Bloomberg Philanthropies and Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation
In Collaboration with
National League of Cities
Joint Venture with
Star City Group

We created scenarios to help mayors use AVs to drive policy goals that improve life for people.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will transform cities, but how? Will AV manufacturers and private entities run roughshod over local government? Will Governments overreact and attempt to severely constrain technology on their streets? What are the potential upsides if local government works to actively shape the deployment of AVs?

AV booklet covers

Our scenarios combine technological opportunity, human need, and governmental/market reality to bring a pro-urban AV future to life. Building off the extensive research conducted as part of our Primer and Global Atlas of AVs, we explored the possibilities across a range of vehicle types, from small deliverybots up to buses.

We complimented the technological perspective with a focus on human needs and experiences by examining AV possibilities through the eyes of residents represented by a ‘focus group from the future.’

Our emerging hypotheses were then road-tested against the policy priorities and realities of governing, using the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative’s cohort of ten global cities as a wellspring of perspective on these topics.

Devices x People x Priorities = Scenarios

Scenario matrix

In each of six scenarios we show how the technology could meaningfully change everyday life as well as exploring the systemic, economic, and governmental implications. They were crafted as solutions that provide compelling benefits to individuals. We then showed how those solutions can scale up to urban systems, including potential tailwinds and points of conflict.

Scenario arc diagram

The scenarios are presented online at where each is told through journalistic stories that explore the challenges and potential responses at scale. The stories are available for reading online and are also presented in Powerpoint format, the native language of government, for internal use by city employees as they work on AV-related policy.

Each scenario is accompanied by a richly illustrated story that explains the pro-urban AV concepts through a glimpse of the daily life of residents of future cities. Take Microtransit Mesh, for instance, which is a story of how privately operated autonomous shuttles might be networked together into an overlapping ‘mesh’ of transit options open to all. You can see it on the website here.

Illustrations by Kristin Boydstun
Illustrations by Kristin Boydstun

In addition to the research and development of scenario content and the creation of the online resource described above, we supported the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative by developing innovation briefings and bespoke workshops for city leadership and employees from ten cities. These workshops were designed to familiarize staff with the possibility space of AVs, enhance their ability to use AVs to further city goals, and to ‘roadtest’ our scenario content while it was still in development. A version of this workshop was later recreated for a wider audience at Urban X.

Mockup of a Policy briefing cover