(26 September 2018) The push towards introducing driverless vehicles in the UK will have a significant impact on the shape of our cities, potentially freeing up over 1,100 hectares of land in Edinburgh alone – the equivalent of more than 1,300 football pitches or enough space to accommodate the equivalent of 17,000 much-needed new homes across the Scottish capital.
These figures are according to design and consultancy firm Arcadis, whose latest Citizens in Motion report explores the disruptive influence that Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) will have on cities and their inhabitants around the world. With Arcadis estimating that a CAV revolution could allow for the reclamation of up to 80% of space currently allocated to car parking in every city[i], there is a unique window of opportunity for local authorities and major developers to consider how their cities can best adapt now to exploit the potential benefits of driverless technology in the future.
In Edinburgh, congestion in the city is estimated to cost £309m every year and, with the Scottish capital’s population expected to grow by 20% (595,000) by 2039, the strain on city infrastructure is only set to increase. It is broadly accepted that increasingly intelligent CAV systems will be electric. With 21% of buses in Edinburgh already hybrid or low-emission vehicles and Edinburgh accounting for more than 23% of all Electric Vehicles in Scotland, there is significant potential for automated technology to play a greater role in helping to move people around the city, take more vehicles off the road and free-up space for alternative uses.
Crucially however, the Arcadis report recognises that every city has its own dynamic and, to be successful, driverless vehicles will need to be integrated with and work alongside the existing network. In Edinburgh, where the focus is on cleaner, safer and more inclusive transport systems, this means working with government to adopt a positive regulatory strategy that engages with providers will be essential if the benefits of CAV are to be realised and work in parallel with Edinburgh’s wider mobility objectives.
Edinburgh aims to become the data capital of Europe, yet currently there are no policies at country or local level to incentivise CAV. For new and emergent CAV technologies to be accepted by Edinburgh’s citizens, pilots will need to be tailored with a view first and foremost on customer needs, experience and value.
As Graham Hill, Arcadis Cities Executive for Scotland, said:
“While the proliferation of driverless technology is inevitable, what isn’t yet clear is what shape it will take in Edinburgh. CAV offers great potential, but in Edinburgh it is crucial that the new technology is deployed in a complementary manner that helps to reduce congestion rather than adding to it. CAV is an exciting prospect, and we have the opportunity here to be on the front-foot. From building CAV into the city planning process, to incentivisation, regulation and licensing, true success will only come if we can recognise and respond proactively to CAV disruption in a way that works specifically for Edinburgh and – most importantly – its citizens.”
George Lowder, Chief Executive of Transport for Edinburgh, said:
“CAV will inevitably have an impact on Edinburgh’s integrated transport network, and it’s essential that we give careful thought now as to what that will mean for the city and those who live, work, study and visit. We’ll be continuing to monitor the emerging technology, possible applications and opportunities, to ensure that the potential benefits of CAV can be realised in the best way for everyone.”
Dr Alastair McInroy, Senior Programme Manager at MaaS Scotland, a partnership between Technology Scotland and ScotlandIS, added:
“The process by which we integrate Connected and Autonomous Vehicles into our urban environments will be critical in ensuring that their benefits are realised by all of those resident in our cities. Combining CAV delivery with data driven innovation and the development of new delivery models, such as Mobility as a Service, will accelerate the provision of convenient and accessible services for all. This will not only allow personalisation of service but ensure that transport delivery aligns with broader city strategies on health, the environment and social inclusivity.”
 Based on Ordnance Survey estimates that 5% of land in UK cities is dedicated to parking. Arcadis assumes CAV Levels 4 and 5 – where vehicles communicate with each other and the environment around them without the need for a human intervention – would remove the need for parking and allow for the reclamation of 80% of this space. In Edinburgh this would amount to 1,100 hectares, where average housing density is 16 dwellings per hectare. The size of one football pitch has been calculated as 0.82 hectares, based on FIFA standards for international matches that dictate that the pitch can be between 0.62-0.82 hectares.