Autonomous Vehicles and future opportunities

Driverless cars could be part of a modern Garden City concept, suggests Andrew Cameron

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) will be transformational, and the transition has already begun. A digitally connected network of autonomous vehicles will be much safer, more sustainable and efficient than the cars of today.  What’s more, tomorrow’s roadway system will interact seamlessly with transport systems across all other modes, offering end-to-end connectivity and resilience.

Our research has looked at the opportunities that will present themselves as AV’s become commonplace in our cities, towns and villages. Our visions are for existing and familiar places. Many of the changes we need do not require an infrastructure revolution. Instead, with the right planning AVs can offer convenient and affordable mobility to all of us, while providing a better quality of life, economic growth, improved health and better social connections.

We have started to explore the potential impacts of autonomous vehicles on a range of our streets and public spaces and the benefits that these could bring, along with identifying some of the issues that may have to be overcome along the way. For example, once we have access to shared AVs, everyday parking requirements will be vastly reduced. As AVs are able to operate without a driver on board, they can pick up and drop off passengers before moving on to collect others in the same way, significantly reducing the need for parking.

Our research has found that:
• 6.8 million parking spaces take up 16% of London’s streets, equivalent to 8,000 hectares
• In the UK our cars are parked for 96% of the time (80% at home and 16% elsewhere)
• New developable land in the UK is worth £1-4million per hectare and considerably more in city centres according to Department for Communities and Local Government data.
• A 100 hectare AV-only zone development in the heart of London could gain more than £1.25 billion in additional land value (over and above typical regeneration uplifts), £300million in outer London or £15-£75million across the rest of the country.

The research also signalled that roads would be cleaner, greener, safer from road accidents (90% of which are caused by driver error) and significantly “de-cluttered”. It could potentially be the end for traffic lights, road signs and even motorway lanes if autonomous vehicles - that are connected to each other - became the norm.

We all need to think about the coming of AVs to our cities, towns and villages, to plan for them in a positive way so that the benefits are realised for communities. The opportunities for new places and new garden cities are immense with a much more efficient use of land and the creation of communities where movement takes place by foot, cycle and AV.

The full report can be found here:

Andrew Cameron is Director of Urban Design at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, Making Better Places by drafted by WSP with architects Farrells.