Back from the future. A backcasting on autonomous vehicles in the real city

Keywords: backcasting, scenario, planning, transition, autonomous vehicles


Backcasting is a scenario-building technique that can help decision-makers face uncertain and complex dynamics. For this reason, backcasting is often mentioned as suitable to deal with the transition to autonomous driving. However, at present the applications of backcasting to this transition in real-world cases are quite few. The article presents a backcasting carried out in the city of Turin (Italy), aimed at defining a policy pathway to steer the transition to autonomous driving towards objectives of sustainability and liveability of the city and its neighbourhoods. It reflects on this exercise and highlights some critical issues for backcasting that emerged from its application to autonomous vehicles (AVs). The transition to AVs displays some issues that proved to challenge the effectiveness and the potentialities of implementation of backcasting. These are mainly related to: factors and levels of uncertainty, contextualization of the vision, involvement of relevant stakeholders, definition of the policy pathway. Nevertheless, the exercise showed that some solutions can be adopted to deal with these challenges, in terms of definition of background socioeconomic scenarios, combination of a range of participatory techniques, integration of collaborative and think-tank methodologies, reference to mid-term planning tools. These solutions can support further backcasting exercises for AVs.


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Author Biographies

Luca Staricco, Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning (DIST), Politecnico di Torino

Associate professor of Urban and regional planning at the Interuniversity Department of Regional and urban studies and planning of Politecnico and Università di Torino, Italy. He teaches "Regional planning" and "Transport / land use planning". His main areas of research are the integration of land use and transport planning, transit oriented development, sustainable mobility, urban resilience and adaptation to climate change. On these issues he has published in various international journals and participated in national and international research projects.

Elisabetta Vitale Brovarone, Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning (DIST) Politecnico di Torino

Postdoctoral research fellow in Spatial Planning at the Politecnico di Torino, Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning (DIST). Her research focuses on mobility, land use-transport interaction and accessibility, with various approaches, at different scales, in urban and rural contexts. She also dealt with resilience, governance and local development in rural and mountain areas. On these topics, she authored several publications, has had professional experiences and took part to national and international research projects.

Jacopo Scudellari, Independent researcher

Research analyst on urban mobility, transport policies and automotive industry. He was formerly as a research fellow in Urban and regional planning at the Politecnico di Torino (Italy) where he collaborated to the international research project funded by Politecnico di Torino, "Governing the socio-spatial impacts of autonomous vehicles".


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How to Cite
StariccoL., Vitale BrovaroneE., & ScudellariJ. (2020). Back from the future. A backcasting on autonomous vehicles in the real city. TeMA - Journal of Land Use, Mobility and Environment, 13(2), 209-228.