Citizens’ debate on driverless vehicles: what future for our mobility?

From June 6–1, 2019, Missions Publiques and its partners brought together nearly 700 people in several countries around the world (Singapore, Europe and North America) to air their views on the future of driverless mobility. The aim was to think about how the emergence of driverless transport could affect our lives, and to work together on some likely or desirable scenarios.

The development of driverless vehicles is now well underway and different manufacturers and regions around the world have begun experimenting with prototypes (1). Nonetheless, many citizens find this new technology unfathomable and say that they would not feel safe in a driverless car (2).

In France, the government has made driverless vehicles one of the priorities of its industrial recovery (3). Its strategy aims at better shared, more connected mobility throughout the country. However, for this ambition to be widely endorsed, the real needs of future users must be taken into account. Getting citizens to accept this new technology is also a major challenge: are citizens ready to switch from a collective, trust-based system to another, yet to be invented, based on artificial intelligence? And what about the citizens’ own autonomy?

In an attempt to answer these questions, Missions Publiques and its partners ran a series of citizens’ dialogues, day-long events split into  six sessions and including discussions with elected officials and stakeholders. The participants gradually got to grips with the complexity and vast array of issues at stake with driverless vehicles. This kind of process gives citizens a chance to contribute to the development of public and private strategies, with a real sense of inclusion.

Around fifty questions were asked on several major themes: the benefits expected in our lives, the mobility of people with disabilities, the fear of potential job losses, and third party use of personal data. Participants were able to engage easily in a dialogue, with no fear of being judged – either by family or friends, or by the experts, who were not invited to take part in these debates.

“During the day, we crafted our ideal scenario. Lots of driverless public transport, and self-driving vehicles to hire for short distances. This is how we believe that the city of the future will look.


A participant

The day was organized after taking on-board the lessons learned during the first phase (held in French cities and two American sites in 2018), with support from five partners: Airbus, AllianzMobile Life ForumKeolis and Léonard (Vinci).

The process was designed by an international team led by Missions Publiques and its partner, the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University, with input from international experts in the fields of society and technology, such as Lee Rainie, Director of PEW Research, Laura Brimont from the IDDRI, the team from Cerema (Sylvain Belloche and Cécile Clément), and David Sittenfeld, director of the Boston Museum of Science.

The initial results of these citizens’ dialogues were presented last June at the Movin’On summit in partnership with the city of Montreal, Arizona State University, Keolis, and the Institut du Nouveau Monde , then at the European ITS (Intelligent Transport System) congress in partnership with Keolis, the city of Aachen, ERTICO, and Austriatech, and finally at the SUMP 2019 (sixth European Conference on Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans) meetings in Gröningen.

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