A solid “yes” according to most people who responded to Commonplace during the GATEway autonomous vehicle trials in Greenwich. Overall 79% of the respondents viewed autonomous vehicles as a very positive opportunity for them and their neighbourhood. 3,000 people engaged in the discussion, and over 21,000 visited the Commonplace websites.
The reasons behind this astonishingly high level of optimism? 39% of those that left comments on our Greenwich heatmaps cited safety benefits for pedestrians and 53% highlighted environmental benefits. But the biggest reason was simple: convenience. People thought that autonomous vehicles would make roads less congested as well as their lives easier and more flexible.
Convenience means different things to different people. For some, it means reducing the time stuck in traffic. For others, the opportunity to do something more constructive when in transit. And for some, it was about nights out – getting to and from the pub.
Recording people’s sentiment and feedback on a Commonplace Heatmap reveals important patterns. For example, around road bottlenecks, people thought that autonomous vehicles would reduce traffic congestion by improving the efficiency of flow. In areas where public transport is less regular, they hope that it will make it easier to get around.
But in the vicinity of complex road junctions, some people wanted to see for themselves how autonomous vehicles would cope. They would like evidence that the technology can solve the specific problems of their local area.
So, living in an autonomous city could be great, as long as the robots understand what makes your neighbourhood tick.
The GATEway project was funded by Innovate UK and run by a consortium of large and small partners including TRL, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, 02 and the Royal College of Art. The full learning from the project will be available in the coming months.
Read more about the autonomous vehicle project: