The City of Carlsbad hosted a panel discussion last week at the Carlsbad City Library on Dove Lane that explored how technological advances will change transportation. The discussion was part of a new series designed to explore trends affecting the future of cities.
The session, “Redefining Mobility: Connected/Autonomous Vehicles,” which took place June 9 and was attended by about 75 people, addressed the existing transportation landscape and how technology will shape the future, with a focus on driverless vehicles. A representative of the California Department of Motor Vehicles said that the state is drafting new regulations to keep pace with the changes.
Panel members included Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority; Rob Bertini, a professor at California Polytechnic University and a former deputy administrator with the U.S. Transportation Department; Paul Godsmark, chief technology officer and cofounder of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence; and Stephanie Dougherty, chief of enterprise planning and performance at the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Dougherty noted that many vehicles marketed today incorporate automated features, such as:
Collision avoidance systems, including systems that help monitor blind spots
Emergency braking systems
Active cruise control systems that adjust a vehicle’s speed to surrounding traffic
Systems that warn drivers when they stray from vehicle lanes
The panelists noted that some automakers and technology companies, such as Google, are developing self-driving cars. Dougherty said that the state has approved permits to test them, and Iwasaki said the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority has developed a site on the grounds of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station where researchers can test self-driving vehicles.
Godsmark said that automobile travel will change in countless ways, and cities and public agencies need to lay the groundwork for those changes. For example, driverless vehicles enable commuters to be productive on their way to work, opening up new options for housing. The technology also enables roads to safely accommodate more vehicles, possibly changing the needs for future road construction projects.
“What do you want the future to be, because if you create the policies, that will be the future,” Godsmark said. “What does a city want, and steer your policies toward those goals.”
Iwasaki said it is challenging for transportation agencies to anticipate these changes because the typical timeline for transportation planning is 25 years or more, whereas the effects of technological innovation are measured today in a few months. Driverless car technology has been around for decades and is currently being tested.
“We’re looking for innovation and the City of Carlsbad’s pretty innovative,” Iwasaki said. “We’re just trying to plant the seed of innovation here,” Iwasaki said.