Car Industry

When it comes to self-driving cars, not all cities are created equal

A new study from Inrix ranks the cities best prepared for the coming onslaught of autonomous vehicles.

The US has a very rough national regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles, so for now, it's largely up to the states to figure it out. Of course, that means some cities are better suited for self-driving cars than others.

A new study from Inrix, which provides traffic analytics and other related services, ranks the 10 cities that it believes are best suited for the introduction of autonomous vehicles. Those cities are, in order: New Orleans, Albuquerque, Tucson, Portland, Omaha, El Paso, Fresno, Wichita, Las Vegas and Tulsa.

Now, that might be a strange list to you, because none of the cities mentioned have been in the news touting their willingness to accept self-driving cars. You usually hear about different urban centers, like Detroit, San Francisco or Pittsburgh. But Inrix has a method to its madness.

This block-by-block heat map provides a much smarter solution than saying, "Oh, just leave some autonomous cars downtown, I'm sure they'll get used."

Inrix

Inrix looked at one year's worth of travel in the 50 most populous US cities. After analyzing trips within a 25-mile radius of each downtown center and comparing that against wider-range regional trips, it set a baseline of how much travel takes place exclusively within the city. It used that metric to formulate its score, along with data related to parking and demographics.

To provide an example of its services in action, Inrix created a block-by-block heat map of Austin, Texas, in order to determine where autonomous vehicles would be most effective, whether its intent is to reduce parking congestion or generally improve mobility options for citizens.

This data is useful for more than ranking cities and writing news articles. Cities can utilize Inrix's findings to help localize mobility efforts, spending money where it will be most effective. It can help cities establish regulations or suggest the most successful deployment spots for private companies entering the car-sharing space.

We're still years away from actually deploying fleets of autonomous vehicles for use by the public. But as more companies begin testing self-driving cars on public roads, whether it's an automaker or a private firm, it helps to have a solid plan of attack in place.

Now playing: Watch this: Smarter Driver: Who needs self-driving cars the most?
2:59