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Are Cities Prepared for Electric Autonomous Vehicles?

In 1990, the California Air Resources Board developed standards that required an increasing number of the state’s manufactured vehicles to be electric. The Zero Emission Vehicle plan at the time had a goal of 10% EV penetration by 2003.

Although the air-quality regulation has modified its goals over the years, Beverly Hills invested in its infrastructure to accommodate a growing number of electric and autonomous vehicles.

The city is in the process of developing an electric autonomous vehicle pilot program to improve parking, traffic, mobility, and public-transportation options.

In a Tech Briefs Webinar titled Preparing the Energy Grid for Electrified and Autonomous Vehicles, David Schirmer, Chief Information Officer of the City of Beverly Hills, revealed ways that municipalities will need to update their infrastructures to support new EVs.

According to a UCLA report, more than 700,000 plug-in electric vehicles are expected on Southern California roads by the end of 2025. (Image Credit: UCLA)

According to a report from UCLA, more than 700,000 plug-in electric vehicles are expected on Southern California roads by the end of 2025.

Cities, Schirmer said, will have to adapt in terms of land use and changes in the right-of-way. For starters: less street parking and more pickup/drop-off zones.

Municipalities will additionally be called to change their building codes and find more room for charging stations.

Partnering with UCLA, Beverly Hills has deployed smart charging stations to allow for a single 30-amp circuit to be shared among four vehicles. The chargers can determine the type of vehicle being charged; prioritize electric vehicles over hybrid vehicles; or lower the charging rate during peak demand times. (See: “What is Intelligent Charging?”)

Cities preparing for the electrified and autonomous vehicles will also need to research more intelligent ways to manage traffic. Smart traffic signals and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems, for example, use machine learning to communicate real-time conditions between the road network and the vehicle.

For example, after a vehicle provides destination information, the road network could, in theory, respond with the quickest and shortest path.

During the December 2017 webinar, a Tech Briefs attendee had this question for Schirmer:

"Are municipalities prepared for the coming of autonomous vehicles?"

David had the following response:

“Municipalities certainly are thinking about it. It’s a hot topic among my colleagues. I don’t think a [complete] vision has been incorporated into the thinking, especially in the planning side of things, or the ordnance or land-use side of things. That’s where a lot of work has to be done, to push that forward. I think it’s on their radar screen, but I don’t think a lot of work has been done in that area.”

What do you think? Will cities be ready for autonomous vehicles? Share your thoughts below.

Watch the full presentation: Preparing the Energy Grid for Electrified and Autonomous Vehicles.