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Interesting article and interesting take on it by yourself, Jarrett. Curiously absent from much of the debate on "driverless" technology is the knock-on effect on landuse. You hint at it through the assertion that street are more than just a conduit for vehicles; they are the most commonly encountered public places. Imagine if every steet – main street, side street, or back street – was maxed out with moving vehicles. Yuck! Moreover, the impact that this technology could have on land use would be similar to that during the advent of the private car and relatively sudden provision of a huge amount of road space in the mid twentieth century. The car allowed for huge economic decentralisation, initially of wealthy people then subsequently for businesses and essential services. Will this happen again with driverless cars? I don't see why not. The road infrastructure is there waiting to facilitate this mass re-suburbanisation. Unlike with the fixed routing of mass transit and rail transit in particular, driverless taxis will have no fixed routing. There will be no particular node for land use intensification. The idea of mini-downtowns emerging around transport hubs will diminish as all land will be more or less fair game. Of course, planning controls can prevent unsustainable development patterns. These controls, however, have a habit of being implemented a little too late in many instances. What will be important is that governments must realise that driverless technology will be at best a supplement to established mass transit options – heavy rail, LRT, BRT, and of course the humble bus. Not to mention cycling and walking. The danger is that driverless taxis could be seen as an excuse not to invest in these traditional transport options. Sound familiar? Before we know it we could live in a world that is just as car dependent as the late twentieth century in the western world. Just replace gas-guzzlers with greenwashed driverless EVs. The landuse and social implications will be more or less the same.
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Jun 21, 2015