Smart Cities and Autonomous Vehicles

Juan Carlos Aguilera

Smart Cities (SCs) and autonomous vehicles (AVs) goes hand in hand, the development of AVs is something that can’t happen by itself, as we have discussed previously safety is one of the most important aspects of AVs and Is one of the main reasons why all the current development is happening, but unless some additional Infrastructure is enabled in the cities the impact that an AV could have will be limited. 


Every year KPMG release the Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index, this index analyses the current state of the countries around the world and determine which ones are better suited to receive AVs, four different areas are considered to evaluate the readiness, Policy and Legislation, Technology, and Innovation, Infrastructure, and Consumer Acceptance, In this year the top three countries are Singapore, The Netherlands, and The United States, in that order. As we can see there is not only the infrastructure that needs to be considered but also the maturity on the legislations, technology and if the consumer is ready to receive such a product. 


Singapore and The Netherlands are the two countries with better road Infrastructure and The Netherland stand out with the most electric vehicle charger per capita, although an AV does not have to be electrical, the whole industry is moving in that direction making a great effort to make greener technologies. 


Figure 1: KPMG Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index Result

Source: KPMG Autonomous Vehicle Readiness

Some Technologies have been taking higher relevance on the SCs maturity, technologies like 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) are becoming protagonists in this development. 5G is increasing drastically the bandwidth and the speed of the internet, allowing to transfer of bigger chunks of data in less time, this could play a key role in the communication of the AVs with the cities. IoT on the other hand is going to enable multiple elements in the city to interact with the AVs, things like the signals, traffic lights, and multiple other things can become Intelligent with the help of the IoT, it will also put it available on the Internet. Other types of technologies that are helping to increase the reliability of the AV systems are the Road Rules (RR), which will capture all the specific information of the streets and update it in real-time to put it available for the AVs, which will help them to make better decisions. As we have seen in the post “Technology behind autonomous vehicles”, the AVs rely on the Mission Planner, and the mission planner rely on geofencing and high-resolution roadmaps, these two are currently done by each manufacturer and maintained by each manufacturer, this is highly ineffective long term, technologies like RR could help to homologate this practices which will reduce the effort done by the different entities while increasing the quality and consistency of the data.


Figure 2: Internet of Things 


In recent years the real state has become more and more expensive in most of the largest cities, one indirect consequence of autonomous vehicles could be the freeing up of space that is currently being used by parking lots. It is estimated that parking space could take as much as 30% of the infrastructure of a city if that 30% is now available or at least reduce will allow the cities to use that space for other uses such as residential, offices, public buildings, or public areas, which could drastically affect the quality of life of the residents of the city, although this is just one supposition and it will depend drastically on the legislation and the use that the parking spaces are going to be used, it could create a completely different picture of the same city before and after AVs. 


AVs should drastically improve Public transportation; Usually, we talk about AVs as if all of them were going to be private, but it could actually eliminate the need for private vehicles while enabling the possibility of autonomous mass public transport as well as vehicles as a service, where you can either pay for a ride like cabs right now or maybe you can pay per month for any amount of rides you want. All these are just possibilities it will keep evolving based on the legislation and business models that are going to emerge, till then we are just going to be able to make our best guess.

Thanks for stopping by, and will keep on talking about some interesting topics.