Last month, the City of Austin and CapMetro jointly released a draft of their Smart Mobility Roadmap, which examines Austin’s approach to shared, electric, and autonomous vehicle technologies.

Let’s take a quick spin through the document and examine how individuals in Austin’s tech sector can influence the final version of the roadmap — and thus the future of transportation.

Why does this exist? And why does it matter?

Both Austin City Council and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) Board of Directors tasked their organizations with strategizing to make Austin a leader in the shared, electric, autonomous mobility future.

The City and CapMetro worked together on building a single roadmap, which makes sense given that CapMetro is the Austin region’s transit provider and how the City plans and implements transportation infrastructure necessarily impacts CapMetro’s ability to move people from point A to point B.

The final version of the roadmap will be incorporated into the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, Austin’s city-wide transportation plan that will guide transportation investments for the next decade and beyond.

Shared, electric, autonomous mobility

Let’s look at each of those technologies individually and together. Sales projections in 2030 for fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) range from 15 to 50 percent of the market, and research organizations are already examining the potential impact of wide adoption of AVs. These include:

  • expanded mobility options for all;
  • opportunities for data-driven development;
  • potential increase in vehicle miles traveled;
  • significant increase in roadway safety; and
  • extended adoption period in which AVs will mix with human-driven vehicles.

There are approximately 4,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in the Austin market, representing at 55 percent annual growth over the previous three years. Current projections show EV sales overtaking traditional cars in only 20 years, which will require a significant increase in EV charging infrastructure.

Given that a critical mass of fully autonomous, electric vehicles is not immediately around the corner, the roadmap leans on shared-use mobility as the best current opportunity to improve transportation. Shared-used vehicle technology, after all, is already quite prevalent in Austin, from public transit to ridesharing to bikesharing. A true impact will require with consumer behavioral changes — i.e., a willingness to move away from single occupancy vehicle use.

But the growth of shared, electric, autonomous mobility options will occur. From the roadmap:

“The convergence of shared, electric, and autonomous vehicle services can offer a lower cost, more efficient and accessible, less polluting and less congested transportation system. Wrangling all three of these technologies and services together requires a dedicated effort that focuses on data, governmental policies and incentives, technology applications, testing, and multiple touchpoints with the community.”

To begin that wrangling, the roadmap lays out 55 recommendations on how Austin can adequately prepare both from infrastructure and societal perspectives.

Data and technology

The biggest challenge smart cities face today in the transportation space is limited data and limited tools to utilize that data in decision-making. The connected cars of tomorrow, however, will produce voluminous amounts of data, and cities will need to collaborate with the private sector on data platforms and data management.

As a result, the roadmap calls for investing in and leveraging technology through open data and public-private data partnerships to optimize mobility options. The Austin Transportation Department in particular is advocating for a “One System” traffic and data management center that is managed in conjunction with other regional transportation partners.

How can you get involved?

Austin’s tech sector can step up and use their unique skillsets to offer guidance on data analysis, cybersecurity, and developing data innovations. The Austin Transportation Department reached out to Austin Tech Alliance to help galvanize the tech community to provide input.

If you’re interested in impacting the final product that will shape Austin’s mobility investments for decades, go to smartmobilityroadmap.civicomment.org to provide feedback on the roadmap and ask questions.