Principles for Autonomous Urbanism

Sarah Kaufman

The promises of autonomous vehicles in cities are clear – but so are the challenges. While they show incredible potential for moving both people and goods – from providing mobility for populations underserved by public transit to creating safer traffic conditions – without incentives, regulations, and proper preparation, cities may not reap these benefits. 

This document, developed with stakeholders in the public, private, and advocacy sectors, aims to outline how policymakers, industry, and stakeholders can mitigate challenges and pursue opportunities to collectively unlock the positive benefits of AVs for cities. To identify specific principles that are applicable to a range of U.S. cities, Nuro and the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation brought together five working groups of practitioners, policymakers, advocates, and industry leaders between September 2022 and January 2023. These participants hailed from cities large and small, as well as from suburbs and state authorities, representing public, private, and non-profit sectors. Taken together, the discussions produced a set of ten principles that can be applied to cities of all sizes when introducing autonomous vehicles.


Ten Principles for Autonomous Urbanism:

  1. Engage early and often.
  2. AV companies should work with cities to help improve urban infrastructure to serve all residents and users. 
  3. Communication with first responders is critical.
  4. AV deployment should lead to safer streets, not stranded assets. 
  5. Rigorous safety standards must be met.
  6. Data-driven decision-making is valued.
  7. AVs should lead the conversion to zero-emission vehicles and support public transit.
  8. AVs should be efficient users of space. 
  9. Workforce gains should be maximized through public-private collaboration.
  10. Economic opportunities and access to services should be equitable. 

These principles are intended to inform urban plans in advance of the introduction of new transportation modes. They should assist cities in strategically aligning with their needs and goals of safety, sustainability, accessibility, equity and livability – while also fostering innovation. Furthermore, these principles should offer a framework for public-private partnerships that will help to increase availability of safer, cleaner, and more efficient transportation options, and the infrastructure to support them.


This work was sponsored by Nuro, an autonomous, electric vehicle company focused on providing a convenient, eco-friendly alternative for last-mile goods delivery. 

Additional support was provided by NYU C2SMART, a USDOT Tier 1 University Transportation Center.

Nuro vehicle and users
Wagner Faculty
Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management