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Self-driving Cars: A Force for Urban Densification or Expansion?


There is no conflict of Self-driving cars a force for urban densification or expansion. It’s crucial to understand that a city is fully capable of expanding its footprint while also becoming denser in some locations. There is no contradiction here, and it occurs frequently. Nothing prohibits new high-rises from joining the downtown skyline, while new neighbourhoods are being built elsewhere in the city. In other words, localized densification and expansion are not at all mutually exclusive. Neither is citywide growth or densification, for that matter. When a city grows, its average population density may go down, but it may also go up. Whether a city’s overall density rises or falls as it grows depends on whether population growth outpaces spatial expansion.

But this isn’t satisfactory because it only encourages us to phrase the question more precisely. How can we discern if self-driving cars will hasten the outer expansion of our cities or if they will instead slow it down by absorbing inhabitants through the densification of the current built-up footprint? The key to finding this out is to identify the barriers to building in various locations and determine which, if any, of these barriers will be impacted by self-driving cars.

Construction will Become more Popular Outside of the Current Urban Edge Thanks to Self-driving Cars.

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By Kristaps Ungurs from Unsplash+

Self-driving cars are unlikely to have an impact on open space preservation rules, but they will make travel more enjoyable and, once they are widely used, they will significantly improve traffic flow, hence reducing travel times. As a result, areas outside the current metropolitan fringe will become viable places to dwell. In fact, because they often pair lower housing costs with shorter commutes than are available at the urban periphery today, these areas will become at least as desirable as today’s furthest suburbs.

Self-driving cars will force developers to increase city density further as long as physical distance rather than protective regulation serves as the limiting restraint on growth beyond the metropolitan edge. The development will continue to spread outward until even effectively flowing self-driving cars will only produce a lengthy trip that exceeds commuter tolerance at the new urban perimeter. The only difference will be that fast and efficient traffic flow will allow those tolerant few whose preferences set the city’s boundary to shift it much farther out than it is today. This will be similar to how it is at the urban fringe today, where the most tolerant among us undertake daily travel that the rest of us would balk at.

Self-driving cars will encourage greater expansion in areas of the country where open space protection policies are less prevalent. Environmentalists will groan in these locations when cities trample over their implied green belts and onto further-off open space where construction is permitted.

Densification: Local Opposition, Not Traffic, Prevents New Building

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By Ave Calvar from Unsplash+

The obstacles restricting construction in dense urban areas that are ready for densification are very different. First of all, these locations are suitable for densification because there is a greater demand than supply for real estate there. Otherwise, they wouldn’t qualify. Lack of demand is not an issue because anything constructed in such places is quickly and fully filled at top dollar.

The opposition of local stakeholders, who have a significant impact on land use planning through various forms of civic participation and successfully stifle densification, is the real obstacle to densification inside the built-up footprint.

Urban areas that are convenient for walking may be appealing, but without new construction, they won’t be able to accommodate more residents or companies. Instead of a shortage of demand, what is stopping such communities from becoming denser is the stalled supply of new development in those areas. Also Read: How will Driverless Cars Affect Our Cities?

The Outcome: Little Densification and a Lot of Expansion, but it’s not all Bad

We shouldn’t anticipate significant densification within the current built-up footprint given the steadfast nature of opposition to dense new construction and self-driving cars’ inability to eliminate it. On the other hand, the solid grounds for anticipating that urban growth will eventually be dramatic. I hope this helps you figure out where Self-Driving Cars: A Force for Urban Densification or Expansion fits for betterment.

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