Smart transportation — electric, autonomous, interconnected and shared — is set to bring dramatic changes to cities around the world in the coming decade. Nations are grappling with how to plan the transition and what approach is best to take.

Israel is advocating active government intervention, according to a 128-page report from its National Economic Council provided to Karma. The report maps out policy choices that will be required to manage the transition, while pointing out benefits and dangers.

By 2030, most vehicles on Israel’s roads will be “materially different” from today, the report says. Shared and autonomous vehicles, bikes and scooters, will transform the urban landscape, with a “dramatic impact on various areas of the economy.”

“Planning and construction, the energy market, state revenues, cost of living, the labor market, safety, public health and more,” will see impact, the report stated.

Road congestion, which currently costs Israel’s economy about $11 billion a year, will be eased as commuters share autonomous services. With fewer cars in the city, vast swathes of urban land dedicated to parking can be used for urban renewal and converted to sidewalks, bike paths and open spaces.

 But these improvements will only occur if people share vehicles and don’t simply replace their existing car with a smart one. Also, increased use of autonomous vehicles risks increased commuting distances and urban sprawl.

The report recommends promoting mass transport and shared mobility services with an emphasis on an early switchover for public systems to electric, smart technology. 

Self-driving cars will enable employees to work more or rest while commuting. Jobs may increase at smart transportation companies, but demand for drivers will fall.

The switch to electric vehicles would cut pollution, which causes more than 1,000 deaths and costs Israel about $4 billion a year, the report says. Noise and fuel leaks into groundwater would decline, and road deaths will fall from the current 300 due to  autonomous driving systems.

As costs decline, adopting smart transportation will cut family costs. The use of shared vehicles will eliminate car purchases, maintenance, fuel and parking.

Health risks

The potential for smart mobility to “do more harm than good” is real. Use of door-to-door mobility services at the expense of walking and cycling may reduce exercise and damage health, as well as harm local commerce.

Public coffers are at risk. Israel’s state revenue from the automobile industry in 2016 was $12 billion, of which two-thirds came from taxes on fuel and vehicle purchases. These revenues would fall with mass adoption of electric vehicles and shared mobility services. Municipal income from parking will also fall.

“An overall smart transport policy is needed, the report concludes, calling for close cooperation between government, municipal and commercial bodies to ensure broad preparation and successful implementation.