Driverless vehicles will free up land to create healthier towns and cities

Introducing autonomous vehicles in Britain could free up to 15-20% developable land worth billions to build homes, workplaces and green spaces, according to a new report published today by consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and architects Farrells.

The report, Making better places: Autonomous vehicles and future opportunities, claims this would be made possible as parking requirements will be vastly reduced once people have access to shared autonomous vehicles (AVs) for everyday journeys. Able to operate without a driver on board, AVs will pick up and drop off passengers before moving on to collect others in the same way, significantly reducing the need for parking.

The report says:

  • 6.8 million parking spaces take up 16% of London’s streets, equivalent to 8,000 hectares
  • In the UK our cars are parked for 96% of the time (80% at home and 16% elsewhere)
  • New developable land in the UK is worth £1-4 million per hectare and considerably more in city centres according to Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) data. 
  • A 100 hectare AV-only zone development in the heart of London could gain more than £1.25 billion in additional land value (over and above typical regeneration uplifts), £300 million in outer London or £15-£75 million across the rest of the country.

Working  together,  WSP  |  Parsons  Brinckerhoff  and  Farrells  built  on leading-edge  research  into  connected  and  autonomous  vehicles  to  create five new visions for what places in the UK might look like in an autonomous vehicle world from a new dedicated AV zone to, city centres, suburban roads, motorways, and the local county town.

The report also highlights that roads would be cleaner, greener, safer from road accidents (90% of which are caused by driver error) and significantly “decluttered”. The report claims that it could potentially be the end for traffic lights, road signs and even motorway lanes if autonomous vehicles - that are connected to each other - became the norm. 

Rachel Skinner, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff development director and report author, said: “Each hectare of additional developable land is worth millions. Freeing up this land will create more viable developments that will increase housing and boost UK plc. Shared autonomous vehicles will require storage hubs, but not parking spaces. This means we can redesign our town squares, reclaim our driveways and build more densely in cities. 

“Autonomous vehicles will be transformational. There is enormous potential for a new generation of living streets and communities, designed for vehicles, but putting people first. The technology is arriving fast, so now we need leadership at all levels to achieve this vision”. 

Nigel Bidwell, Farrells partner, said: “The transition has already begun. So these visions put aside, quite intentionally, futuristic designs that bear no resemblance to today’s reality.  These are visions for existing and familiar places. Many of the changes we need do not require an infrastructure revolution. Instead, with the right planning AV can offer convenient and affordable mobility to all of us, whilst providing a better quality of life, economic growth, improved health and better social connections.”

Click here to download Making better places: Autonomous vehicles and future opportunities.

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