Big cities should ban self-driving cars

Basic positions for automated driving

The car of the future will be able to move independently in traffic. For the City of Vienna, the question arises as to how automated driving can help ensure that Vienna remains one of the most livable cities in the world.

It is only a matter of time before fully automated driving becomes widespread.

What could urban mobility then look like? Will there be more or less car traffic? What effects will this development have on public space in the city? Who will think for us in traffic in the future and which moral concepts will accompany us? These questions about the future topic of "autonomous driving" will be discussed by the City of Vienna in a policy paper.

Viennese answers to automated driving

Vienna is already one of the most livable cities in the world by international standards. It is now a matter of taking on a pioneering role in the matter of mobility. It is only a matter of time before fully automated driving will also become widespread in Vienna. However, a few more steps have to be set in order to create a mobility system that is acceptable to everyone and committed to the common good.

Basic positions and need for regulation

While the technological development is driven by the vehicle and IT industry, it is the task of the public sector to pay attention to the effects and side effects.

Space and efficiency

A sustainable transport system has to deal with the scarce public space in a highly efficient manner.

What applies to urban development also applies to the transport system. The limited space must be used as efficiently as possible. This is especially true for traffic at rush hour. Public transport on the main axes is unbeatable in this regard. The high-performance axes of public transport are therefore irreplaceable because of their energy and space efficiency.

Basic positions of the city

  • Focus on peripheral locations and connections between the main axes
    Autonomous services can be attractive and demand-oriented offers for suburban areas and the "last mile" (as a feeder to the subway and residential address). In peripheral locations, self-driving shared taxis are intended to complement and support public transport. Demand-oriented mobility services could also create added value on connections where larger vehicles are not economical due to low overall demand, such as across main axes.
  • Incentives to have a high degree of occupation
    The number of people per vehicle is an enormous lever for avoiding traffic jams, energy consumption and emissions. Therefore, ridesharing solutions, i.e. the use of free seats by passengers, are to be further expanded by the city. These are economically and ecologically sensible.
  • Cooperation in the region
    Vienna strives for sustainable settlement structures in the entire city region. A region of short distances is ecologically and socially beneficial.
  • Demand for permanent parking spaces is falling
    Automated car sharing fleets spend more time on transportation services than idle parking. With a constant mileage, the size of the fleet and the space requirement decrease.
  • Public room
    Self-driving cars move according to the rules, defensively and with low emissions. This opens up new opportunities for attractive public spaces for strolling, chatting and playing.


Autonomous vehicles have to cope with conventional road users.

Self-driving cars may only be registered in Vienna if they can be shown to drive significantly safer than humans.

Basic positions of the city

  • Intrinsic safety has priority
    Autonomous vehicles must also be able to deal with partial system failures or bad weather.
  • Safety in mixed traffic
    Self-driving cars have to get along with conventional road users. Especially with non-automated vehicles in mixed traffic as well as with cyclists and pedestrians. There should be no new obligations for them, such as carrying devices that could make them more easily recognized by the autonomous vehicles.


With electricity and without a driver on the road in the future.

The self-driving car will not suddenly appear on our streets. The development takes place in several stages. This has an impact not only on traffic planning, but also on spatial planning and parking space management. The fact is: public space is there for everyone.

Basic positions of the city

  • Autonomous vehicles must be able to handle the existing traffic control systems and traffic signs.
  • There should be no new, elaborately manufactured infrastructure facilities in public space in order to compensate for the weaknesses of self-driving cars that still exist in transition phases. This is to be done through further technological development on the vehicle itself.
  • Autonomous vehicles cannot rely on public infrastructure to enable them to drive safely. That is their own task, also in terms of liability law. Automated vehicles adapt to public spaces, not the other way around.
  • International standardization must not be at the expense of road maintenance.
  • Barriers caused by traffic infrastructures in urban areas should not increase.

Traffic control

Test drive with autonomous e-buses in the Seestadt aspern

Algorithms are increasingly deciding which route a vehicle will take to get to its destination. Therefore, traffic control will be more data-based in the future. In addition to established control techniques such as prohibitions and requirements as well as the design of street spaces, there are incentive systems. This expanded repertoire enables a more accurate control of the traffic. Automation and digitization will make this easier to implement and use for everyone involved in the future.

Basic positions of the city

  • Data-based control requires data
    • Autonomous vehicles generate a lot of data about road and traffic conditions, routes and travel times. These data must be anonymized and accessible free of charge to the public sector for planning and traffic control purposes.
    • With automated driving, democratically legitimized transport, environmental and economic policy objectives are to be pursued.
  • Routing is based on the system optimum
    • The choice of route is crucial. There should be no secret routes through residential areas or school locations.
    • The advantages of the existing high-performance axes of public transport are to be used
    • Overload conditions should be recognized in advance and minimized. Ideally, the networked navigation systems of the autonomous vehicles communicate their routing via an interface to the Vienna traffic control center. Particular attention is paid to data protection-compliant solutions.
  • Better quality of life and a cleaner environment are possible without having to do without
    For this, automated vehicles must have a carbon-free drive and have a high occupancy rate. They must be used in addition to, not in competition with, existing high-performance public transport axles. However, if the kilometers traveled were to increase massively, these very positive effects would be overcompensated and turned into the opposite.

Citizens' Dialogue in April 2019

A dialogue day was held in Vienna in April 2019. 100 Viennese were invited to jointly discuss the topic of "Automated Mobility".

It turned out that the participants in Vienna were more positive about the topic, but only provided that there were noticeable improvements in road safety and clear rules for handling data. The results of the event made it clear that a mere conversion from conventional to automated private cars cannot be the solution to our challenges in the mobility sector. Preferences for future scenarios based on public transport or new sharing offers were clear.

The format also took place in other cities in the country and around the world. In Austria, the event was coordinated by AustriaTech. In order to enable international comparability, the topics were coordinated.

Additional information

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