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Driverless Cars and Land Use in American Cities

+ Brandon Fuller

The Point of Contention feature in HUD's most recent edition of its Cityscape journal asks contributors to argue for or against the following proposition:

Over time, driverless cars will work a huge change in the built environment of the American city. Automated vehicle guidance will so increase the safety and efficiency of the transport system that a large portion of the land and capital currently required for parking, roads, gas stations, and car repair can be released to housing, nonautomobile commerce, foot traffic, and other uses.

Invited by the editor to weigh-in, I made a cautious arguement in favor of the proposition:

Driverless vehicles will enhance mobility in America’s metropolitan areas, connecting people to a greater set of jobs and amenities. Fleetwide autonomy will mean lighter vehicles, many of which will be electric—reducing the environmental costs associated with many of today’s individual trips in private cars. Driverless vehicles also will create the potential for a big change in the spatial structure of American cities. The accessibility of land on the urban periphery will improve, as will the accessibility of urban land that currently lacks access to transportation services. In addition, land that currently is used for cars—such as surface parking lots—can be reallocated to other uses, such as parks, foot traffic, cycling, housing, or retail goods and services.

You can find my full contribution here (pdf). The feature included several other excellent contributions from Lisa Schweitzer (pdf), Wendell Cox (pdf), and Gilles Duranton (pdf).

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