Chandler proposes adjustments to city zoning code due to autonomous vehicles

The emergence of autonomous vehicle technology along with a rise in ride-sharing services, has brought about new considerations for the City of Chandler. The city recently revised its zoning code, taking into account the effect that autonomous ride-sharing programs will have on the space needed for traditional parking.

Key players such as Waymo, Olli–an autonomous shuttle service owned by Local Motors–and Intel are also making waves in the valley as they begin testing new technologies. The City of Chandler in particular has become an incubator for autonomous vehicles. Olli and Intel, which both have a presence in Chandler, are expected to fully roll out their programs later this year.

Chandler city planners anticipate that over the next two decades, the shift from personal vehicles to advanced car technologies will be significant.

“Autonomous vehicle technology is very exciting,” said David De La Torre, principal planner for the City of Chandler. “Experts predict it will have the same impact on society as when the automobile was first introduced. For Chandler to be one of the first, if not the first, to amend its zoning code really demonstrates that the City of Chandler is a pioneer in paving the way for this new transportation technology and open for business to the autonomous vehicle industry.”

On May 10, the Chandler City Council approved changes to the city’s zoning code inspired by the shift toward autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing programs. The changes will become effective on June 9. Chandler is the first Arizona municipality to amend its zoning code in order to uniquely accommodate autonomous vehicles. The zoning amendment encourages new developments to include designated drop-off and pick-up areas for autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing programs. The inclusion of these zones will allow a project to reduce its required parking by up to 40 percent.

The potential impact of autonomous vehicles and a shift toward a city built to utilize them is certainly appealing to many Chandler residents, especially business owners and developers in the downtown area. A city designed to move autonomous vehicles provides opportunities for more people to visit downtown Chandler safely and efficiently, boosting the already invigorated area. “Regionally this move reinforces Chandler, and Phoenix in general, as the Silicon Valley of the desert,” De La Torre said.

Chandler residents will not see drastic changes right away, but De La Torre said that as people become more dependent on these technologies the changes will ramp up and developers will begin to take advantage of the options available to them through the modernized zoning code. As these changes take place over time, Chandler city planners will continue to conduct parking demand studies to determine how best to adapt to the quickly changing landscape.


Ava Montoya

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