The urban impact of autonomous cars

Forget the auto industry - self-driving cars will force us to rethink the very way we use urban space, says a new report.

How fast will see-driving cars reshape our urban landscapes?

A new set of predictions suggest that it might be quicker and more dramatic than we think, and it will be because people rapidly shift from car ownership, to use of autofocus car hire – the next ten descendent of Uber and Lyft:

Forty to 60% who are driving today will have an economic rationale to shift to those services.

So says Joe Iacobucci, director of transit for Sam Schwartz, an engineering firm that partnered with Arcadis and HR&A to create the report, and who was interviewed for Fast Company. And he wasn’t shy about making predictions about the impact of that:

“When you look at an average street, in a lot of cases, you could say 25% of the street is actually dedicated to the storage of cars,” he says. “If we need one drop-off space that satisfies 20 parking spaces, we could essentially create on-street bus networks, separated bike lanes, and large pedestrian facilities to make our streets the best practice of a living street.”

In fact, the report goes on to suggest that any new parking garages build from now on should be designed with conversion to other uses in mind. And that seems to be the key message of the report: plan now for the autonomous future and you’ll ensure that your city gets the maximum benefit form it:

“We were very aware that the first time cities met cars, things went well for cars and somewhat less well for cities,” says Jennifer Bradley, director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Aspen Institute. “Now we know a little, and we’re trying to help create a situation in which the conversation and the deployment of this technology is not driven entirely by the companies, but cities and residents are able to more strongly shape the future.”

You can grab the report – called Driverless Future – from the Driverless Future site.

Photo by Lauren Jankowski and used under a creative commons licence.