Cities For People: Envisioning the Urban Experience in a Driverless Future
New York, New York
2017
Competition Entry for the Driverless Future Challenge

Driverless car technology promises to revolutionize transportation. By removing human error from vehicular operation, traffic in cities can flow easier and the number of accidents can be reduced. It is important to find ways to capitalize on this moment of technological change to not just to improve mobility in New York City, but also increase the quality of life within our urban environment.

The efficiency of driverless cars mean that fewer driving lanes are needed and that the width of each lane can be reduced. With automated cars in constant motion as they pick up and drop off passengers, area dedicated for street parking will be unnecessary. That translates to room previously need for vehicular movement and storage that can instead be put to higher and better use in order to serve the environmental, economic, and social goals of the city.

This proposal recommends that the newly freed up areas be used for pedestrian purposes and green infrastructure. Wider sidewalks will create more room for walking and allow additional outdoor seating areas for businesses. A clear system of dedicated bike lanes will promote the use of alternative transportation while better separating cyclists from vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Planted sidewalk edges, shortened street crossing widths, and wider crosswalks will increase pedestrian safety. Dedicated pick up areas will allow driverless cars to be boarded without impeding the flow of traffic.

Some streets and avenues can be closed entirely to vehicular traffic entirely, providing an additional public amenity to all the residents and visitors of the city. These pedestrian promenades will also be a boon to New York City’s businesses that will benefit from additional foot traffic passing by. Sculptural planters down the promenade can provide space for more trees as well as integrated seating. These promenades will still be able to be accessed by emergency and delivery vehicles through a flexible lane with embedded LEDs that will warn pedestrians to stay clear.

The proposal will also provide many environmental benefits to the city. Replacement of asphalt roads with permeable landscaped areas will reduce the severity of stormwater events in the city. The shade from trees and evapotranspiration from plants will decrease the urban heat island effect. The large increase in planted material will improve the air quality within the city. In addition to benefiting the environment, these features will contribute to the health and welfare of the residents of New York City.