Driverless cars are no longer science-fiction, they’re here and among us. The technology will change not only the way we drive, but the way we live. Driverless cars will have incredible and far reaching impacts on everything: the design of our homes, communities, workplaces and cities.
With claims that nearly all cars will be driverless within 20 years, those of us in the development industry, need to start thinking about, and planning for, how our communities will look in 10 and 20 years time. There will be impacts on the way we design our houses, our roads, our car parks, and so much more. We need to start thinking about these implications now, not later…
Imagine on-demand driverless cars. Book a car on your smartphone and the closest available vehicle arrives from a ‘parking pod’ to pick you up and deliver to you wherever you want to go. There’ll be no need for the car to park at the destination – it will simply return to the parking pod, or move on to its next task.
Driverless technology will see car ownership dramatically decrease as we embrace car sharing schemes and smart taxi firms. A single car could service several households. There will be fewer cars but they will be more productive, rather than sitting motionless in garages and car parks most of the time, as they do now.
Driverless cars will most probably be stored off-site, where transport connections are good, and land is cheap (think multi-storey car stackers in an industrial area).
We will no longer be two-car households, or even one-car households, so what will we do with our double garages when most of us don’t own a car? How do we design homes for the new future?
Our commercial and retail buildings will no longer need hundreds of car parks. We need to think about how we can re-purpose the sea of parking bays that currently surround our shopping centres (think how different Chermside Shopping Centre might look in the future). We will have almost no commercial parking demand, but we will need drop off facilities and queuing areas. There will be no parking tickets, no door dents and no more endless carpark circumnavigation trying to find a parking bay.
Driverless cars can travel in convoys, mere centimetres away from each other. Our road lanes can be narrower. There will be increased transit efficiency, less congestion and more space on our urban roads. This surplus road capacity can be redeployed for bike lanes, wider footpaths and more trees and streetscaping.
Our roads will be safer, more efficient and less congested. There’ll be no drink driving, speeding, falling asleep at the wheel, risk taking, hooning, road rage or rubber-necking – in short, driver error can be drastically reduced, and we stand to save the 1000+ lives that are currently lost each year on Australian roads.
Driverless cars will improve prosperity and social equity because private transport will be more affordable. It is estimated that every household will save around $10,000 each year by not having a car and all the expenses that go with it – registration, insurance, servicing and parking costs. Imagine how an inexpensive, driverless car services could change the lives of the socially isolated: the elderly, people with disabilities or the financially disadvantaged.
Now is the time to begin the thought processes around a future where driverless cars are commonplace. Let’s consider how the move from vehicle ownership, to car sharing services will influence and impact households, communities and workplaces.
It’s not sci-fi, the future is already here. Telsa is already road testing self-driving cars in California and BMW will release self-driving cars by the end of this year.