Autonomous mobility in Lisbon opinion

In 2015, the International Transport Forum (ITF), an intergovernmental body of the OECD that brings together 54 countries as a think tank on transport policy, published a study on the introduction of autonomous shared vehicles, of which Lisbon was a study.

In this publication a simulation was carried out for the city of Lisbon, assuming a theoretical scenario in which all private modes of mobility would either be replaced by a solution of shared autonomous taxis based on an on-demand service via apps or by autonomous minibuses with dynamic routes.

The results of the simulated model were surprising: only 10% of current private vehicles would be really accurate, all street parking spaces would disappear and 80% of the parking spaces would no longer be accurate. Other important benefits would be a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 30% improvement in traffic flow. Such gains would, of course, come from the free choice of the people who would rationally choose these new modes of transport, very motivated by the radical reduction in usage costs achieved by sharing services and not requiring a driver.

The scenario is currently futuristic as the rollout of autonomous vehicles in an urban setting depends on an ecosystem that is far from existing. At least one regulatory framework that enables this, vehicle-level technology and the transport infrastructure that enables real-time data exchange, the existence of large-scale vehicles that are already equipped with hardware and software that are able to control the environment there Capture where you are and make logical decisions, sponsors willing to invest and customers ready to take part in this adventure, to name just a few key conditions.

Anyway, this study was important because it showed a path and revealed that we are not doomed to live in a polluted city surrounded by cars and hostages in endless lines between comings and goings between home and work.

Now, in 2021, is the year of the local elections in Lisbon, a more than good time to question the strategy on public policies that depend on mobility and to take the opportunity to explore new avenues.

And the question starts with the definition of Lisbon, whether it is a city surrounded by other villages and dormitory cities, or, on the contrary, it is the group of Lisbon, Loures, Amadora, Almada, etc. One can Do not imagine Lisbon, a city of just over half a million inhabitants, as a watertight entity immune to the influence of 2 million other people entering and leaving the city. In other words, those who want to think about mobility have to think about the entire metropolitan area under the penalty of being left to the root of the problem.

Then it’s important to have an idea of ​​where you want to go and a schedule to get there. Are you betting on autonomous mobility as simulated by the ITF? Should massive investments continue to be made in public transport that enables people to get on and off the city at the expense of private cars? Should more public works (bridges, viaducts, tunnels) be carried out to empty the traffic? A mixture of all of that?

Given the current situation, it is admitted that we are not going the best way. In economic and environmental terms, we cannot go on as we are. We need to change the way we move.

If you focus on autonomous mobility and admit that it is currently still a futuristic scenario that is difficult to implement in the short term (and it would never be possible to swap 90% of current vehicles for autonomous cars at once), it will be possible It makes sense to draw up a plan that will help lay the foundations for the gradual introduction of autonomous forms of mobility.

Measures such as the introduction of an intermunicipal authority for autonomous mobility and the creation of a full legal framework to enable it to exist are therefore essential prerequisites.

Defining suitable test areas and building partnerships with companies that want to start testing in Lisbon are also essential prerequisites for development. Autonomous mobility is based on the artificial intelligence of vehicles. This capacity is created with experience in a test environment and in a real environment. The earlier you start retrieving data in Lisbon, the shorter the implementation time of a local autonomous mobility solution.

The development of partnerships should not only take place with the sponsoring companies, but also with the local political power itself and the sponsors who want to come to Lisbon, universities, security forces, insurance companies, telecommunications companies, law firms and solution providers. Loading, to name just a few obvious players in an ecosystem that needs to be built first.

In addition, more generally, the bet on intelligent traffic management technologies (example: traffic lights that work according to the traffic flows at any moment), the provision of a free and universal Internet for vehicles in order to be able to automatically access the traffic platforms. Traffic information and the implementation of bus routes with the ability to change routes as needed. All of these can already be measures to introduce concepts that are inherent in autonomous mobility.

It should be noted that the autonomous shared vehicles are largely based on the concepts of shared economy that are so widely disseminated today via, for example, Airbnb and Uber connected to on-demand digital platforms. In this way, the habit of using an app to solve the challenge of traveling between two points using a shared means of transport is happily internalized even by the youngest, and people’s adherence to autonomous mobility is one of the greatest challenges it faces has to be mastered.

Lisbon has a unique opportunity here to change for the better, gradually introducing solutions with people that translate into economic and social benefits of undeniable relevance. If we choose to, autonomous mobility technology will allow us to have a less polluted city in the future, spend far fewer resources on travel, and have the roads back so we can live together, and the distance to that future depends on ours Present from decisions that have to be discussed in detail in the next local elections.

The author writes according to the new orthographic convention

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