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Autonomous Cars and Changing Infrastructure

Imagine this – you jump in your car, get driven to your office, the car drops you off at the front door and remotely drives off and parks itself.

This future seems likely, and as our cars become smarter so will our cities as the increase in autonomous cars changes what we need in our infrastructure.

More and more autonomous cars are being tested and introduced, and while it will occur over time, the demand for parking spaces close to popular areas should start to decline. That real estate can be re-purposed for housing, businesses or parks, while we’re able to relegate designated parking to less valuable areas.

What’s more, with the introduction of autonomous cars, owning your own car might start to be a thing of the past. The average person keeps their vehicles parked 95% of the time, an extraordinary waste considering the lack of parking spaces, particularly in the city and inner suburbs. But autonomous cars open endless possibility in fast and efficient car sharing services, where you only pay for your car while you need it. Not only could this be cheaper for drivers, it would also dramatically reduce the number of cars on the road and reduce traffic. However, some speculate that the number of cars on the road may not dramatically decrease with autonomous cars, as they may be used to perform more menial tasks more often, such as deliveries when you may have previously walked.

It’s not just parking that will need to change – the roads will too. As we shift to autonomous cars, roads will need to adapt to keep up with changing driving needs. Computers have greater precision and awareness than the average human driver, particularly in their lateral position on the road, so lanes could be made narrower, saving space and easing the load on infrastructure.

Would this ease congestion on our own Glenferrie Road? We could widen footpaths, remove traffic lights, bring in more pedestrian crossings and reduce on-street parking. The road itself would change, and potentially become safer for drivers and pedestrians alike. We could utilise useful real estate currently being used for car parks and expand the street.

Shared driverless cars might seem like a science fiction fantasy, but it could be upon us sooner than we think. The question is, is our infrastructure ready for it? Even more importantly, are we?

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