NASHVILLE — This metropolis is among five cities worldwide chosen for a self-driving cars initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York and the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute.

The program, called the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, includes Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, Paris and Buenos Aires, along with five other cities to be added this year. The cities will have access to data and coaching from urban planners and technologists meant to help them prepare for self-driving cars and use them to address city challenges.

“The advent of autonomous cars is one of the most exciting developments ever to happen to cities -— and if mayors collaborate with one another, and with partners in the private sector, they can improve people’s lives in ways we can only imagine today," former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the CityLab conference for mayors in Miami.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said earlier this year that Tennessee's Davidson County could become a testing ground for self-driving cars as part of a regional push for improved transportation.

Working with ride-hailing companies to connect residents to transit systems has also been discussed by local transportation leaders. Lyft, which has a Nashville office, has partnered with General Motors on implementing self-driving cars into its ride-hailing fleet.

“Nashville is a growing community that's thinking seriously about transportation and mobility, with a city hall that's focused on creative new solutions," James Anderson, who leads Bloomberg Philanthropies' Government Innovation program, said in an emailed statement.

While self-driving vehicles can connect low-income residents to opportunities, they can also increase economic disparities by allowing higher-income residents to live more remotely, according to Raj Chetty, professor of economics at Stanford University. He commended the initiative for involving city leaders with the evolution of self-driving vehicles.

"Ensuring that a shift to driverless cars increases opportunity and improves the lives of urban residents across the world will require carefully designed social and economic policies," he said. "The Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Autonomous Vehicles takes a valuable step in this direction by bringing mayors and city leaders together to discuss these issues."

Los Angeles, Austin, Nashville, Buenos Aires and Paris are the first five cities selected to participate in the self-driving experiments. ( Image : Bloomberg Philanthropies; Janet Loehrke, USA Today)