Development of Driverless Cars Enters the Fast Lane in Nevada

As Nevada becomes the first state in the country to approve self-driving cars, Robert Bruegmann considers what changes to the built environment driverless cars could have.
February 22, 2012, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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The recently approved regulations allowing for the operation of self-driving vehicles on Nevada's roadways is a milestone in the rise of the driverless car, which are 'surely the future of automobiles," according to Department of Motor Vehicles director Bruce Breslow.

Drawing a connection between this revolution in personal transportation with other breakthroughs in transportation technology such as the railroad and the airplane, Bruegmann wonders if self-driving cars will lead to, "more dispersed, lower-density settlement patterns in almost every urban area in the world," as have prior innovations. While this outcome may seem likely, as congestion is reduced, it is by no means inevitable, claims Bruegmann.

"Given the large amount of space devoted to roads and parking in American cities, even minor increases in collective use of vehicles could lead to less need for new pavement and parking and to higher residential and commercial densities. This would reinforce a trend that is already visible, as new development at the far suburban edge of most urban regions is currently being created at higher densities than in the past and there is a great deal of infill in city centers and close-in suburbs."

The expected impact of the driverless car on the built environment is far from settled, but it is certain to erode the boundaries between public and private transportation.

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Published on Monday, February 20, 2012 in Bloomberg
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