Commercial, self-driving vehicles are on the horizon. Since the widespread adoption of the automobile, we’ve developed our cities around travelling by car. But driverless tech is going to undo much of this, leading to a radical re-think of what our cities will look and function like. A future with no human drivers will reshape the lay of the land where we live, work and play. Here are 10 ways that self-driving cars could change your hometown.

1. Urban areas will be quieter

Driverless cars will mostly be electric. This is because it’s technically easier to add driverless tech to electric vehicles than gas powered ones. This may raise concerns around safety, because the engines are much quieter. Whilst driverless cars are expected to be safe, they may be produce electric sounds like beeps or chimes, or mimic “real” car engines in order to alleviate pedestrian stress.

2. We’ll need fewer street-lamps, traffic lights and road signs

Cities will still need lighting, in order for pedestrians to feel safe walking the streets at night. But we may not need so much of it as driverless cars will not require light in order to navigate the roads. In this vein, cars will also not require signs or signals, and will likely be able to communicate with each other automatically.

Driverless cars intersection simulation via imgur

3. Cities will have fewer parked cars

As it is likely that car ownership will drop, no longer will we see cars parked on the street outside people’s houses. It’s more likely we’ll see car hubs, where vehicles are summoned when needed, and return to their bay away from the streets when no longer in use. This will free up our cities for pedestrians, and open up more ground for leisure spaces.

4. We might get dedicated tracks for leisure driving

This may not be an urban development, but space will be needed desired by people who wish to drive for leisure. In the transitional period between driverless and human-driven cars, the two will need to coexist on the road, but it’s likely that in the future humans will not be allowed to drive on roads for concerns around safety.

5. No more parking enforcement/traffic wardens (wahey!)

Autonomous cars won’t break any rules (in fact, robot-controlled cars will call into question everything about the rules of the road), so there will be no need for officers patrolling the streets looking for cars parked illegally. This is just one of the thousands of job roles which will be eliminated as machine automation increases.

6. No need for petrol/gas stations

Driverless electric vehicles will probably charge as they are parked, and specific parking areas may include automatic, wireless charging pads.

7. We’ll see fewer billboard ads

Ads targeted at drivers on billboards and buildings will likely become less effective. Level 5 autonomous cars, where humans play absolutely no part in controlling the vehicle, will likely appear nothing like the cars of today.

Mercedes Benz interior, from New Scientist

Inside the car we may find TV screens, games and food & drink, and some cars may not even have windows. Ads may move inside the vehicle, and so our cities would see a reduction in physical advertising signage, making digital advertising even more prevalent.

8. Our cities will be safer

Quite simply, our streets will be safer without humans behind the wheel. Whilst driverless cars still have some way to go to be flawless, worrying about road traffic accidents will become a thing of the past.

9. Easier access for emergency vehicles

A few years ago Google patented some technology which would mean self-driving cars automatically respond to emergency vehicles, and alter their course appropriately. But more than that, we could see driverless ambulances, police cars and fire trucks which remotely control traffic lights in their favour. In the spirit of a fully-autonomous transport infrastructure, it’s likely emergency vehicles will be more efficient at getting to their destination than they currently are.

10. Less pollution

Autonomous vehicles, being electric, will not release harmful emissions into the air and pollute the environment for the city’s inhabitants. This is an important point, because traffic in many cities currently produces high levels of pollution.

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