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How Driverless Cars Are Going To Change Cities

As the arrival of driverless cars gets closer, cities are scrambling to get ready. As they host test fleets of robot vehicles and figure out how to rework ordinances to prepare for the autonomous future, they’re imagining what life is going to be like when the streets are filled with cars that can largely think for themselves. Driverless cars won’t be replacing all human-driven cars overnight, meaning an awkward mix of robots and humans sharing roadways. One of the open questions about how the technology will ultimately be used is whether robot vehicles will be more like a public utility, with cities deciding where and when the vehicles operate, or whether these vehicles will be more akin to chauffeured cars operated by private fleets. Some cities have as much as 30% of land devoted to cars for roads and parking, according to Brooks Rainwater, director of the Center for City Solutions at the National League of Cities. In a future with driverless cars, the resident might decide to send each child to those activities in separate robot cars while using another vehicle to run the family errands. Richard Florida, an expert in urban planning and a professor at the University of Toronto, expects that autonomous cars will push the poor from middle suburbs out to exurbs, because the ease of using the cars will lure wealthy people to move to suburbs that haven’t seen reinvestment in more than a generation.

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