Uncertainty About Autonomous Vehicles Challenges Governments

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - 5:00am
Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - 11:48am

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Waymo
(Photo courtesy of Waymo)
Last fall, Waymo became the first to deploy completely driverless vehicles in Chandler with no drivers in the front seats.

While no one can say definitely when autonomous vehicles will become mainstream, many experts predict they’ll make up a significant portion of traffic by the year 2030. It may sound far off, but, the clock is ticking for public policymakers — and their actions could impact your taxes, streets and redevelopment.

Since Gov. Doug Ducey paved the way for companies to test self-driving cars with no state regulations, the East Valley has become a hot spot. Last fall, Waymo became the first to deploy completely driverless vehicles in Chandler with no drivers in the front seats. What’s happening in the suburbs is being discussed at Phoenix City Hall.

“I hear many comments from the East Valley,” Councilwoman Thelda Williams said. “Some are very excited, very proud it’s going on, and others are very apprehensive.”

Williams addressed Eric Anderson, who oversees transportation for the Maricopa Association of Governments, or MAG. He recently briefed the Phoenix Transportation Subcommittee on the opportunities presented by autonomous vehicles like safer, more efficient travel and the challenges, like uncertainty.

“How quickly will all this happen?” he said. “And, that’s something you always have to weigh the risks: do we want to invest in something when we think it’s going to change in the future but doing nothing isn’t necessarily an option either.”

Think about the impact of a family replacing two current cars with one autonomous vehicle. They won’t need two parking spaces, and they won’t have to pay taxes and fees on two cars. Governments must answer a lot of questions, including should streets be reconfigured to handle curbside pick-ups and drops off? What happens to parking garages? And, how will they make up for lost revenue?

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