AV´s and cities – What is to be done?

Avenue21 aims to find out, how a driverless future could look like.


There is much uncertainty in the scientific community as to when and to what extent self-driving vehicles will change our cities. One assumption that current research efforts share, however, is that the technological advantages of autonomous vehicles may raise the travel demand of individuals. The ongoing dynamics of spatial development and traffic growth could be intensified, resulting in the significant and extensive increase of distances travelled. Longer distances travelled will, besides severe spatial effects, raise energy consumption, a consequence fundamentally at odds with leading political and planning principles for the twenty-first century which address the mitigation of climate change through more sustainable urban development and transport planning.

This development is a realistic scenario, as long as we ignore the agency of all actors involved in shaping the cities of the future. It also ignores other positive and negative effects, as well as the dependencies of autonomous vehicles, while mainly considering passenger and not freight traffic. So, what is the role of planning and urban governance in this process? How can automated and autonomous mobility support the efforts in creating sustainable cities?

A selfdriving shuttle in Koppl/Salzburg. How will driverless mobility look like? © Avenue21

Our approach

AVENUE21 is a two-year interdisciplinary research project at the TU Wien funded by the Daimler & Benz foundation, which considers spatial, social and transport-related effects of autonomous vehicles in European cities. Our central aim is, to better understand under which conditions automated vehicles could contribute to major urban development goals.

Various empirical studies, an online survey, the definition of urban use cases and expert interviews constitute our theoretical groundwork. We look at European cities to put emphasis on the specific local context. We hope to contribute to discourses around the reciprocal relations between transport innovations and future urban development.

We believe that a holistic approach is fundamental to comprehend the complex urban effects autonomous vehicles will have in various local settings.