How Will Driverless Cars Improve Your City?


    Jul 19, 2023

    In my previous post, I discussed four direct ways in which autonomous vehicles (AVs) will make your life better. In this one, I pan out a bit to look at how AVs will improve the urban landscape when we take a back seat.

    Space invader

    Consider that 14% of Los Angeles comprises parking lots and that a total of 1 billion parking spaces are dotted around the US, each taking up 31 square meters, including access space.

    However, Transport-as-a-Service (imagine a self-driving Uber that arrives quickly and remembers your preferences), vastly reduced car ownership, and a predicted 80% fewer vehicles on the roads will require far less space for parking lots, roadside parking, and ultimately roads.

    On a global scale, repurposing huge areas of land swallowed up by transport can vastly improve urban quality of life and fulfill burgeoning demand for other uses like parks, play areas, infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, and housing.

    The UK, for example, is reportedly facing a shortage of 4.3 million homes and needs to build an estimated 442,000 homes for the next 25 years to meet demand. The UK isn’t alone – with the world’s population increasing by around 1 billion every 12 years, the demand for housing and space as a whole is at a premium.

    Fewer cars should also require the investment burden in scenarios where parking is required. In the US, for example, building-in minimum parking requirements for a shopping center increases construction costs by up to 67% for above-ground parking, and almost doubles it (93%) for below-ground parking.

    When parking and charging is necessary for AVs, a smarter, more efficient, and automated vehicle stacking system could further maximize released space.

    Image source: me / A vertical car park Shenzhen, April 2023

    Enjoy the silence

    The rise of energy-efficient electric AVs coupled with reduced road congestion and faster-moving traffic will vastly reduce pollution. While I discussed air pollution in my previous post, we can look forward to much quieter cities.

    In fact, the assault of transport noise on your ears can cause significant health issues. According to 2022 report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), 18 million people in the EU are “highly annoyed” and a further 5 million are “highly sleep disturbed” by long-term exposure to transport noise. The report observed that,

    “Because of the large number of people affected, high annoyance and high sleep disturbance due to environmental noise are important drivers of the total burden of disease.”

    Source: EEA

    Avoid the crowds

    If and when you need to go to the office, faster moving traffic where optimized routing and congestion-free roads will mean that you can live farther away from work.

    This may reshape the urban landscape by more evenly spreading population distribution and, alongside WFH, lead to the gradual disappearance of central business districts.

    Cities of the future may or may not take on the Utopian imaginations of artists, but it’s likely the road ahead will be an improvement on today’s urban landscapes.

    If you want to know more about the tech that’s powering AVs, download our Intelligent Automotive Solution 2030 report.

    Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.


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