This is a poster that I presented at the TRB workshop on road vehicle automation at Stanford University (15-19 July 2013). Please excuse the poor quality of production, but rather note the concept which generated a reasonable amount of interest amongst those TRB participants who stopped to discuss my poster.
In it I propose that if you follow the business models that result in the inevitable rise of fully automated (NHTSA Level 4) taxi fleets, and combine that with the aspirations of urban planners (reflecting the desires of many mayor's and councillors in major cities) then AVZs are a natural development of the convergence of these streams.
On the poster I assumed that Google would release their technology in 2018, with it being certified safe for unmanned use by 2020 - thus leading to the first AVZ, somewhere in the world around 2023. But in a public session on the Friday, I asked the panel when NHTSA Level 4 technology might be deployed - and Anthony Levandowski of Google referred me to the comments made by Sergey Brin at the California Autonomous Vehicle bill signing ceremony on 25 Sept 2012. At that time Sergey Brin intimated that the Google tech would be in public hands within five years - so in July 2013 we are looking at 2017 - that is 4 years and small change.
In which case, if I am correct with my business models and estimates for market penetration, we might see the first AVZ in 2020. The competitive edge that any city might gain by switching to an AVZ is considerable - not to mention the quality of life, safety and emissions benefits.