AAF and Bridgestone Host Forum on Urban Planning, City Design and the Driverless Car

The American Architectural Foundation (AAF), in association with Bridgestone Americas, convened a forum on Thursday, October 15, 2015, to discuss driverless vehicles and how they will impact society, city design and public policy when broadly implemented in urban environments. The invitation-only event was held at the National Press Club in Washington DC. A group leaders in local, state and federal government, as well as city design, transportation, technology, tourism, and finance explored the issues, challenges, and opportunities presented by this fast-approaching new technology. Attending and participating in the forum were:

American Architectural Foundation:

  • Ron Bogle, Hon. AIA President and CEO
  • Elizabeth Okeke-Von Batten Director for Design & the City
  • John Syvertsen Chair, Board of Regents

Bridgestone Americas:

  • Steven Akey Vice President of Government Affairs
  • Christian Gullott Director of Government Affairs,
  • Anant Gandhi Innovation Principal
  • Joey Leslie Innovation Discovery Partner

Special Guests:

  • Gabe Klein Former Commissioner of the Chicago and Washington DC Departments of Transportation, author of Start-Up City, and founder of CityFi
  • Linda Donavan Harper Former Executive Director of Tourism for the District of Columbia
  • Brooks Rainwater Senior Executive and Director, Center for City Solutions for the National League of Cities
  • Brent D. Ryan Associate Professor of Urban Design & Public Policy and Head of City Design and Development Group Center for Advanced Urbanism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Stan Caldwell Executive Director, Traffic21 Institute, Deputy Executive Director, T-SET UTC and Adjunct Associate Professor of Transportation and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Bob Sokol AICP MCIP specializing in City Planning, Sustainability and Community Engagement

“Bridgestone has always been interested in being at the forefront of innovations such as this,” said Anant Gandhi.  “We recognize that vehicle automation is an emerging mega-trend and we need to understand how it will affect society—especially in regard to public policy.”


“We’re heading towards a very automated world very quickly. Just because it’s not here today doesn’t mean it won’t be here tomorrow, ” said keynote speaker Gabe Klein. “But it’s up to us to whether or not this technology changes the way our cities look, physically. I’d like to see us, eventually, take the real estate that’s been devoted to parking in our cities and adaptively reuse that, creating people storage instead of machine storage.”  


By bringing these voices and perspectives together to evaluate driverless cars in the context of comprehensive transportation solutions for cities, the group hopes to lead better decision-making based on thoughtful discussion and experiential learning.

“There’s untapped potential for designing our cities,” Bob Sokol said. “This is a transformational moment.”

The radical collaboration between participating leaders allowed the team to come up with one, three, and 10 year plans to decide the future for this exciting new technology as it relates to each expert’s industry of expertise. Knowing that driverless vehicles will impact cities across the nation, this group has now laid out the groundwork and can take the next steps toward identifying the necessary players for the development of a future strategy and its implementation.


“No one seems to be having these conversations yet, so it was important that we took the lead,” said Ron Bogle from the American Architectural Foundation. “What we are fast approaching with driverless vehicles is the intersection of design, public policy, and technology. AAF is, at its core, about developing strategies that empower people to put forward real cultural change through design. We need to do everything we can to get that piece to catch up to the technology piece – fast. That’s why, along with Bridgestone, we wanted to be among the first to begin this dialogue.”

AAF has big plans in 2017 for increased programming to support thought leadership in and around the realms of transportation and city design, particularly as it related to the ever-growing world of driverless cars. Stay tuned!

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