The potentially massive impact on society is already changing how land-use planners, developers and others are preparing for this technology, BBG CEO Chris Roach writes in this EXCLUSIVE commentary.
The prospect of autonomous vehicles rolling off production lines has influenced those planning real-estate development projects across the country, writes Chris Roach.
With autonomous vehicles still years away from being a common sight on the nation’s roadways, its potentially massive impact on society is already changing how land-use planners, developers and others are preparing for this technology, which has been compared to the most significant innovation since the invention of the automobile.
Growing interest in self-driving vehicles has been fueled by a recent series of major events. Earlier this month, General Motors announced that it can begin manufacturing autonomous vehicles for mass production pending regulatory approvals. The automaker, which said it’s capable of producing 100,000 self-driving cars annually, is among other companies, such as Tesla and Google, working toward taking driverless vehicles from dream to reality.
In an effort to help pave the way to put more autonomous vehicles on the road, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation, called the SELF DRIVE act, that created the initial framework for the regulation of autonomous vehicles. The bill awaits Senate action.
The prospect of autonomous vehicles rolling off production lines has influenced those planning real-estate development projects across the country. For instance, the University of Wisconsin- Madison reportedly intends to reduce parking spaces, based on expectations that more of its students and staff will be commuting to and from the school with autonomous vehicles or from ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, both of which are also planning to get into the autonomous vehicle business.
Fewer parking spaces are also being planned for projects elsewhere. A Nashville, Tenn., mixed-used development project is making fewer parking spaces available, and a Somerville, Mass., parking garage is reducing space by more than 60 percent, saving millions of dollars when completed.
Amid rising expectations of greater usage of autonomous vehicles, planners and developers are rethinking other uses for land initially set aside for parking spaces. Scaling back parking spaces means that the land can be used for other commercial or residential real estate purposes, resulting in more usable and high-value space. For example, shrinking demand for parking facilities could prompt development of more mixed-use walkable cities, which include streets designed for door-to-door service to accommodate autonomous vehicles.
However, planners will need to modify or create new land-use designs and zoning and traffic regulations before there can be a proliferation of driverless vehicles. A recent Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California policy brief said autonomous and shared mobility could potentially create increased sprawl without proper planning and regulations. In addition, land development projects will also need to take into account the more than 260 million non-autonomous vehicles now on the roads.
The day is coming that autonomous vehicles will be made widely available across the country, transforming society in more ways than how we transport people. Besides reducing traffic congestion and the carbon footprint, self-driven vehicles will clearly impact the design and construction in real estate development projects in cities and towns nationwide. As a result, it’s of the utmost importance that those planners, developers, and others in the real estate ecosystem work closely together to ensure that this innovative technology enables better places to work and live.
By: Chris Roach (BBG CEO)
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