The autonomous era will result in competing pressures towards continued urban sprawl along freeway corridors and urban consolidation within inner and middle ring suburbs. Policy makers must act now to safeguard the liveability, sustainability and productivity of our cities.
For centuries, the dominant mode of transport has shaped our cities. We are now on the verge of a shift to a new dominant mode – the autonomous electric vehicle. More than any other single factor, this shift will define our cities’ development for decades to come.
If we respond pro-actively, autonomous ride sourcing has the potential to catalyse urban regeneration. If we do nothing, we risk exacerbating urban sprawl and endemic congestion. The difference between these scenarios is not inconsequential – the liveability, sustainability and productivity of our cities is at stake.
Throughout the history of cities, most urban dwellers have preferred to live within a short travel time from the urban core allowing them to take advantage of the diverse opportunities our cities offer.
The primary transport mode for Melburnians in the mid 19th century included walking, horses and carriages. Urban development in 1855 was therefore huddled within a short distance of Melbourne CBD.
After the industrial revolution trams and trains allowed the city to expand as development stretched along these new corridors enabling the development of Melbourne’s inner suburbs as we know them today.
The post-World War II era saw the rise of automobiles as the dominant transport mode. New highways and freeways enabled Melbourne to expand outwards again into new, low-density suburbs.
The autonomous era will result in competing pressures towards continued urban sprawl along freeways whilst at the same time leading to urban consolidation in inner and middle suburbs.
The autonomous era will increase the attractiveness of urban development along Melbourne’s long distance road corridors as autonomous vehicles make long distance travel easier, cheaper and safer. By communicating with each other and/or the road infrastructure itself, autonomous vehicles will maximise vehicle speed and flow. When all vehicles are autonomous, the capacity and speed of long distance freeway travel will increase markedly.1
With car sharing and ride sourcing, the fixed costs of car ownership are distributed among a large pool of users. Currently, these advantages are offset by the cost of a driver (ride sourcing), or the inconvenience of finding, booking and walking to a vehicle (car sharing). In the autonomous era, these disadvantages will no longer exist, indeed KPMG analysis suggests that an autonomous ride sourcing service could cut the annual cost of vehicle travel by nearly half.2
For residents who choose to forego car ownership in the autonomous era, many will choose to live in the inner suburbs to optimise autonomous ride sourcing fares.
Governments must begin taking action now to safeguard the liveability and productivity of our cities in the autonomous era. KPMG recommends the following actions to policy makers.