Abstract: Ideally, theefficiency of self-driving vehicles will result in fewer cars on the road, butan overall increase in utilization. Experts estimate there will be up to an 80%reduction of the number of cars on any given highway. The efficiency ofself-driving cars will result in shorter travel times, less congestion in urbanenvironments, and a greatly reduced environmental impact as well. Largequantities of urban land currently used for parking lots and roads have endlesspotential to be reinvented with social utility as the priority.
They can betransformed into living spaces, parks, commercial ventures, etc. Thebiggest impact on cities may not be the automation of personal vehicles as weknow today, but rather the automation of all the other vehicles that arenecessary to support cities. Significant amounts of space are taken up by trashtrucks, delivery vehicles, trailers, taxis, and so on. The removal of thesevehicles from the everyday cycle of life would relieve a tremendous amount ofthe burden on traffic as well as creating a friendlier atmosphere forpedestrians.
The reduction in cars will revolutionize city centers as well assuburbs. In the city, automated mass transit systems combined with the removalof significant numbers of vehicles and parking facilities will open up anabundance of high value urban land previously unusable and often unattractive. Parkingwill be relocated to indoor locations and primarily outside of the city center.
The parking garages that do remain in core parts of the city will be vastlymore efficient. They will be able to store up to 60% more vehicles due tosmaller lanes, parking spots, and increased maneuverability. In the suburbs,the safety of autonomous vehicles will create a much less hostile environmentand will lead to more walking spaces as well as common spaces that arecurrently dominated by vehicles. Accordingto AARP, more than 36 million elderly citizens have a valid driver’s license.
Over 80% of these elderly citizens live in areas that rely on individualtransportation methods to carry out everyday life. This segment of thepopulation is not typically mentioned or researched with regard to theautonomous vehicle industry. However, it has the potential to be a sizeablemarket within the industry, and the population is growing rapidly. For example,there is a retirement community in Florida with over 70,000 residents andhundreds of miles of roads and cart paths that would benefit greatly fromself-driving vehicles.
This would be an excellent testing environment as well.The community is self-contained and the vehicles would not have any need tooperate at more than 30 miles per hour. Onemajor disadvantage that is predicted to accompany the spread of self-drivingcars, is urban sprawl. These vehicles will negate the most inconvenient factorof not living in the core of cities; the time it takes to get there. Cityplanners and officials need to factor this in when discussing new legislature.When self-driving cars are able to operate at their predicted potential, thecurrent 3-hour drive from San Antonio to Houston will be reduced to 45 minutes.
This level of accelerated transportation has far reaching potentialconsequences that will add on to the already widespread issue of urban sprawl. Anotheroften overlooked issue on the subject is infrastructure. The effect oninfrastructure needs to be addressed and researched. Streets comprise anywherefrom 25-35% of the land area in any given city.
At the end of the day, theextent of the technological advancement we are able to implement relies on theinfrastructure we will be using them on. The current highway and road systemswere not designed with this revolution in mind. The continuous use ofautonomous vehicles at higher speeds will result in much greater wear and tear.As is true for most modern revolutions, this is all dependent on engineers.
They build the world, and as a result, they create the parameters for the restof civilization to operate within. Safetyhas been one of the most highly discussed impact of self-driving vehicles.After the owner of a Tesla Model S was killed in 2016 while his autopilot modewas engaged, a media storm attacking the safety of self-driving cars descendedon the industry. Studies across the board show that despite having a long wayto go, the current technology existing for autonomous vehicles has alreadygreatly surpassed the level of safety we currently have with the wheel in ourown hands.
Exceeding the speed limit was only responsible for 5% of accidentson British roads. 47% of accidents were caused by a combination of failing tolook properly and failing to judge the other person’s speed properly.Car-to-car sensors and communication between self-driving cars that are alreadyin use can reduce this type of accident by more than 90%.
This number willcontinue to diminish as more and more self-driving cars enter the drivingforce. Asthe internet of things and the world of data becomes increasingly connected,the need for warehouses is being reduced. Complex supply chain data is beingused to efficiently move goods straight from production, to shipping vehicles,and right to your front door, all without ever spending time in an intermediarywarehouse. As both autonomous vehicles and the study of supply chain progressin the future, goods will be manufactured and delivered with complete autonomy.When this process is no longer reliant on human time restraints, not only willit be much more efficient, it has the potential to be much more discreet.
Autonomous vehicles delivering cargo could operate strictly on the mostindustrial routes, as well as making the majority of delivery runs during thenight. Rivers and waterfronts used to serve as the industrial highways of ournation and the world, but now we view them in a more pastoral light. Once webegin to use and view roadways differently, a similar shift may occur withinour cities. This would transform how we design roadways, and open up citycenters, parkways, and riverfronts for human passengers.
Autonomousvehicles have the potential to reshape city planning and real estatedevelopment on a level that will rival that of the introduction of the car aswe know it. Although many believe that a new era of specialized buildings andinfrastructure will accompany the self-driving vehicle revolution hand in hand,the most logical solution will likely be reutilizing existing spaces to betterserve cities and their residents. Moving parking out of cities will createopportunities to increase the livability of dense urban areas. Designs forgarages of the future focus on mixed use including both commercial andresidential, while emphasizing a more efficient but reduced need for parkingspace.