. How will AV technology be different?

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of joining the New York City delegation at the National Summit on Design and Urban Mobility, co-convened by the American Architectural Foundation (AAF), the City of Pittsburgh, and their Mayor Bill Peduto. I was joined by 2017 AIANY President David Piscuskas, FAIA, as well as chapter thought leaders and experts from New York’s public and private sector. The ‘un-conference’ focused on the future of urban mobility and autonomous vehicles, with an emphasis on preparing for and implementing equitable solutions across cities.

Over the course of the three days of working sessions, delegates from around the country, including mayors, city managers, transportation commissioners, architects, engineers, urban planners, mobility operators, automakers, funders, researchers, and consultants, developed a series of recommendations and strategies to help guide cities through the advent of this new technology.

The results were clear: these rapidly evolving innovations in mobility technology and transportation systems will require wholesale changes in the way cities have historically approached policy making, stakeholder engagement, urban design, and infrastructure planning.

The AFF will produce a national report based on the discussions at the Summit, and in June will distribute it to every major US city. AIANY is looking forward to bringing those conversations back to New York City. This fall, we’ll be convening our own New York City-focused Summit on preparing for autonomous vehicles and their impact on our region. As always, we look to our members and their expertise to ‘drive’ those conversations. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, AIANY and Blank Space, the online architecture platform, are hosting the Driverless Future Challenge, a competition to shape the impact of autonomous transportation in NYC. The challenge will create a launchpad for architects, designers, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and futurists to enact real change. Winning teams will have the opportunity to work with the city to put their ideas for the future of New York into place. The final submission deadline for all entries is 05.19.17. To learn more and register, continue here.

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