Steve Buckley of WSP USA at Southern Regional Meeting in Atlanta.

By Allison Klein, senior vice president/strategic engagement, ARTBA 

More than 65 attendees at ARTBA’s Oct. 29-30 Southern Regional Meeting in Atlanta learned about the impact of autonomous vehicles and other technology on transportation construction.

Susan Marlow, a principal at Stantec, discussed redefining mobility in the “smart city” of the future, which leverages technology to improve the quality of life. In the transportation sector, that generally means more autonomous vehicles expanding accessibility and trip reliability.

Here are a few examples of how that might look:

  • Narrower streets and wider sidewalks.
  • Vehicles communicate with each other, such as driverless buses telling robot taxies to get ready to take passenger the last mile to their destinations.
  • Special pickup zones to accommodate driverless vehicles to pick up and drop off workers outside office buildings or public venues.
  • Downtown parking garages transformed into housing or commercial space, and new spaces outside cities to store driverless vehicle not in use.

Emerging technologies are expected to mean fewer, smaller, and safer vehicles; and more multimodal and mixed-use development.

Steve Buckley, a WSP USA planning executive, said that highway and transit expansion capacity projects are facing greater scrutiny due to the rise of autonomous vehicles and shared mobility. In 20 years, sales of electrical vehicles are expect to surpass internal combustion engines, forcing the federal and state governments to develop alternatives to the gas tax.

“We are in a unique time when transportation is facing the growing influence of private sector-driven alternatives with unknown and unproven models,” Buckley said. “Low cost embedded technology is providing us with new and unprecedented ways for user to pay for—and the public sector to price—road use.”

Attendees also heard from a panel of state transportation department secretaries; received market, legislative and regulatory updates from ARTBA staff; and were briefed on alternative dispute resolution.