Autonomous cars are coming, and with them comes the promise of a future that's safer and healthier for all. These are the most compelling visual arguments for that future that I've seen yet. A new study, "Making Better Places: Autonomous vehicles and future opportunities", explores how self-driving vehicles will help transform where we live, from the physical improvements on the street to larger societal and economic impacts. While there have been plenty of predictions about the many benefits of autonomy, namely from the reduction in car ownership, it's been difficult to envision what those changes might actually look like. The authors of this study — from two British architecture, planning and engineering firms Farrells and WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff — are able to break down the infrastructural changes block-by-block.
No permanent parking is required for streets, opening up more space for pedestrians and bikes
Most of the discussion around self-driving cars is about the changes that will happen in urban, densely populated areas. It's true that cities will have the opportunity for the greatest impact from self-driving cars. But I am most impressed with these images because they also incorporate the changes that will happen in suburban neighbourhoods and even rural areas. As you can see from these images, the benefits to society will be nearly universal. You can watch as self-driving cars eliminate the need for street signs, and parking lots magically make way for parks. The "after" images just look like better places to live.
Almost all highway infrastructure can be removed and lanes can be significantly reduced, since cars can travel closer together at higher speeds
Smaller cities will see better connectivity with urban centres, allowing people to commute more efficiently to jobs, and freeing up space in suburban areas normally used for parking
On residential streets, garages are no longer necessary and footpaths no longer need to be grade-separated for safety, becoming part of the street
Top: Bye cars. All images: Farrells and WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff