autonomous car
Sep 12, 2019

Satterlund, Blaine, Explore Policies Driving the Autonomous Vehicle Sector Forward

As states and cities look to attract the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry, policies around interconnectedness and integration will be key to attracting companies looking to expand or relocate.

In a Sept. 9 article for Area Development, McGuireWoods Consulting senior vice president, Michele Satterlund and vice president, Benton Blaine, explore how state policymaking affects early adoption of AVs, and how these policies influence the commercial use of AVs.

There are three factors to consider when looking to attract the emerging AV industry – state policy, regulatory landscape and infrastructure planning.

States that have embraced policies that allow for broad utilization of autonomous technologies and have adopted a regulatory landscape open to testing and implementation will be more favorable to AV companies.

“Another key indicator of whether a state is positioning itself as an attractive location for AV companies is long-term infrastructure planning and shovel-ready site development that incorporate the use of autonomous technology and interconnectedness,” the authors said.

To move into commercial AV use, support from company executives and elected officials is key. There are examples of startups utilizing AV technology for deliveries across a company’s campus and the United States Postal Service recently partnered with an automated trucking startup to test long-distance deliveries.

“Such programs require planning for the proper infrastructure, such as dock access that is compatible with autonomous trucks, and distribution centers that are equipped to handle these vehicles,” Satterlund and Blaine noted. “Moreover, because automated trucks can travel round-the-clock and would not be subject to hours-of-service rules, warehouses and distribution centers can be located in more remote geographic locations, freeing up prime property for other opportunities.”

Autonomous vehicles are poised to disrupt the labor force, and several cities see AV’s as the solution to the “last mile challenge.” This opens the door to those with physical limitations to enter the workforce in new ways and allows companies and cities to rethink their urban footprint.

“AVs will reduce the parking spaces needed for office and mixed-use development, opening up millions of square feet in downtown areas. Repurposing parking decks can be expensive, but existing surface parking can provide an immediate source of developable land. The reduced construction costs of these new developments without parking decks may slow the rent appreciation that makes downtown areas cost-prohibitive to many companies,” the authors said.

This will all come with a need for infrastructure investment to streamline AV implementation. Pending legislation in some states show the anticipation of a tax windfall from the technology disruptors, and regulations will influence where and how implementation occurs. 

“The cost and regulation of AV infrastructure and implementation makes it unlikely that the technology will be implemented simultaneously across the U.S.,” Satterlund and Blaine said. “This will allow some communities to pull ahead in the process. These areas have the ability to create new tech clusters, thus anchoring jobs to those areas for decades to come.”