o prepare for the arrival of autonomous vehicles, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning is exploring land use strategies to optimize the potential safety and the environmental and access benefits of this new technology. Self-driving or autonomous vehicles have captured the imagination of many people, including transportation officials, the media, technology entrepreneurs and travelers. At the same time, this new technology is raising complicated questions related to ethics, liability, accessibility, and safety. Technology companies and auto manufacturers are testing this technology on our roads today. Although the technology is still in progress, advancements in self-driving technology are occurring rapidly. In order to capture the benefits and minimize the costs of autonomous vehicles, cities must take advantage of this testing period to prepare for an autonomous future. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to transform mobility in Los Angeles by providing populations previously unable or unwilling to drive themselves with access to vehicles, eliminating human error in traffic crashes, and increasing efficiency through connected vehicle technology; however, these benefits are not assured. In the absence of advanced preparation and planning, there may be unintentional adverse effects including increased sprawl, vehicle miles traveled, commute distance, and automobile-related pollution.
In this study, I draw on academic literature, analysis of city General and Comprehensive Plans, and phone interviews with planners to analyze the potential impact of autonomous vehicles on local land use. Based on these findings, I provide a set of recommendations for the City of Los Angeles to consider in shaping future land use policies. Local governments have limited control over the development and consumer response to this technology; however, it does wield significant control over the built environment through zoning regulations. By leveraging these tools, local governments can shape the future growth of their cities while reinforcing stakeholder goals and adapting existing infrastructure to take advantage of these new technologies.