Councilmember David Ryu, introduced a motion instructing the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to report back on the benefits of driverless cars in Los Angeles and the steps that should be taken over the course of the next 5, 10, 15, and 20 years to prepare for an autonomous vehicle city by 2035.
“An autonomous transit city has the potential to revolutionize transportation for the better by bringing transportation equity, greatly reducing traffic, and achieving the Vision Zero goal of zero road deaths in the city,” stated Councilmember David Ryu.
Driverless cars are coming closer to becoming a reality, and Councilmember Ryu invited the industry to bring its technologies to Los Angeles.
“With Uber launching its first autonomous fleet last week in Pittsburgh, Google test driving cars in Palo Alto, and Tesla adding semi-autonomous functionality to its current road vehicles, we need these companies to focus on the largest market and the one that will benefit most: Los Angeles,” said Ryu.
“An autonomous transit city would eliminate the biggest drivers of traffic: vehicles circling looking for parking, vehicles blocking the intersection during rush hour, vehicles making last minute lane changes causing rapid stopping, vehicle accidents, and inefficient distances between cars on our roads,” he said. “Further, residents would likely prefer autonomous car shares rather than full vehicle ownership, freeing up land formerly used for parking lots, parking spaces, and gas stations.”
“Additionally, the federal government recently released long-awaited guidelines, which outlined safety expectations and encouraged uniform rules for the nascent technology. Now is the time for the City of Los Angeles to consider these technologies as we begin to upgrade roads, replace traffic lights, and expand mass transit.”
“Councilman Ryu’s forward-thinking motion illustrates the importance of embracing new and innovative technologies to help Los Angeles become a more sustainable city,” said Julie Stromberg, chair of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Sustainability Committee, which held a discussion last week on climate change.
“It is important for Los Angeles to get ahead of the curve on transportation without compromising its goals in becoming a leader in sustainability. Councilman Ryu’s motion demonstrates that transportation and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, but, together, lend to becoming a more sustainable city in general. I think that reducing carbon emissions and easing traffic congestion are two goals most Angelenos will support. Driverless cars may help us reach those goals. I applaud Councilman Ryu for leading us in that direction,” said Stromberg in a message to the Buzz.
Not surprisingly, the promise of a technological solution to transportation is complicated.
“Autonomous vehicles are coming,” said Dan Kegel, a local resident and software engineer who presented the talk on climate change at the GWNC meeting. “On the plus side: They will probably be safer; they will let us read or work while traveling. They may reduce congestion by allowing vehicles to drive closer together.”
But Kegel said there are also some downsides to driverless cars.
“On the minus side: They may increase vehicle miles traveled, and thus increase pollution; they could even make climate change worse (nobody knows yet). They may increase urban sprawl by reducing the stress of commuting from outlying communities. They could be very attractive targets for hackers. One can imagine hackers taking over a fleet of autonomous vehicles and disrupting a city, so software security will be crucial. They would be great for delivering bombs to specific targets, so there will be security screening of users somehow,” speculated Kegel.
“So, kudos to Ryu for opening a conversation, but a wag of the finger at him for not at least mentioning possible problems, too,” he added.
Councilmember Ryu’s motion is now likely headed to the GWNC Transportation Committee, where it be voted on and then presented to the full City Council. The motion instructs the Department of Transportation, with assistance from the Department of City Planning and the Bureau of Street Services, to report back to the City Council, within 45 days of the motion’s approval, on the likely benefits of an autonomous transit city. The report will be available to the public.
Read the full text of Councilmember David Ryu’s motion, here.