By Paige Cerulli — DAV Editor
As autonomous vehicle technology continues to advance, we get closer to the day when these vehicles will transform intra-city travel. But self-driving vehicles won’t just affect city transportation. They are poised to transform our cities in many different ways, from architecture to real estate prices to even street and parking lot layout.
Parking Industry Overhaul
As autonomous vehicles become a significant form of transportation in cities, they will likely replace taxis, personal vehicles, and potentially other transportation modes, such as buses. This will result in an overhaul of the parking industry.
Currently, the United States has more than 500 million parking spaces, and with good reason — cars spend about 95% of their time parked. But autonomous vehicles will spend more time driving than your typical car, meaning that significantly fewer parking spaces will be required.
Many of today’s parking garages stand to be demolished and repurposed. In fact, any parking garages or facilities being built currently will likely have more of a temporary or versatile design to allow for easier and less expensive repurposing. It’s also possible that satellite self-parking lots intended for autonomous vehicles will be relocated to outlying city land, which is more affordable and in less demand. But city parking won’t go away entirely — instead, cities are likely to incorporate small parking pit stops to accommodate autonomous vehicles during off hours.
One of the benefits to this change is that, with less demand for parking spaces, cities can reintroduce more parks and green spaces. The “concrete jungle” may become less concrete and a bit more natural.
Increased Lobby Importance
With the removal of parking garages, people will start to enter buildings in different ways. Autonomous vehicles will drop more people off at the front of buildings, making lobbies hubs for those entering and exiting. We will likely see a new architectural focus on creating grand entranceways for new apartments, stores, and office buildings, as well as a movement to renovate the entrances of existing structures.
Reduction in Traffic
Faster travel speeds, an increased use of carpooling, and the optimization of road usage thanks to interconnected cars and dedicated lanes will help to reduce city traffic and decrease commute times. In addition to reduced commute times, travel time to-and-from the workplace will become more productive for workers, because autonomous vehicles will leave the passenger free to check email or prepare for their workday.
With a shortened (and more productive) commute time, autonomous vehicles could help anyone who commutes to or in the city to enjoy a better quality of life, thanks to an increase in free time.
Dramatic Shift in Real Estate Demands and Values
While autonomous vehicles will certainly affect city design, they’ll also have a huge impact on the real estate market. Because autonomous vehicles create shortened commute times, this trend will relieve some of the pressure and demand to live in a downtown location. This could prompt reduced real estate prices for condos and apartments in some of the most popular (and most expensive) city locations.
This same shortened commute time — paired with the fact that commuters can work during their commutes, rather than drive — should cause suburban and recreational properties to bring in higher prices. Since commutes will not be such a concern, more residents may prefer to live in the more spacious and scenic properties that are located on a city’s outskirts. This could result in a significant change in the types of urban real estate that are in high demand.
Decreased Private Vehicle Ownership
With autonomous vehicles offering practical and widespread transportation options, private vehicle ownership is likely to decrease. City residents may start to see vehicles as unnecessary and even impractical expenses, especially when autonomous vehicles can offer on-demand transportation that is both convenient and low-cost. This will further contribute to the reduced need for parking within cities.
With a decrease in private vehicle ownership, fewer city residents may bother to obtain driver’s licenses. This trend has already begun to emerge; in 1996, 85% of high school seniors held driver’s licenses. As of 2010, only 73% of high school seniors had driver’s licenses. With younger generations already relying more on public transportation, driver’s licenses could become obsolete in city settings.
Increased Healthcare Accessibility
Autonomous vehicles could transform the healthcare industry in urban areas, too. Patients miss approximately 11 million medical appointments in the United States each year because of insufficient transportation. Using autonomous vehicles to fill this need could increase public access to healthcare, improving public health and altering the way that people access urban healthcare.
Looking to the Future
With countless autonomous vehicle services potentially being offered in a single city, the DAV network will provide a common marketplace for all of these services to reach the consumer. This market will allow the average consumer to choose how they want to travel between home and their workplace, and also incentivize the service providers to compete for market share. Cities will be profoundly reshaped in the coming decades in response to the burgeoning mobile economy, and having a transparent, open network where providers and consumers can connect with one another will ease the transition to this remarkable future before us.