If you had to take a guess as to which U.S. city is at the top of the list of self-driving and connected cars, what would be your guess? Some of you would probably say New York City (I would). Others might guess Los Angeles, Chicago, or even Houston. Well, according to Inrix, a research and analytics company focusing on the automotive industry, we’d all be wrong. The number one city in the U.S. for highly autonomous vehicles (HAVs) is New Orleans.
There are high incentives to promote connected cities. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates 94% of crashes are caused by human error. This could be lowered significantly. In addition, connected cars could help improve fuel efficiency by 10% and provide cost savings of 30 to 60% per mile in relation to shared vehicles.
When investigating which cities would be best suited for HAV deployment, INRIX employed specific search criteria. The criteria centered on how best to use electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid vehicles in city centers. This focused on trips, parking, and demographics. EV and hybrid vehicles are best suited for short travel needs in heavy traffic areas. These vehicles are more efficient in these types of areas, as their electric drivetrains are maximized.
City centers would focus on high trip volumes and increase the need for ride sharing by pairing users heading to the same destination. Parking availability is essential for HAVs, as drivers searching for parking cause 30% of urban traffic. Shared fleet HAVs can operate continuously and do not need to park the car.
Lastly, what ranks a city with high potential are the benefits that a HAV fleet may have to a targeted population. These groups could be residents of lower-income areas or an area with a high student population that cannot afford transportation.
The INRIX research group determined that cities with higher need of autonomous vehicles, short trip routes, and high ride share potential as the top cities to deploy autonomous vehicle systems. The top three cities with the highest potential are New Orleans, Albuquerque, and Tucson.
INRIX’s research identified three key demographics: percentage of residents younger than 17 or older than 65; households under 200% of the federal poverty line; and communities that would have a high likelihood of ride sharing. Based on this criteria, the top 10 cities (and their INRIX city scores) are as follows:
- New Orleans, LA (90.33)
- Albuquerque, NM (89.85)
- Tucson, AZ (89.35)
- Portland, OR (89.32)
- Omaha, NE (89.20)
- El Paso, TX (89.12)
- Fresno, CA (89.07)
- Wichita, KS (89.06)
- Las Vegas, NV (88.99)
- Tulsa, OK (88.09)
Los Angeles ranked 15th, New York City ranked 32nd, Washington D.C. ranked 35th, and Chicago ranked 40th on the list.
The panel discussions hosted by the C3 Group at the show highlighted the steps necessary for cities to embrace a connected car system. The panels “Transforming Urban Mobility through Public-Private Partnerships” and “Cities as Test Beds for Modern Mobility Solutions” hosted an array of experts from companies like General Motors, Zipcar, Pioneer, Samsung, INRIX, and Navigant Research.
Many of these experts noted that the crucial element missing is the working relationship between government and the private sector. Several elements are missing from the future of HAV, including federal regulations for autonomous vehicles, infrastructure investments like charging stations, parking solutions for vehicles, and safety standards for car manufacturers to adopt. “Beyond connectivity, there is a lot of investment that needs to be put in place,” said Vector IQ’s Mary Chan, “not just on the vehicle companies, but also on the infrastructure to enable an end-to-end autonomous driving service.”
The series of panels hosted by the C3 Group at the Empire Mobility Conference took place at the NY Auto Show. These panels focused on the steps necessary for governments at the federal and local level and private sector companies to take to help usher in the new era of connected vehicles.
Sam Abuelsamid from Navigant Research stressed how the government needs to gain the public’s trust and develop a relationship between it and the private sector. Chan highlighted one prominent example of such a partnership: the development of OnStar for vehicles. OnStar severed as a joint safety effort between private communication companies and emergency government services.
It is important for deployment of HAV to be done correctly, because as accurately noted by Ted Cardenas, VP of marketing for Pioneer, a bad experience with the deployment of HAV systems can easily turn away consumers. This can negatively affect how the public participates in the future of HAV systems—either by not investing into them or by preventing tax dollars from developing HAV infrastructure. If car manufacturers and other companies in the autonomous vehicle industry wish for it to grow, they only have one shot to get it right.