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How States and Cities are Shaping Autonomous Transportation

GMF’s Urban and Regional Policy Program, together with the U.S.

GMF’s Urban and Regional Policy Program, together with the U.S. Mission to the EU, brought key leaders in autonomous vehicles (AV) from Michigan and Detroit to Brussels for a conversation with Brussels stakeholders and European Commission Policy Officer Stephanie Leonard on how states and cities are shaping autonomous transportation.  GMF designed the event to expand upon a conversation first launched at the BUILD conference in Detroit, Michigan from November 15-17, 2018. 


David Zipper is a GMF Urban and Regional Policy fellow based in Washington, DC.

Q: Why is it important to engage local stakeholders in the topic of autonomous vehicles? 

David Zipper: There is a push right now, and probably an appropriate one, at the federal level in the United States to standardize AV rules around deployment and safety so that you do not have a mix of rules and regulations at the state and local jurisdictional level. That is being hammered out in Congress, and considered in the EU as well.  But these standardization efforts should not take away from the creative work being done at the state and local levels to catalyze the development of AV technologies and to solve very specific mobility challenges, whether it is moving throughout a downtown core or providing an enhanced mobility for disadvantaged communities.  


John Peracchio, co-chair of the Michigan Council on Future of Mobility and managing member at Peracchio & Company, LLC, presented PlanetM, a partnership of mobility organizations, communities educational institutions, research and development, and government agencies working together to develop and deploy the mobility technologies that are driving the future.

Q: What are the lessons that Michigan has drawn about the best way the state level can support AV development?

John Peracchio: First and foremost Michigan is reaching out to the public sector and the private sector and to create an environment that takes the development of technologies from the research and development phase through to product development and finally to deployment on the roads in a safe and efficient way. 


Alisyn Malek, chief operating officer at May Mobility, shared how the company is moving forward in AV by deploying driverless vehicles to provide transportation services in city areas like central business districts and dense mixed-use neighborhoods.

Q: What are the opportunities for better mobility that cities have from an AV shuttle like May Mobility?

Alisyn Malek: Part of the approach that May Mobility takes is to come in and help solve transportation problems, and cities are often the best positioned to understand the challenges that exist within their borders.  They are also the most effective actors who can be brought together to help drive those solutions. When I look at potential partners for deploying our technologies, some of the best discussions are with cities because they understand the variety of different challenges within their borders, which for me creates a very big market, but they are also able to pull the right people to the table to help us move forward.


As evidenced by the engaged dialogue at both BUILD and the event in Brussels, there is a rich opportunity to unpack the various policy dimensions connected to autonomous vehicles in the future of urban mobility. Cities in the United States and Europe share many of the same challenges when it comes to safe, accessible, and sustainable mobility. Automatization is occurring across a range of transportation modes and over time will evolve to become fully autonomous.  How U.S. and European cities step up to proactively shape this technological shift and leverage innovation to advance key public policy goals will be something to closely watch. 

See photos from the event on GMF’s Flickr.

Further Reading: Private Mobility Services Need to Share Their Data, Here’s How