Opportunities for Sustainable Urbanism from The Rise of Autonomous Vehicles

The 2018 National Sustainability in Business Conference will be held this week over Thursday 8 and Friday 9 March at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Brisbane. 

Ms Jessica Holz, Senior Ecologically Sustainable Design Engineer at Aurecon joins us at the Conference and will discuss ‘Opportunities for Sustainable Urbanism from The Rise of Autonomous Vehicles’.

The rise of autonomous vehicles at a time of rapid technological and associated behavioural changes, population growth, and pressured natural resources presents exciting opportunities for sustainable urbanism.

Autonomous vehicle technology is advancing quickly, with trials already underway in various Australian cities and international locations. Experts agree that the positive transport safety and environmental benefits of autonomous vehicles will drive their implementation and transform our current notion of transportation. The way people choose to travel and live in our cities will likely change, as will accessibility to employment and other daily essential services. The unprecedented availability of data to transport-users and authorities, as well as advanced transport analytics is highly likely to result in the growth of personalised transport offerings such Mobility as a Service and Demand Responsive Transport. The rise of autonomous vehicles and digitisation in our transport systems could ultimately lead to reduced car ownership, changed land use patterns and greater connectivity which presents valuable opportunities for sustainable urbanism in Australian cities.

Sustainable urbanism stems from the concept of sustainable development, most famously defined in the ‘Brundtland Report’ of 1987 as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. Since then, Australian society has changed. Our social and economic activities occur faster and more frequently than ever before and are becoming increasingly decentralised as technology offers us increased flexibility and mobility. This has led to new sustainability challenges resulting in a broader definition of sustainable urbanism. For the purpose of this paper, we define sustainable urbanism as urban landscapes that are designed and managed for positive health outcomes, preservation of biodiversity, materials efficiency and reduction of harmful emissions. Under this broad definition, issues such as walkability, biophilia (the essential relationship between people and nature), environmental conservation, urban sprawl and climate change mitigation can be addressed.

The rise of the autonomous vehicle presents an extraordinary array of opportunities within this definition of sustainable urbanism. This paper seeks to identify these opportunities via a literature review. Based on the literature and the authors’ industry-based experiences, this paper argues for a model of operation, planning and design for the rise of autonomous vehicles, which would facilitate sustainable urban environments for Australian communities.


Jessica is a Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) and a Chartered Engineer. She works as a Senior Sustainability and Mechanical Engineer at Aurecon in Brisbane and has been part of the design team for a variety of projects including educational, commercial, aviation and health buildings in Australia and New Zealand. Jessica completed her Master of Environmental Management in 2015 at the University of Queensland. Her research centred on green buildings and supporting biodiversity in urban landscapes. She has received several industry awards including the Engineers Australia Young Mechanical Engineer of the Year Award in 2013, the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning (AIRAH) and Heating Future Leader Award in 2012 and the Consult Australia Essay Competition in 2016. She was also a finalist in the Property Council of Australia Future Leader of the Year Award 2015 and Chair of the 2014 AIRAH Pre-Loved Buildings Conference. Jessica published a paper with Dr Thomas Sigler titled ‘Green Urbanism in Australia: An Evaluation of Green Building Rating Scheme’ as part of the State of Australian Cities Conference Proceedings 2015.

View Ms Jessica Holz’s full paper here: Kelly & Holz Sustainable Urbanism & Autonomous Vehicles – Final

Visit the 2018 National Sustainability in Business Conference website  to secure your last minute tickets today!






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