Cities across Europe are taking steps to become increasingly car-free.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is aiming for 80 percent of all trips to be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport by 2041, while Copenhagen authorities are aiming for three quarters of all trips to be made in these ways by 2025. Policymakers in Paris want to halve the number of private cars in the city center, and Madrid will ban all non-resident vehicles except zero-emission delivery vehicles, taxis and public transport from its city center in November 2018. In Helsinki, the aim is to phase out the use of private cars by 2050, by providing on-demand, affordable public transport.
Alongside reducing congestion and improving urban mobility, city leaders are expected to promote sustainable economic growth, improve air quality, and respond to concerns from residents, all within tight budgets. In a world where talent and investment are increasingly mobile, city leaders know they must compete in terms of economic dynamism and quality of life. Transport planning is one way to do that.
But car makers and tech giants are looking to a very different type of future, where private car ownership, human control, and petrol and diesel engines are replaced by shared, electric and autonomous—or self-driving—vehicles. Many of these changes could be positive for society, compared to current transport systems. It is likely that autonomous vehicles will eventually be better drivers than humans, which would reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities. They may also provide much needed accessibility to elderly and disabled people, which would be beneficial not only to them, but the economy at large.
Without the need to drive, people will be able to be more productive while traveling. If people are able to call up a car at the touch of a smart phone, car ownership will drop, which will free up the substantial tracts of urban land that are currently used to park vehicles. And, with the right incentives, travelers could be encouraged to use the most efficient vehicle for each journey taken, with substantial reductions in emissions and pollution. There would also be benefits for freight deliveries, which may be able to be undertaken at night, when there is more available road capacity.
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