Friday, 9 October 2015

If we're not planning for 'robocars', we are planning wrongly.


OK we're talking about America here but the point remains a strong one:

The rise of robocars may accelerate metro area decentralization. Congestion will be reduced, and the greater safety of driverless cars may permit higher speeds on metro area beltways and cross-town freeways. Once taxi drivers are replaced by robot taxis, the cost of taxis will plummet and the greater convenience of point-to-point personal travel anywhere in a sprawling metro area will make rail-based mass transit obsolete except in places like airports and tourist-haven downtowns. As in the past, most working-class families with children will probably prefer a combination of a longer commute with a bigger single-family house and yard to a shorter commute and life in a cramped apartment or condo.

We need to understand that this will happen and it will make all our debate about the negatives of personal transport obsolete. This also - with the need to travel also reduced by technology - rather undermines the idea that we will cram ourselves into enormous, dense core cities while the wilderness is recreated as that technology reduces farmland acreage.

Our debate about housing, transport and much else is stale and limited so long as our long-term planning is predicated on urban densification to reduce the impact of the private car. Driverless vehicles as a mass transit solution may be 30 years ago but this is not a massive planning horizon and the places that design themselves to meet this world will be the winners.


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