Making Better Places: Autonomous Vehicles and Opportunities

Making Better Places: Autonomous Vehicles and Opportunities


Rachel Skinner, WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff, Nigel Bidwell, Farrells, Rupert Green, WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff


Exploring the potential of autonomous vehicles to support the creation of better places in a UK context.


Autonomous vehicles will be transformational. They will underpin a better quality of life, economic growth, health and social connection by offering convenient and affordable mobility, regardless of home location, age or ability to drive.

Building on leading-edge research into autonomous and connected vehicles, this paper explores new thinking and ideas to create five visions of future places in the UK:

• New places, such as Opportunity Areas, Garden Cities and Housing Zones
• City centres
• Suburban spaces
• Motorways
• Rural areas

Each of these visions is new and puts aside, quite intentionally, futuristic drawings that bear absolutely no resemblance to today’s reality. Four are tethered to places that already exist, while the fifth offers ideas for new places that are yet to come, such as Opportunity Areas, Garden Cities and Housing Zones.

In short, we see enormous potential for a new generation of living streets and communities, designed without cars in mind.

The paper goes on to explore the transition to an autonomous system. It is easy to leap ahead and future-gaze at ‘what might be’, but far more difficult to make an effective, nimble transition that benefits the right stakeholders. There are some big questions to be answered before the places described above can become reality. These include:

• Capturing the benefits: who wins? who leads?
• Who will own the AVs? Are we headed towards a pay-as-you-go transport system?
• How will AVs integrate with - and work alongside - mass transit?
• Will AVs be safe enough?

In closing, the paper identifies a number of short term opportunities for the introduction of connected, driverless and autonomous vehicles that could help to build public trust, to explore the benefits and incentives to change, and to understand the controls that will need to be in place if an efficient and effective transition is to take place.


Association for European Transport