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CD4 Councilmember David Ryu Asks LA DOT for Report on Impact of Driverless Cars

What would a driverless car LA be like? CD4 Councilmember David Ryu asks LA Department of Transportation to prepare report.

Councilmember David Ryu, introduced a motion instructing the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to report back on the benefits of driverless cars in Los Angeles and the steps that should be taken over the course of the next 5, 10, 15, and 20 years to prepare for an autonomous vehicle city by 2035.

“An autonomous transit city has the potential to revolutionize transportation for the better by bringing transportation equity, greatly reducing traffic, and achieving the Vision Zero goal of zero road deaths in the city,” stated Councilmember David Ryu.

Driverless cars are coming closer to becoming a reality, and Councilmember Ryu invited the industry to bring its technologies to Los Angeles.

“With Uber launching its first autonomous fleet last week in Pittsburgh, Google test driving cars in Palo Alto, and Tesla adding semi-autonomous functionality to its current road vehicles, we need these companies to focus on the largest market and the one that will benefit most: Los Angeles,” said Ryu.

“An autonomous transit city would eliminate the biggest drivers of traffic: vehicles circling looking for parking, vehicles blocking the intersection during rush hour, vehicles making last minute lane changes causing rapid stopping, vehicle accidents, and inefficient distances between cars on our roads,” he said.  “Further, residents would likely prefer autonomous car shares rather than full vehicle ownership, freeing up land formerly used for parking lots, parking spaces, and gas stations.”

“Additionally, the federal government recently released long-awaited guidelines, which outlined safety expectations and encouraged uniform rules for the nascent technology. Now is the time for the City of Los Angeles to consider these technologies as we begin to upgrade roads, replace traffic lights, and expand mass transit.”

“Councilman Ryu’s forward-thinking motion illustrates the importance of embracing new and innovative technologies to help Los Angeles become a more sustainable city,” said Julie Stromberg, chair of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Sustainability Committee, which held a discussion last week on climate change.

“It is important for Los Angeles to get ahead of the curve on transportation without compromising its goals in becoming a leader in sustainability. Councilman Ryu’s motion demonstrates that transportation and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, but, together, lend to becoming a more sustainable city in general. I think that reducing carbon emissions and easing traffic congestion are two goals most Angelenos will support. Driverless cars may help us reach those goals. I applaud Councilman Ryu for leading us in that direction,” said Stromberg in a message to the Buzz. 

Not surprisingly, the promise of a technological solution to transportation is complicated.

“Autonomous vehicles are coming,” said Dan Kegel, a local resident and software engineer who presented the talk on climate change at the GWNC meeting. “On the plus side: They will probably be safer; they will let us read or work while traveling. They may reduce congestion by allowing vehicles to drive closer together.”

But Kegel said there are also some downsides to driverless cars.

“On the minus side: They may increase vehicle miles traveled, and thus increase pollution; they could even make climate change worse (nobody knows yet). They may increase urban sprawl by reducing the stress of commuting from outlying communities. They could be very attractive targets for hackers.  One can imagine hackers taking over a fleet of autonomous vehicles and disrupting a city, so software security will be crucial. They would be great for delivering bombs to specific targets, so there will be security screening of users somehow,” speculated Kegel. 

“So, kudos to Ryu for opening a conversation, but a wag of the finger at him for not at least mentioning possible problems, too,” he added. 

Councilmember Ryu’s motion is now likely headed to the GWNC Transportation Committee, where it be voted on and then presented to the full City Council.  The motion instructs the Department of Transportation, with assistance from the Department of City Planning and the Bureau of Street Services, to report back to the City Council, within 45 days of the motion’s approval, on the likely benefits of an autonomous transit city. The report will be available to the public.

Read the full text of Councilmember David Ryu’s motion, here.

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Here’s a study that tries to predict the kind of impacts Ryu’s talking about:

    It says in part:

    “There are many cities around the
    world where development and commuting patterns have
    increased sprawl significantly. In such cities, having a
    car is all but essential. That will likely remain the case
    for the foreseeable future. However, there are genuine
    costs to this way of life; congestion in Los Angeles costs
    the city an estimated $23 billion per year.
    To do better, we envision consumers in these cities
    embracing new vehicle technologies, such as self-driving
    and electric vehicles. …
    There is a possible drawback to this scenario: with
    lower marginal costs to travel an extra mile in an EV,
    and without requiring a driver’s attention thanks to
    autonomy, the demand for mobility could increase and
    thus add to congestion. Passenger miles traveled could
    grow 25 percent by 2030, with the majority attributable
    to additional autonomous travel in private vehicles.”


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