The development of fully autonomous technology is seen by many as a potentially mold-breaking advance in transportation, including companies such as Tesla, Google’s Waymo, and Uber who are already investing heavily in the future. With estimates by various experts and agencies suggesting that autonomous vehicles could help to cut into the 90% of car accidents caused by human error as well as reducing emissions by improving efficiency, expectations for autonomous vehicles (AVs) are great.

This great promise, however, remains years in the future while the technology is improved to realize full implementation, facing a host of technological challenges in the cars themselves as well as the infrastructure supporting them, and the related industries supporting the transportation field develop their operations to meet the demands of AV operation, such as the insurance field, for example.

With the strong commitment and enthusiastic investment of auto makers and technology developers committed to driving the development of technology and software, and the supporting industries working hard to keep apace, transportation industry experts are now directing attention to the challenges that remain on societal and systemic levels which could threaten full implementation. Transportation and mobility industry research and policy center Mobility Lab has, in two recently published articles, elucidated a host of issues which threaten the successful fulfillment of the full potential of AVs.

These articles note the need for careful system-level stewardship and considered analysis to prevent the potential problems they foresee from cropping up, a possibility they see as entirely too realistic were the market left to control development. Among the key issues they note are the difficulty in ensuring that AVs are utilized as efficiently as possible, increasing the proportion of multi-passenger vehicles to prevent the overall number of vehicles from increasing; securing the safety of newly tech-heavy spaces in urban zones; ensuring that the road infrastructure and signage meets the demands and needs of AVs; the different modes of transport work uniformly to decrease congestion and data is shared openly to facilitate interoperability.

These challenges are among those most central in realizing the successful transformation of transportation, and one which the WALCC is committedly seeking solutions together with our partners in the Catalyzing Mobility as a Service initiative as we plan for the future of Finland’s transport sector.

The New York Times assesses the challenges facing technology developers

Wired and Business Insider reflect on different aspects of insuring AVs

The Mobility Lab lays out the challenges and risks facing large-scale, rapid adoption

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Reframing City Districts (ReCiDi)

A research project conducted by the Universities of Turku and Tampere which aims to form a new conceptual framework which will help shape the collective identity and common vision necessary to realize the future low-carbon and sustainability targets.

Systemic Architectures for Sustainable Urban Innovation (SASUI)

An action learning and research project conducted by Aalto University and the University of Tampere which aimed to form a better understanding of the architectural requirements for successful innovation projects.