Land use changes in cities could have a positive or negative impact on the quality of our cities
Every change in transport technology – from horse carts to coal-powered trains to street cars to automobiles – has a great impact on our cities.
So, what might autonomous-vehicle-induced changes look like? What will be the likely repercussions on mobility?
Renting out road space to other uses
In developed countries, road networks occupy on average 30 percent of the land area of a city.
Theoretically, autonomous vehicles could use road networks more effectively and free up road space. This is assuming that the trip generation rate and population increase remain constant. This space could be used for a new range of social functions, such as street trees, pathways, or bike lanes.
These vehicles may allow for trips that were previously forbidden. This increase in traffic will decrease the ability to use road space for alternative uses.
Parking lots can be turned into social spaces.
The need to park large vehicles in urban areas with high demand will be reduced and possibly eliminated by autonomous cars.
Parking requirements must be changed in these high-value areas. Parking lots can transform the urban core by allowing for more activities to be carried out, such as affordable housing, parks or other high-value activities.
The business uplift that results from increased density is now possible (similar to the agglomeration economy found in cities). It can lead to more transit-oriented and mixed-use development. This will also accelerate the trend of inner-city living.
Redesigning the building and street interfaces
With an autonomous-vehicle-dominated city, buildings and development will have to adapt to new patterns of traffic flow. The facilities and products will have to adjust to new ways of traffic flow.
For sites with high traffic, a custom interface will be required for autonomous vehicles. Areas with lower traffic will not require curbside parking at each development.
This is a great way to use the curbside space differently.
Fuel stations can be converted into land for new uses.
The majority of autonomous vehicles are electric vehicles that charge at their parking spots overnight. Fuel stations won’t be necessary on the street once autonomous cars are dominant in road transport.
The locations will need remedial environmental treatments before they can be converted to other land uses. Once that is done, it will allow for alternative uses of the former fuel station in all neighbourhoods – more convenience stores. Click-and-collect locations online?
It is important to consider the best possible use of such highly visible and accessible sites.
Converting garages in suburban homes
Some visions of pooled/shared auto ownership suggest that we won’t need private vehicles. We will not need to store vehicles and park them in our homes.
Garages could be converted into studios, short-term rentals, or granny apartments.
Theoretically, driveways would also be unnecessary. They could be transformed into front yards with greenery, areas for children to run around and walk to meet neighbours.
If, on the other hand, the area once used for garages or access ways is now available for building, it could accelerate the trend towards larger, environmentally inefficient homes.
Urban sprawl is increasing
As autonomous vehicles become more accessible, they may lead to an increase in urban sprawl. This could lead to a new way of thinking about the importance of being close to major employment centers and the city.