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How Driverless Cars Could Reshape Cities

Publication Date: 
July 07, 2013
Source: 
The New York Times - Bits
Author: 
Nick Bilton

Stanford CIS Resident Fellow Bryant Walker Smith spoke with the New York Times' Nick Bilton on the future of driverless cars and how they could be an extension of home. 

By now, seeing one of Google's experimental, driverless cars zipping down Silicon Valley's Highway 101, or parking itself on a San Francisco street, is not all that unusual. Indeed, as automakers like Audi, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz make plans for self-driving vehicles, it is only a matter of time before such cars become a big part of the great American traffic jam.

While driverless cars might still seem like science fiction outside the Valley, the people working and thinking about these technologies are starting to ask what these autos could mean for the city of the future. The short answer is "a lot."

...

"The future city is not going to be a congestion-free environment. That same prediction was made that cars would free cities from the congestion of horses on the street," said Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School and a member of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford. "You have to build the sewer system to accommodate the breaks during the Super Bowl; it won’t be as pretty as we’re envisioning."

Mr. Smith has an alternative vision of the impact of automated cars, which he believes are inevitable. Never mind that nice city center. He says that driverless cars will allow people to live farther from their offices and that the car could become an extension of home.

"I could sleep in my driverless car, or have an exercise bike in the back of the car to work out on the way to work," he said. "My time spent in my car will essentially be very different."

"Driverless cars won’t appear in a vacuum," Mr. Smith said. Other predictions for the future city imagine fewer traditional-looking cars. Taking their place will be drones and robots that deliver goods.