The impact of driverless cars on our cities


As we posted in last week’s Wayfinding Forum, auto companies are now striving beyond the development of self-parking cars. They are building self-DRIVING cars. Whilst the technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, public acceptance and understanding is still in its infancy.

This week, an interesting perspective was offered by The New York Times. The article encourages us to consider that we have the opportunity (and the obligation) to re-shape our cities accordingly.

Of the evolving technology, Ryan Calo from the University of Washington remarks, “what automation is going to allow is repurposing of spaces in cities.” But what exactly does that mean? An article out of Harvard University remarks that as much as one-third of some cities is devoted to parking. Should the location of parking stations become less relevant when cars can take themselves to satellite parking areas, it follows that valuable CBD space would become available for other purposes. It could mean parking lots are converted for other commercial uses, or perhaps demolished to create open public space.

The NY Times article also discusses an initiative termed The Autonomous Intersection Management project from the University of Texas, which imagines cities where traffic lights no longer exist and sensors direct the flow of traffic.

Whilst it appears that science is on track, it is the integration of these vehicles onto our streets (possibly without the need for traffic devices whatsoever) that will pose the next challenge, both to current urban planning protocols and our trust in artificial intelligence.

As this next generation emerges, our question posed last week still stands “are we ready?”

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