Could Self-Driving Cars Change the Design of Our Cities?

It’s a question I’ve heard many people ask regarding self-driving cars. With all the changes they promise to bring, it’s hard not to think that it will impact the way our cities look as well. After all, roads and driving signs will have to change to accommodate self-driving vehicles, so entire cities will probably soon follow.

I am not saying it’s a bad thing. The change will most likely be for the better in the long run since the main point of these cars is to make a positive impact on the world.

I’ve done some research, and these are some of the ways I believe self-driving cars might change the way our cities will look like in the future:

Traffic lights might be a thing of the past

Yes, I know how this sounds, but I’ve got a feeling that it might be a reality in the future. It’s not just me. The people from MIT Senseable City Lab believe the same thing.

They promote the idea of replacing traffic light-based intersections with intersections that work on a “slot-based system”. The idea is to take advantage of the fact that self-driving cars can communicate with each other. That allows them to plan their speed and course ahead of time, so the cars themselves would already know which route they must take before reaching the intersection.

Also, the cars would communicate with the traffic management system in place as well when they are near the intersection. They would request access, and then be allotted a specific time to enter the intersection. It sounds complicated, but for self-driving cars, this wouldn’t be too much of a hassle.

Plus, it means that everything will run much more smoothly because all vehicles will be in sync.

The main idea is not only to make driving easier for self-driving cars but also to improve the overall driving experience on the road and reduce the chances of traffic jams occurring too often.

Simply put, this concept ensures intersections will no longer cause traffic congestion. Instead, they will lessen the occurrence of delays, lower fuel consumption, and they will drastically improve the efficiency of the driving patterns utilized by cars and drivers.

Self-driving cars might promote the urban sprawl design

As a result, more and more people would be encouraged to move away from the urban center of the city since it will be predominantly used by self-driving cars and autonomous public transport vehicles.

Naturally, this seems like a long shot, and I’m not sure what to make of it. On the one hand, it sounds rather nice, but, on the other hand, you can’t just expect all people to be happy about relocating.

However, I think marketers could pull this off on behalf of the manufacturers. There’s a high chance greater emphasis will be put on returning to the old American Dream of owning a house somewhere in the suburbs and only commuting to the city for work.

Plus, the incentive, in this case, would be top-notch commuting, something that self-driving vehicles, be them privately owned or public transport, could offer. People won’t have a problem with it if they know they will get where they need to be on time and in a comfortable way.

Cities around the world will have to undergo serious reconstruction projects for this to be possible, so it’s not something that we will see happening very soon.

Still, you can’t say it’s not an interesting concept. While difficult at first, it has the potential to lead to people living significantly more comfortable lives.

What do you think about the future of self-driving cars and our cities?

This article shares the information I’ve found on my own, but I would be more than happy to hear your input as well. Be sure to share any thoughts or research you might have in the comment section below.

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Philipp Kandal