Cities need to get out in front of self driving cars, League of Cities says

3 June 2017 by Steve Blum
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Broadband availability and self-driving cars are thoroughly linked issues for local governments, according to a white paper on autonomous vehicle policy published by the National League of Cities. Sitting back and letting telecoms providers – wired or wireless – take the lead is a bad idea. Instead, the League argues, local governments should use what policy and political tools are available and jump in with both feet…

Cities should be aware that their wireless broadband needs will grow exponentially in the future, and should plan with the understanding that their infrastructure will need to be constantly updated. While 5G is an important goalpost today, it will surely be surpassed in the near future. Cities should be proactive in reaching out to the dominant provider in their region to plan the growth of infrastructure in a constructive manner so that future needs can be planned for and met, including spectrum needs around public safety, transportation, and connected devices becoming more integrated into cities. Cities should make informing themselves about federal broadband regulation a municipal priority because it will affect them significantly for the foreseeable future, and there are important timing considerations around new provider applications. The preservation of local control over the right-of-way with regard to wireless and broadband deployment is an important issue that cities need to continue to proactively monitor and be involved with.

Other recommendations for cities include being an active participant in policy discussions at the state level – which is where most of the rules will be written – and to weave self driving cars into an overall transportation framework. Cities also need to up their information technology game. Autonomous vehicle deployment is only one example of the continuing trend toward big data, but its a good one. As the white paper points out, self driving cars and the associated control systems will generate terabytes of data – at the least – and it’ll have to be effectively gathered, processed and stored, if cities want to continue to manage their streets.