Shared mobility principles for the rapidly approaching AV era

By Brian Lutenegger

The Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, launched in 2017 and spearheaded by the founder of ZipCar, has now added corporate signers to its ranks. At the same time, one car manufacturer has announced plans to have fully autonomous vehicles on the road as rideshare vehicles by 2019, signaling that the autonomous vehicle era is rapidly approaching.

The Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities was launched in October 2017 at the Ecomobility World Festival in Taiwan. It was initially signed by a founding consortium of policy think tanks and advocacy organizations, including Transportation for America, Natural Resources Defense Council, ITDP, the World Resources Institute, and the Rocky Mountain Institute. Robin Chase, co-founder of ZipCar and a “Heaven or Hell” scenario for autonomous vehicles, was one of the developers of the principles, along with the initial signers.

There are ten non-binding principles in the statement, ranging from equity to land use to zero emissions and renewable energy. While general in their scope, the principles offer a vision for a sustainable mobility future that incorporates multimodal transportation options. They are consistent with many of the policies favored by urban transit advocates.

On February 1, the consortium announced 15 new corporate signatories of the principles, including car-sharing companies, transportation network companies, app providers, and a host of bike share companies. It is notable that the principles do not directly call for reductions in vehicle miles traveled, though implementing them could potentially play some role in doing so. As earlier research noted, transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft may be contributing to higher VMT in some cities, at the expense of transit or other modes of transportation. Yet Uber and Lyft have indicated they support congestion pricing for vehicles to reduce traffic.

A future with autonomous vehicles may be coming faster than anticipated. General Motors is working on developing a robotaxi service that could become more profitable than its current vehicle manufacturing business within a decade. In 2019, GM plans to deploy a fleet of up to 2,500 self-driving cars—their fourth generation autonomous vehicle, called a Cruise AV—without steering wheels or pedals. The vehicles will be utilized in ride-hailing fleets, likely starting in San Francisco, pending approval by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the vehicles meet all federal safety standards. GM and its subdivision, Cruise Automation, will directly operate the ridesharing company instead of providing the vehicles to another company like Uber or Lyft.

GM is in a close race with Waymo, which expects to test a driverless ride-hailing service this year in Phoenix. While their modified Chrysler Pacific minivans will have steering wheels and pedals, there will be no humans at the wheel. Other companies, such as Ford, are a few more years down the road from launching their own autonomous vehicles.

Brian Lutenegger is a Program Associate at Smart Growth America.