Cities looking at how self-driving cars can change their communities

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Arizona has become an early adopter when it comes to testing autonomous vehicles. With the introduction of this new technology, many cities in the state are looking at how this technology can change the landscape of what cities could look like.

Cars belonging to Waymo can be seen in Chandler. The ride sharing company chose the Phoenix suburb to test their autonomous vehicles. Some cars still have safety drivers in the driver seat, but there are plans to go driverless in the future.

"We are in a very exciting time for the City of Chandler," said David De La Torre. As the City of Chandler's Planning Manager. he has been keeping a close eye on autonomous vehicles, and how they could change the way cities look and operate.

"If you can imagine a scenario in the future, if you summon an autonomous vehicle, it comes, picks you up, and comes and takes you from one location to another location. It drops you off at the second location, and then goes somewhere else and picks someone else up, and it keeps going from one location to another location without ever staying or parking at any of those locations," said De La Torre. "If everybody was on this and using autonomous vehicles, the need for parking would go down significantly."

"As we're moving more and more towards an all AV world, Autonomous Vehicle world, we need to think about how we design our infrastructure," said Dr. Lina Karam, a professor of engineering at Arizona State University. She studies autonomous vehicles, and says now is the time cities should be thinking about the future.

"Typically, infrastructure has a life span, 30-50 years, so you need to plan the next infrastructure and how can you do it and how autonomous vehicles are going to change infrastructure," said Dr. Karam.

Besides the declined need for parking spaces with more autonomous vehicles. Dr. Karam says speed limits could be increased, and with increased precision of autonomous vehicles, streets could be narrowed.

Meanwhile, Chandler is already looking toward the future, with city officials recently adopting an ordinance that allows more flexibility in parking requirements in the city.

"We researched other cities to see what they were doing like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, and we were expecting to find examples of other cities and what they've been doing, but we couldn't find any other cities doing what we wanted to do, so we were the first city to amend our zoning laws specifically for autonomous vehicles," said De La Torre. He said ready or not, the future is coming, and they want to make sure they're ready.

"This is kind of like 'Pie in the Sky' stuff that's becoming real," said De La Torre. "It's really crazy, but that's why it's exciting."

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