Special Issue Call for Abstracts on “Autonomous mobility transitions: socio-spatial dimensions and the role of urban planning and policy”

Special Issue of Cities, the International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning 



Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital technologies are set to transform many facets of society, including the way we travel and interact in cities. Today, AI-driven and Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-enabled fully autonomous vehicles are being introduced into a number of cities around the world.

As automated driving becomes pervasive in cities, profound societal and spatial impacts will be inevitable. An important socio-spatial dimension of automated driving is the likely impact that this new form of mobility will have on the structure of cities and on the configuration of streets and public spaces.

Introducing AVs into existing built-environments and transportation systems could cause major disruptions and worsen problems of unequal access to opportunities, especially if investments needed in providing public transit are diverted into building infrastructure for driverless vehicles.

Moreover, the transition to autonomous mobility will have implications for creating inclusive and age-friendly urban futures. However, to do so, innovative urban development and transportation planning strategies that could leverage autonomous vehicles to respond to the mobility needs of different groups of people, will be critical.

In the logistics and local goods delivery sector, urban planning must respond to new challenges associated with the technology, including planning for the supporting infrastructure such as road and street systems, electric vehicle charging stations and warehousing and bulk-breaking facilities.

Economic impacts, including potential job losses in the transportation sector are also expected because of automation. In addition, fundamental questions regarding the ownership, management and access to data that users of autonomous transport services would generate, need addressing.

Thus, the urban fabric, as well as different groups of people in different parts of the city may be affected differently in the transition to autonomous mobility. How can urban planning and policy respond to the wider socio-spatial implications of autonomous mobility?

Focus of the special issue and themes

This special issue seeks to bring together a collection of critical perspectives on the social and spatial implications of the diffusion of autonomous vehicles in cities. In particular, the special issue will seek to publish contributions that stimulate debates and improve our understanding of how urban planning and policy can respond to this potentially disruptive technology as it intersects with cities. The contributions can be empirical, theoretical and methodological.
Topics can include (but are not limited to):

  • autonomous mobility and urban spatial structure
  • affordability, equity and inclusivity implications of autonomous mobility
  • accessibility implications of autonomous vehicles for motorized travel
  • accessibility implications of autonomous driving for different age groups including children, young adults, people in old age, and for individuals with disabilities and the urban poor
  • implications of autonomous driving for vulnerable road users, including cyclists and pedestrians
  • implications of autonomous mobility for mass transit in cities
  • possible travel behaviour changes around driverless vehicles
  • governance of autonomous mobility transitions
  • the nexus between autonomous mobility and public health
  • privacy and security concerns around autonomous vehicles
  • the nexus among autonomous vehicles, emerging mobility concepts (e.g. shared-mobility, mobility-as-a-service) and urban sustainability
  • autonomous mobility transitions and employment in the city
  • urban planning implications of automation in freight movement in the logistics sector

Abstract submission guidelines

Interested authors are invited to submit an abstract (maximum 400 words), describing the rationale, methods, data and expected results of their papers. Please email your abstracts to ransfordantwi.acheampong@manchester.ac.uk The deadline for abstract submission is July 31, 2019.

Important dates

Abstract submission deadline: July 31, 2019

Decision on abstract proposal: September 13, 2019

Manuscript submission deadline (6,000 – 8,000 words): February 29, 2020

Reviewers’ Feedback: May 31, 2020

Revised paper’s submission deadline: August 30, 2020

Reviewers’ final feedback and editorial decisions: September 30, 2020

Final manuscript due: October 30, 2020

Publication with Cities: January 2021

Guest editors

Ransford A. Acheampong—University of Manchester, UK [ransfordantwi.acheampong@manchester.ac.uk]

Federico Cugurullo—Trinity College Dublin, Republic of Ireland [cugurulf@tcd.ie]

Luca Staricco— Politecnico di Torino, Italy [luca.staricco@polito.it‎]

Elisabetta Vitale Brovarone —Politecnico di Torino, Italy [elisabetta.vitale@polito.it‎]


Prof Pengjun Zhao

For more information about the aims of the journal and submission guidelines please see


New research article looks at how we can determine whether people will use self-driving cars through sharing, ownership or public transit

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) have the potential to make motorized transport safer and more sustainable, by integrating clean technologies and supporting flexible shared-mobility services. Leveraging this new form of transport to transform mobility in cities will depend fundamentally on public acceptance of AVs, and the ways in which individuals choose to use them, to meet their daily travel needs.

Empirical studies exploring public attitudes towards automated driving technologies and interest in AVs have emerged in the last few years. However, within this strand of research there is a paucity of theory-driven and behaviourally consistent methodologies to unpack the determinants of user adoption decisions with respect to AVs. In this paper, we seek to fill this gap, by advancing and testing four conceptual frameworks which could be deployed to capture the range of possible behavioural influences on individuals’ AV adoption decisions.

The frameworks integrate socio-demographic variables and relevant latent behavioural factors, including perceived benefits and perceived ease of use of AVs, public fears and anxieties regarding AVs, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control, and attitudinal factors covering the environment, technology, collaborative consumption, public transit and car ownership.

We demonstrate the utility and validity of the frameworks, by translating the latent variables into indicator items in a structured questionnaire, and administering it online to a random sample of adult individuals (n = 507). Using the survey data in confirmatory factor analyses, we specify and demonstrate scale reliability of indicator items, and convergent and discriminant validity of relationships among latent variables.

Ultimately, we advance four measurement models. These theory-grounded measurement models are intended for application in research aimed at understanding and predicting (a) AV interest and adoption intentions, and (b) user adoption decisions regarding three different AV modes: ownership, sharing and public transport.

Read full article at (link)



Setting the scene: How will technology transform spatial structure and mobility in cities?

Alongside the legacies of the automobile, new forms of technology and innovation continue to emerge and intersect with urban spaces…..

Most of us live and conduct our daily activities in cities. Fundamentally, cities are the product of our desire to interact with others. This interaction may take several forms,  such interactions among individuals that over time give rise to social networks, and interaction between businesses and their customers.

In order to realize the basic human desire to stay connected,  and the additional socio-economic benefits it brings, we put up buildings, some for use as shelter and others to accommodate activities which serve different purposes and needs. As population increases so does the number of buildings serving different needs. 

We innovate and build sophisticated systems, including infrastructure systems such as roads, railways and streets to facilitate easy movement between the locations of the various land use activities. 

From these individual elements emerge the overall structure of the city, which we can define simply as the configuration of land use activities and the functional linkages among them that give rise to spatially anchored flows and interactions.

What is really fascinating is that the emergent structures of cities are a function of several processes that involved many actors, including individuals, households, businesses and public sector institutions. There are land and property market processes involving transactions, acquisitions and the construction of physical structures from which our built-environments become manifest. The location and magnitude of physical development realizable and the overall character of the built-environment in any given context are subject to a number of factors. Depending on the context,  spatial planning would have a profound impact on built-environments by providing a framework of plans, policies and strategies, and enforceable codes, standards and regulations intended to shape development towards desired outcomes.

The planning system has not been the only force shaping urban built-environments and the emergent structure of cities. There are other more fundamental factors too. Historically, advances in technology and innovation have had profound impacts on the way we design and build cities.

The diffusion of the automobile from the 1920s, for example, impacted cities in many ways. Urban streets which were originally built for modes of transport other than the car would be repurposed to accommodate the increasing motorization.

Cars would make it easy for people to overcome longer distances faster than before, implying that individuals could choose to live outside the main built-up areas of the city. Consequently, suburbanization and sprawl would typify many cities. Massive transport infrastructure such as highways would be built to connect sprawling suburban residential areas with city centres.

Alongside the legacies of the automobile, new forms of technology and innovation continue to emerge and intersect with urban spaces. Advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) continue to impact various facets of the city, including its spatial structure and the nature of flows and interaction that occur within it. The internet together with platforms leveraging it, have essentially constricted space, making it easy for us to fulfil our desire to stay connected to and interact with others. With the help of the internet, people can shop online and have their items delivered to them.

Mobile telecommunication technology has given rise to telecommuting—a work arrangement whereby individuals engaged in certain occupations can undertake their work remotely (e.g. from home) without having to travel in the traditional sense to work destinations located elsewhere in the city.  

This does not only have implications for urban land use such as the amount of space dedicated to offices and parking but also on overall travel patterns in the city.

The smart city, the zeitgeist of 21st century urbanism and urban development, is essentially a product of the convergence between the digital and physical worlds. Basically, cities get smarter as they leverage sensing technologies and the electronic data they generate to among other things, improve access and service delivery in transportation, health and education, and to support economic activities and generate economic growth.

In the transportation sector for instance, intelligent transport systems are leveraging ICT and sensing technologies to facilitate the efficient movement of people, goods and services. In recent years, new ICT-enabled mobility concepts such as shared-mobility (i.e. different forms of car-sharing and bike-sharing systems) have also become common in cities.

Yet another innovation that is expected to hit cities soon is artificial intelligence in the form of self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles.

Self-driving cars are undergoing trials in cities across the globe, including One North District in Singapore, Greenwich in the UK, California in the USA and Perth in Australia for deployment in other cities.

All the aforementioned technological innovations will have profound impacts (intended and unintended) on cities. Perhaps, what is interesting from the point of view of research and city planning is that while we can relate to the impacts of technological revolutions in the past, such as the automobile, when it comes to new forms of technology such as artificial intelligence, we do not fully understand what the impacts are going to be.

That said, we can be certain, based on past trends that these technologies will significantly shape urban land use patterns, transportation systems, travel behaviors and patterns of flows and interactions that will emerge in the late 21st century city.

How can we gain a better understanding of the potential impacts, in order to effectively deploy systems to exploit the benefits and minimize the costs? How do we leverage advances in technology to build socially just, environmentally sustainable and economically viable cities?

The purpose of nexusUTM, is to provide a forum for exploring answers to the above questions. We will share ideas based on insights from my research as well as research by others in different urban contexts. Our focus will be on the nexus among urban spatial structure, transportation and technology, and their integrative planning in cities. In doing so, we will touch on themes including urban size and land use patterns, emerging mobility concepts and the human dimension of smart mobility transitions, and the nexus between travel behavior and the built-environment.

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