* Cities will greatly expand, again: Faster and more efficient transportation will convert locations that are currently too remote for most users into feasible alternatives, abundant with space. Like suburban rail in the early twentieth century and the mass consumer automobile that followed, driverless cars will generate a gradual, but dramatic expansion of cities.
* Buildings and parking will be uncoupled, freeing up valuable land: After dropping off passengers, driverless cars will independently seek parking (or their next car-share customers) and they will show up for the return ride at the tap of an app. As soon as driverless cars are common enough, the demand for adjacent parking will dwindle and parking lots in areas where land is sufficiently valuable will be ripe for conversion to other land use. As parking in high-value areas is thinned out or altogether purged, the micro-structure of cities will change – you guessed it – dramatically!
Why Cities will Expand
* Robotics cars can mean no traffic jams and faster travel
Driverless cars will make it less “costly” for people to travel a given geographic distance, partly because they will be free to engage in other activities while travelling, but primarily because of reductions in travel time. Unlike human drivers, autonomous vehicles will follow optimal routes given real-time traffic conditions without fail. More crucially, as soon as suitable roads such as freeways (or lanes thereof) are declared off limits to manual driving, driverless cars will travel – safely – at much higher speeds than we do today.
For reduced Environmental Impact
The Super suburb scenario from city minded can be mitigated.
1. Accelerate the shift to all electric vehicles. Make the electric cars are lot lighter. If we can robotically avoid accidents then make the cars far lighter. Single person vehicles that are only 200 pounds or less. Not quite an electric bicycle but an recumbant electric motorcross aerodynamic pod. It will easier to make those vehicles electric. There are about 200 million electric bikes and scooters now and most weigh about 50 pounds. Make a safe robotic version with 4 times the weight and more performance can mean travel as fast or faster than cars with the same comfort and even more speed while using a lot less energy. The travel could be even more efficient if the vehicles had electric Shweeb systems Travel in tubes with less air resistance and have the system roll on rails that have better energy transfer and enable super light but safe pods. Electrically enabled could boost the speed of the Shweeb system.
2. Convert the generated power to mass produced deep burn nuclear or advanced solar or a completely pollution trapping / controlled natural gas system.
3. There is still policy which could favor Broad Group of China style factory mass produced skyscrapers. Find ways to make large condos in skyscrapers enticing.
A factory mass produced skyscraper can bring the cost of a 3000 square foot unit down to about $150,000-250,000. If you could live in a clean urban center with as much living space as a suburb but at lower cost then many more people would choose that option.
Broad Group has the designs for a 2000 meter tall Super SkyCity (636 stories). There is no technical reason that they could not build 800 – 3000 meter tall skyscrapers. A 838 meter tall (220 story) skyscraper is in the process of getting approved now.
It would be better for the environment to have clean skyscrapers in cities that are more like Manhattan, Tokyo and Shanghai than it is to have Los Angeles super-sprawl cities. There will likely be a mix as I do not see people making the choices solely based on efficiency.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.