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Autonomous Vehicles in Tempe: Opportunities and Risks


Center for Smart Cities and Regions

City of Tempe Technology and Innovation Steering Committee (TISC) Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Subcommittee


The purpose of the City of Tempe TISC AV Subcommittee is to understand the current and possible future use of AVs in Tempe.  The subcommittee is partnering with Arizona State University’s Center for Smart Cities and Regions, led by Dr. Thad Miller, to help facilitate conversation with AV companies, smart city experts and the public. Dr. Miller and his students explored the potential future of AVs in Tempe and how AVs could support or provide challenges to achieving the Council’s strategic priorities, such as 20-minute city, increased mobility through traffic reduction, increased access for people with disabilities or increased safety through a reduction of fatal and serious car crashes. The subcommittee met with experts, other cities, and AV companies to outline policy considerations and pilot projects that could further define what investments and ordinances may be necessary to ensure appropriate and safe integration of AVs into Tempe’s infrastructure and communities.

AVs present Tempe and other cities with both opportunities and risks. Opportunities to rethink how people, goods, and vehicles move around our city in ways that improve communities and enhance sustainability. Risks include uncertainties around vehicle and roadway safety, transparency and trust between local governments and industry, and implications for other infrastructure systems, including public transit use. This report reviews how AVs might impact Tempe’s Strategic Priorities, including: 

  1. safe and secure communities
  2. strong community connections
  3. quality of life
  4. sustainable growth and development
  5. long-term financial stability and vitality


The City of Tempe has been at the forefront of the deployment of AVs. AVs present significant opportunities and risks for the Tempe community by offering the opportunity to rethink how people and things move around our community. As such, autonomous vehicles could catalyze community connectivity, economic development, and sustainable practices. Yet, as the fatal collision involving an Uber self-driving car in March 2018 highlighted, this new technology carries new volatility and uncertain public expectations.

The report recommends the Mayor and Council:

  1. Request support to create a Smart Mobility Playbook
  2. Support autonomous vehicle and smart mobility partnerships and pilot projects
  3. Continue to invest in Transportation Master Plan and national best practices in transportation planning
  4. Advocate for smart mobility at regional and state-levels
  5. Continue to follow NLC recommendations

The full white paper can be found here: Tempe AV Report PDF