Drive towards autonomous cars could yield space for 180,000 London homes, report says

As much as 6,300 hectares of land in the capital alone could be freed up for thousands of new homes if a push towards driverless vehicles is adopted and prioritised by city planners, a new report has claimed.

The new statistics have been published by design and consultancy firm Arcadis, whose latest Citizens in Motion report explores the disruptive influence that Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) will have on cities.

The data makes for interesting reading as politicians and mayors squabble over ways to fix a broken housing market which is easily identified all across the UK. Researchers say the size of reclaimed land just within London would be equivalent to space needed for 180,000 new homes.

Furthermore, Arcadis say the adoption of connected and autonomous cars could lower need for private vehicle-use and therefore allow cities to reclaim up to 80% of parking space and tackle the spiralling cost of congestion.

But those behind the report are keen to stress that success is very much dependent on effective integration with existing city networks  and there is no “one size fits all” approach that will free up acres of land for planners to work with.

The report states how “every city has its own dynamic” and to be successful, driverless vehicles will need to be “integrated with and work alongside the existing network”. Using the example of London, early government engagement with the private sector is highlighted as vital with the focus on improving public transport and encouraging more healthy travel options, like walking or cycling.

According to the report, 54% of households currently have at least one private motor vehicle and, with the capital’s population expected to grow by over 20% every year to 2046, the strain on city infrastructure is only set to increase.

Peter Hogg, UK Cities director at Arcadis, said the way London embraces driverless vehicles will be a key fork in the road that will either enhance or frustrate how well the city performs economically.

“London is grappling with congestion, overcrowded transport, poor air quality, and the need to improve the citizen experience,” he added. “As we move towards mega city status by 2040, these mobility challenges are going to become increasingly prevalent.  While the proliferation of driverless technology is inevitable, what isn’t yet clear is what shape it will take in London.”

The design consultants believe there is currently a “unique window of opportunity” for local authorities and major developers to consider how their cities can best adapt now to exploit the potential benefits of driverless technology in the future.

Richard Dilks, director of transport policy at business group London First added: “For London to remain a leading world city it must not only invest in new railways and runways, but also stay at the cutting edge of new technologies such as connected and autonomous vehicles. Connected and autonomous vehicles have the potential to keep people moving, ease congestion and free up parking spaces, but these benefits will only be realised if London government and businesses work together to integrate the city’s public transport network.”

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