Autonomous driving, the built environment and policy implications

Eva Fraedrich*, Dirk Heinrichs, Francisco J. Bahamonde-Birke, Rita Cyganski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


This article seeks to clarify how autonomous vehicles (AV) could affect urban planning and the built environment, to what extent these effects are compatible with municipalities’ existing objectives, and what lessons can be drawn from that. The paper combines a systematic review of the literature, a quantitative online survey, and qualitative interviews with representatives from urban transport planning authorities in Germany. Four concrete ‘use-cases’ were applied to structure the survey. Results show that respondents are rather skeptical about the compatibility of AV with existing transport and urban planning objectives, above all to strengthen non-motorized transportation and to promote public transportation. Particularly, automating private motorized travel appears not to match municipal planning perspectives. On the contrary, transport planners think that shared autonomous vehicles as a complement to public transport systems are more appropriate to support urban development strategies. Their most prominent concern with respect to AV is the expectation that car travel will increase with AV, propagating problems like congestion and negative environmental effects. However, survey respondents expect that effects differ quite strongly depending on how AV will occur. As a lesson, the study suggests that different AV use-cases should receive specific attention to explore their potentials and challenges. The study likewise suggests to, given the discrepancy between the objectives of urban transport planning and federal government's policy focus, consider consolidating the communal strategic positions on research and development priorities. The results indicate a demand for studies that demonstrate how AV can respond to more fundamental challenges and goals that city planner's face. Given the wide range of potential implications, the study suggests to broaden the debate from its present primary focus on the transport planning domain to city planning and development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-172
Number of pages11
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomous driving
  • Built environment
  • Systemic analysis
  • Transportation planning
  • Transportation policy


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